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An interactive open online course on computational social science

Find out more about the project and explore the course and its modules

About the project

With an increasingly turbulent society, the demand for social scientists who are capable of analysing behavioural dynamics using computational methods is rising. ACTiSS – Action for Computational Thinking in Social Sciences is an educational project aimed at fostering the development of computational thinking among social science students and young professionals. The University of Warsaw together with the University of Groningen and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society is developing a program of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that combines academics expertise and real-world examples in which computational models are used to analyse societal processes.

The project aims to promote students’ computational skills and reduce barriers to computational thinking. All digital training and teaching materials will be freely available to learners and teachers. Visit the digital education platform FutureLearn and start improving your computational social science skills right away. You will find a couple of short comprehensive course modules combining short videos, interactive exercises, article steps and quizzes.

Keyfacts

5 modules

15 weeks

videos, excercises, teaching material, quizzes

3000+ participants

If you have questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact actiss[at]is.uw.edu.pl.


We show social dynamics by using simple animations and other visuals

The courses

In order to make it easier for the learners to explore how computational approach works, we developed a set of simple models and simulations. Below you can find NetLogo models that you can use, either for learning, or for teaching. You can just click on the models and experiment with them right away, but it’s best to use them together with course materials for a certain course. In the course materials (above) you will find more information about the models, introductory texts, exercises and discussion questions related to the models.

We’d like to share some materials that you are free to use in your own teaching. It’s going to be a series of short modules that gives “a peek over the fence” built of fears, stereotypes and lack of practice.  We supplement these materials with some practical guidelines, where we’ve gathered some tips and tricks on how to bring computational topics into the classroom.  

Course structure

1 introductory module and 4 thematic modules that can be used independently

Equivalent of a 2 ECTS points course (60 hours of workload)

No prior knowledge of advanced mathematics or programming skills required

Published on the digital education platform FutureLearn

Course curriculum

Have a look at all course modules and the theoretical and practical concepts used in this courses and how these are connected.

10.5281/zenodo.6340172

 

Modules Overview

Introductory module

People, Networks and Neighbours: understanding social dynamics

What is computational social science and which phenomena does is allow to study?

Module

Social Network Analysis: The networks connecting people

How do we spread disease, fake news and good ideas? We will present an overview of networks and how they relate to social dynamics.

Module

Understanding Human Behaviour: Introduction to Game Theory and Shared Resources

How can  game theory help learners to understand resource use, social dilemmas or public-good dilemmas?

module

Why do Ghettos Form in a Tolerant Society? Schelling’s Model and the Introduction of Cellular Automata

Why is ghettoisation inevitable? This will be explained by introducing spatial models with special emphasis on cellular automata.

Module

Decision Making in a Complex World: Using Computer Simulations to Understand Human Behaviour

How can cognitive and behavioural processes be modelled using the precise language of mathematical formulae and algorithms?

People, networks and neighbours: understanding social dynamics

Course details

This 3-week course will help you understand why social processes seem so unpredictable and understand better the basics of social dynamics. It’s designed to show you a new interesting way of approaching questions about social behaviour. Throughout, you’ll focus on social mechanisms and will explore how models and simulations can help to understand those mechanisms. Visit the course on FutureLearn.  

Course videos

Here you will find 11 videos with lectures, real-life examples and expert interviews, explaining the main concepts of the course. 

View our videos on YouTube

 

Curriculum

In the course plan, you can find the sequence of steps for each week and more information on the learning objectives, main topics, models and exercises, as well as the storylines that we use to explain the main concepts.

doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5970527

Guideline for teachers

In the guideline for teachers, we share our own experience of teaching game theory and ABM modeling to social science students. Here you will find some tips and tricks as well as additional teaching materials.

doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5970613

Exercises

This is a collection of online and offline exercises, as well as several exemplary assignments on the main concepts presented in this module. View materials for

Week 1: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5970789

Week 2: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5970817

Week 3: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5970857

Social Network Analysis: The Networks Connecting People

Course details

Have you ever wondered how a tiny virus can spread across the planet, how people share false information through social media, or why people abide by group norms, even when they are harmful? This 3 week course from computational social science experts at University College Groningen and the University of Warsaw explores how networks form, and how they impact the spreading of different types of information in society.

Course videos

Here you will find 9 videos with lectures, real-life examples and expert interviews, explaining the main concepts of the course. 

View our videos on YouTube

 

Curriclulum

In the course plan, you can find the sequence of steps for each week and more information on the learning objectives, main topics, models and exercises, as well as the storylines that we use to explain the main concepts.

doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6021099

Guideline for teachers

In the guideline for teachers, we share our own experience of teaching game theory and ABM modeling to social science students. Here you will find some tips and tricks as well as additional teaching materials:

doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6021188

Exercises

This is a collection of online and offline exercises, as well as several exemplary assignments on the main concepts presented in this module. View materials for

Week 1: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6021242

Week 2: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6021278

Week 3: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6021314

Understanding Human Behaviour: Introduction to Game Theory and Shared Resources 

Course details

Explore the issues humans face when sharing and cooperating, and use game theory, models, and simulations to identify solutions.

Course videos

Here you will find our videos with lectures, real-life examples and expert interviews, explaining the main concepts of the course.

View our videos on YouTube

 

Curriclulum

In the course plan, you can find the sequence of steps for each week and more information on the learning objectives, main topics, models and exercises, as well as the storylines that we use to explain the main concepts. Curriculum:

doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5971252

Guideline for teachers

In the guideline for teachers, we share our own experience of teaching game theory and ABM modeling to social science students. Here you will find some tips and tricks as well as additional teaching materials.

doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5971345

Exercises

This is a collection of online and offline exercises, as well as several exemplary assignments on the main concepts presented in this module. View materials for

Week 1: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5971370
Week 2: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5971396
Week 3: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo. 5971456
Week 4: doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5971498

Why do Ghettos Form in a Tolerant Society? Schelling’s Model and the Introduction of Cellular Automata

Course details

Explore the issues humans face when sharing and cooperating, and learn about Schelling’s model and cellular automata.

Course videos

Here you will find our videos with lectures, real-life examples and expert interviews, explaining the main concepts of the course.

View our videos on YouTube

 

Curriclulum

In the course plan, you can find the sequence of steps for each week and more information on the learning objectives, main topics, models and exercises, as well as the storylines that we use to explain the main concepts. 

10.5281/zenodo.6341549

Guideline for teachers

In the guideline for teachers, we share our own experience of teaching game theory and ABM modelling to social science students. Here you will find some tips and tricks as well as additional teaching materials.

10.5281/zenodo.6341557

 

Exercises

This is a collection of online and offline exercises, as well as several exemplary assignments on the main concepts presented in this module. View materials for:

Week 1: 10.5281/zenodo.6341563

Week 2: 10.5281/zenodo.6341577

 

Decision Making in a Complex World: Using Computer Simulations to Understand Human Behaviour

Course details

Our choices can influence not only our own behaviour, but also the future of the whole society. How can we support better decision making? Explore how the way how the decision making process works with the help of agent-based models.  

Course videos

Here you will find our videos with lectures, real-life examples and expert interviews, explaining the main concepts of the course.

View our videos on YouTube

 

Curriclulum

In the course plan, you can find the sequence of steps for each week and more information on the learning objectives, main topics, models and exercises, as well as the storylines that we use to explain the main concepts. 

10.5281/zenodo.6343129

 

Guideline for teachers

In the guideline for teachers, we share our own experience of teaching game theory and ABM modelling to social science students. Here you will find some tips and tricks as well as additional teaching materials.

10.5281/zenodo.6343286

Exercises

This is a collection of online and offline exercises, as well as several exemplary assignments on the main concepts presented in this module. View materials for

Week 1: 10.5281/zenodo.6343375

Week 2:

Week 3: 10.5281/zenodo.6343482

Netlogo models

We are creating this MOOC for learners of social sciences who often experience high levels of anxiety when it comes to mathematics, computers, formal modelling and have no knowledge of advanced algebra, mathematical analysis or programming. Throughout our years of experience in teaching computational methods to social science students in the University of Warsaw and Groningen, we developed a number of didactical approaches that help us to familiarize students with computational methods. And from our own experience, we can say: these methods are accessible, especially if approached from the story side rather than from the mathematical formula side.  Now, in cooperation with Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society and its expertise on current trends in online education and promoting new ideas, we are preparing materials that will be available for all those interested in learning or teaching computational models at introductory level.

To see all ACTISS NetLogo models click here

 

About Netlogo

NetLogo is a multi-agent programmable modeling environment. It is used by many hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, and researchers worldwide.

It also powers HubNet participatory simulations. It is authored by Uri Wilensky and developed at the Northwestern’s Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling (CCL).

Model 13

Decision Making in a Complex World

information: Norm and habit

Model 12

Decision Making in Complex World

Information: norms

Model 11

Decision Making in a Complex World

Information

Model 10

SNA: The networks connecting people

Small worlds

Model 9

SNA: The networks connecting people

Three products

Model 8

SNA: The network connecting people

Endorsement

Model 7

SNA: The networks connecting people

Information and norms in the tribe

Model 6

SNA: The networks connecting people

Virus in the tribe with connectivity hubs

Model 5

SNA: The networks connecting people

Virus in the tribe with hubs

Model 4

SNA: The networks connecting people

Virus in the tribe

Model 3

Introductory module

Protest: Initiators and threshold level

Model 2

Introductory module

Protesters threshold

Model 1

Introductory module

Protest initiators

The team

Agata Komendant-Brodowska

Agata Komendant-Brodowska

Team Leader and Lecturer

University of Warsaw

   

Anna Baczko-Dombi

Anna Baczko-Dombi

Lecturer

University of Warsaw

   

 

Katarzyna Abramczuk

Katarzyna Abramczuk

Lecturer

University of Warsaw

  

Wander Jager

Wander Jager

lecturer

University of Groningen

     

Tom Spits

Tom Spits

Online learning design specialist

University of Groningen

   

Tracy Poelzer

Tracy Poelzer

Education specialist, trainer

University of Groningen

Nataliia Sokolovska

Nataliia Sokolovska

Technical manager, editor

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin

   

Franzi Cagic

Franzi Cagic

Video Production, Editing and Animation

Berlin

 

Manvi Agrawal

Manvi Agrawal

Netlogo Model engineer

University of Groningen

    

Gabriela Grzelak

Gabriela Grzelak

NetLogo model engineer, project assistant

University of Warsaw

Shaoni Wang

Shaoni Wang

NetLogo model engineer

University of Groningen

 

Esther Arrindell

Esther Arrindell

Educational Advisor

University of Groningen

 

The partners

In cooperation with the digital education platform FutureLearn