Back to School

In addition to the faint crispness of approaching fall, the end of summer heralds back-to-school season. If you are not headed for a temple of knowledge yourself (or are especially eager to pack in some extra coursework), universities are creating an increasing number of ways to satiate your yearning for structured education without concerns of debt or enforced commitment. Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are now offered online by a wide range of schools for free. Though each platform has varying degrees of interactivity and different mechanisms to acknowledge the successful completion of a course, each allows you to glean some new knowledge from the flexibility of your chosen apartment, library, coffee shop, or park. Here are a number of upcoming courses that may be of particular interest to Omnibus readers:

Designing Cities
Gary Hack, Jonathan Barnett, and Stefan Al | University of Pennsylvania
Start Date: October 7, 2013 | Duration: 10 weeks

“The course explores visionary and practical concepts of city design and planning, past and present, and how design can address such looming challenges as urban population growth, climate change and rising sea levels.”


Introduction to Water Treatment
Jules van Lier, Luuk Rietveld, and Merle de Kreuk | Delft University of Technology
Start Date: September 16, 2013 | Duration: 10 weeks

“The course will teach the role of treatment technologies in providing adequate water supply and effective sanitation which are essential for human society and the safeguarding of public and environmental health.”


Maps and the Geospatial Revolution
Dr. Anthony C. Robinson | Penn State University
Start Date: Course has finished, but lectures are still available online | Duration: 5 weeks

“Learn how advances in geospatial technology and analytical methods have changed how we do everything, and discover how to make maps and analyze geographic patterns using the latest tools.”


A Global History of Architecture
Mark Jarzombek, Vikramāditya Prakāsh, and Ana Maria Leon | Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Start Date: September 17, 2013 | Duration: 12 weeks

“How do we understand architecture? One way of answering this question is by looking through the lens of history. This course will examine architecture through time, beginning with First Societies and extending to the 15th century.”


Dr. Jennifer Evans-Cowley and Thomas W. Sanchez | Ohio State University
Start Date: February 26, 2014 | Duration: 8 weeks

“We live in real-time, technologically enhanced cities. Explore the sweeping changes that our cities are undergoing as a result of networks, sensors, and communication technology.”


For those of you who feel compelled to delve into the law after last week’s conversation with Gerald Frug, who argues that designers, planners, and activists should better understand the legal structures that enable and constrain urban change, this may be the course for you:

Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy
Don Hornstein, J.D. | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Start Date: September 16, 2013 | Duration: 6 weeks

“This course introduces the major substantive themes in environmental law. … Students will demonstrate mastery by learning how past environmental disputes have been resolved, and by applying insights and critical-thinking skills from past disputes to predicting how future ones might be addressed, including future disputes involving climate change.”


And if you would rather add some human interaction into your educational mix, check out Brooklyn Brainery’s “History of the Gowanus Canal,” a class “for anyone who’s read about the Gowanus but wants to know more about how it got there, why it’s so polluted, and why people feel so compelled by it.”

Happy learning!

Jonathan Tarleton is a writer, activist, and urbanist with aspirations to contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive urban environment. He is a former digital editorial assistant at The Architectural League and has made his way to Brooklyn from his roots in Georgia and North Carolina.

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.