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The flipping, moving and tweeting classroom

To what extent does a combination of innovative teaching practices enhance student learning about sustainability?

 This project integrated three innovative teaching practices and empirically tested the extent to which they enhance student engagement and learning. The first is the idea of the flipped classroom, in which traditional, lecture-style course content is provided to students online prior to each class, to save in-class time for discussion. The second is the idea that students retain more knowledge when they move – walk, exercise etc. The third is the idea that students learn better when they can frequently engage with the instructor and their peers throughout class. While much academic work has focused on a single teaching practice and its impact on student engagement and learning, the synergies among innovative teaching practices, carefully and sensitively chosen to suit the topic, may yield new insights into advancement of teaching and learning. 

Courses at Michigan State University

Autonomous Futures: self-driving vehicles, domotics, and artificial intelligence in smart cities

School of Planning Design and Construction

Michigan State University

  • Offered in Fall 2019 (UP 878/CE845) 

Autonomous Systems are suggested by businesses and private corporations for a future that is safer, more reliable, and more convenient. Decision-makers, engineers, and planners are expected to design and enable these technologies in our communities and cities. The question of adaptability and transitions, thus, is crucial to understand the extent of which these technologies fill a need and how they impact future living. This course takes a critical look at these technologies: their perceptions, promises, and potential pitfalls. Experiencing Autonomous Futures on campus and MSU’s neighborhoods while critically comparing the plans and implementations strategies for autonomous systems in MI, the USA, and across the world, we evaluate Autonomous Futures in Transition, consider ethical challenges in utopian and dystopian futures, and deduct implications for engineering, decision-makers, private corporations, and planners if autonomous systems are to be desirable. 

Planning Resilience against Extreme Events: disruptive technologies, pandemics, hazards, disasters, and mega-events

School of Planning Design and Construction

Michigan State University

  • Offered in Spring 2020 (UP 868/GUSP 868) 

“How do you plan for, against, and despite of extreme events?” is the central question that guides the course. Extreme events have a strong and unprecedented impact on large population groups. Extreme events include disruptive technologies, natural hazards, hurricanes, pandemics, revolutions, wars, and global sporting events, such as the Olympic Games or World Cups among many others. They unexpectedly catapult societies frequently in a state of shock. The course introduces students to the theory of ephemeral planning and urbanism. Given these extremes have been increasing over the last few years, we focus on extreme event impacts in urban regions and how such impacts can be mitigated through pre-cautionary urban planning and decision-making policies to avoid rushed decisions, irreversible outcomes, or jeopardize communities’ existence.

Planning Theory and Ethics

School of Planning Design and Construction

Michigan State University

  • Offered in Fall 2018 (UP 844) 

Planning theory informs our understanding of how planners make decisions. The first part of the course is dedicated to learning about and understanding planning theories as critical aspects in the urban and regional planning profession. We will learn the rational-comprehensive planning perspective, the participatory planning perspective, but also which roles planners can take in the planning profession, e.g. advocate, mediator. We will critically assess the political and economic assumptions of each planning theory, and explain their evolution within the historical context. During the second part of the course, we will focus on ethics and values, because they should guide our professional choices. As we analyze the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) code of ethics, we will apply this code and the planning theory concepts to practical case examples in the US context


Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Cities

School of Planning Design and Construction & Global Urban Studies Program

Michigan State University

  • taught from 2009-2017
  • Offered in Summer 2019 (UP 488) - taught by Wayne Beyea
  • for graduate level course please contact Peilei Fan

"How do you create a sustainable and climate-resilient city?" is the central question that guides the course. By comparing cities in the US with their international counterparts, we will understand the concept of sustainability and how each city attempts to move towards it. Ranging from master planning the city, via an analysis of different functions (construction, housing, transport etc.) to individual behavior, the class provides an overview of the different processes and approaches cities are taking to become more sustainable, in particular addressing climate change. Critical thinking about this process in the unique cities' contexts (their histories, their political environments, etc.) is crucial and requires looking at the problem from different viewpoints (e.g. citizens, engineers, policy makers, planners). At the end of the class, students will be able to analyze and broadly assess any city qualitatively on the effort it is making towards sustainability and provide policy recommendations on how to improve the city's sustainability efforts.
This course is intended for graduate and undergraduate students as a cross-cutting class engaging students from various disciplines, while being conducted as a mixture of guest lectures (incl. geography, economics, agriculture) and group discussions. For your research project, you will explore two cities of your choice and describe one or more of the cities' sustainability efforts based on your particular interests.

Best Blended Course for 

UP488: Sustainable and Climate Resilient Cities


Urban Transportation Planning

School of Planning Design and Construction

Michigan State University

  • taught from 2009-2012
  • Offered in Fall 2018 (UP 478) taught by Dr. Qu

This course is an introductory class to urban transportation planning providing a broad overview, while it is structured around two modules. Module I focuses on Queuing Theory, Transport Modelling, and GIS. Module II focuses on Transport Policy and Economics, with a special focus on sustainable transportation, integrated land-use and transport planning, and energy-efficient travel.