GE2336 - Understanding Phenomena Around Us: An Introduction To Systems Thinking

Offering Academic Unit
Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management
Credit Units
Course Duration
One Semester
GE Area
Area 3: Science and Technology
Course Offering Term*:
Semester B 2017/18, Summer 2018

* The offering term is subject to change without prior notice
Course Aims

There are three levels of thinking to understand phenomena around us: At the event level, we observe snapshots-in-time (e.g. “IT analyst Mr. Adam resigns today.”). At the pattern level, we see trends (“In our department, several IT analysts have successively resigned over the past month.”). At the structure level, we attempt to discover the underlying network of causes and feedbacks leading to the observed patterns (“The manager cut expenditure by laying off technical support staff. As a result, the IT analysts got increasing workloads. Then some IT analysts started to resign, creating even more workload for the remaining IT analysts, and leading to more resignations.”) This course aims to introduce the elements of systems thinking – a methodology for comprehending why things happen at the structure level – so that our students, regardless of their majors, can achieve a higher understanding of phenomena surrounding them. The main questions to be studied are: What constitutes a system? How to identify its components and their inter-relations (e.g. causation, feedback)? How to model a system as a network of its components? We will use the basic tools from knowledge engineering and systems thinking (understandable by university students of any major) to answer these questions. This course consists of lectures, group problem solving, in-class discussions, as well as a student-centered project on a real case study of the student’s choice.

Assessment (Indicative only, please check the detailed course information)

Continuous Assessment: 65%
Examination: 35%
Examination Duration: 2 hours
Detailed Course Information