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Teaching Methods in Urban Planning Using Planetizen Courses
Planetizen (2017)
  • William W Riggs
This paper evaluates a pilot experiment at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to: 1) increase the learning tools available in a quantitative methods course classroom, transitioning to a high-tech, virtual environment and 2) redesign the curriculum to embrace a self-organized learning environment that guides students to the threshold of complex issues and facilitates self-actualized, liminal moments (Meyer & Land, 2013).  The goal of this project, funded through a Promising Practices grant from the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office, was to explore a virtual classroom for learning technical skills in urban planning—alleviating the demands of oversubscribed labs and effectively doubling class capacity. 

The two courses included in the pilot were City and Regional Planning (CRP) 213, Methods in Population & Housing and CRP 216, Computer Applications for Planning. CRP 213 teaches population, housing, and employment methods, requiring students to collect data, organize it, and present. The course includes a quantitative lab, where students engage in computational analysis of data using Excel, a program that many students are unprepared to use. CRP 216 offers a basic orientation and introduction to a suite of design software including Photoshop, Sketchup, AutoCAD, and ArcGIS.

Both courses were taught in a lecture-lab format, which research shows may not best facilitate learning for the 21st century student. Many contemporary students are self-organized learners, who want to explore topics and engage in creative discovery on their own and at their own pace (Chow, Davids, Hristovski, Araújo, & Passos, 2011; Meyer & Land, 2013). Furthermore, the traditional format used for these courses is less than optimal for ensuring long-term success and retention (Hsia, Huang, & Hwang, 2015; O’Flaherty & Phillips, 2015). In this environment, students tend to rely on the instructor, peers, and those near them to learn computer-based skills. This environment may serve as an intellectual handicap, preventing them from acquiring the necessary problem-solving skills to complete such tasks on their own in the future. 
  • urban planning,
  • technology,
  • pedagogy,
  • self-regulated learning,
  • hybrid learning,
  • flipped classroom
Publication Date
Winter January 31, 2017
Citation Information
William W Riggs. "Teaching Methods in Urban Planning Using Planetizen Courses" Planetizen (2017)
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