Online course

Smart Cities

Explore the role of technology and data in cities, and learn how you can participate in the creation of smart cities.

Find out what it’s like to create, develop and live in a smart city

On this online course, you’ll hear from smart city innovators, entrepreneurs, leaders, communities and businesses.

You’ll explore what it’s like to live in a smart city, and the role of systems thinking, living labs, open data, crowdsourcing and roadmaps in them. You’ll debate challenges of privacy, ethics and security, and weigh up the value of leadership, standards and metrics. You’ll learn how to co-create a smart city project where you live.

The course has been developed as part of MK:Smart – a £16 million collaborative smart city initiative, supporting the economic growth of Milton Keynes.

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What topics will you cover?

• Week 1: The course starts by examining what smart cities are, exploring the contrasting visions of how they will transform our urban environments and lives, and considers whether smart cities can be sustainable.

• Week 2: Looks at the role of people in smart cities and different approaches cities are taking from city led roadmaps, to business smart technology services, to solutions co-designed with citizens through living labs.

• Week 3: Examines the role that technology, data and urban analytics can play in transforming cities and considers challenges such as data ownership, privacy and ethics.

• Week 4: Explores the connections between urban innovation, enterprise and future smart city business models, looking at who will finance the smart city.

• Week 5: Considers the importance of city leadership and governance in developing smart cities, exploring the role of different stakeholders, as well as policy and standards.

• Week 6: The final week investigates the opportunities and barriers cities face in becoming smart and whether progress is being made. Students reflect on what they have learnt and are signposted to further learning opportunities.

When would you like to start?

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Explore and understand the concepts and current debates around smart, sustainable and future cities
  • Identify and recognise the role and importance that ICT, data and urban analytics can play in addressing key urban challenges and key issues related to this
  • Explain and be aware of the importance of leadership and governance in creating smart cities and the role of different stakeholders including government, local authorities, business, universities and communities
  • Explore different approaches to involving citizens in smart cities and planning for future cities
  • Apply and consider the connections between urban innovation, enterprise and future smart city business models

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in the application of new technologies to city challenges and smart city solutions. It does not require any prior experience of studying the subject.

Who will you learn with?

Lorraine Hudson

Lead Educator of The Open University's Smart Cities MOOC and an OU Associate Lecturer teaching Environmental Sciences.

Gerd Kortuem

Professor of Computing at the Open University with a research interest in Smart Cities, Internet of Things, Data Science and Human-Centered Computing.

Who developed the course?

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.


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  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
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