May 2nd to May 30th 2022

Course description

The System Dynamics approach, rooted in Systems Thinking, is best suited for the deconstruction and analysis of complex socio-economic environments and political systems. There is a growing call among scientists and practitioners today on systemic approaches to tackle complex problems such as the climate and environmental crises. System dynamics is a multidisciplinary approach that uses both qualitative and quantitative methods. It has been successfully applied for other complex socioeconomic questions such as for national planning models, analysing climate change policies, food market transformation, and government health policies. ERASME’S System Dynamics Online Course aims to introduce academics and practitioners from the business, policy-making and NGO sectors to thinking in systems, understanding the dynamic nature of system behaviour and acquiring basic system dynamic modelling skills. For applicants from the academic sector, the course is designed for graduates and postgraduates. In special circumstances, undergraduate students may be accepted, providing they demonstrate the relevance of the course for their degree and have sufficient knowledge and/or experience in the field.

ERASME’s System Dynamics Online Course runs over a 4-week period, between May 2nd and May 30th 2022, and can be taken independently, as an introductory course into System Dynamics, or as the pre-requisite for ERASME’s Summer School on System Dynamics for Sustainability (details coming up soon). Please note that for applicants from the academic sector, the online course and summer school is designed for postgraduates (PhD students and post-docs). In special circumstances, a very limited number of graduate (Master) students may be accepted at the summer school, providing they demonstrate the relevance of the course for their degree, can show sufficient knowledge and/or experience in the field and submit a strong application. The online course requires ~4h workload per week, consisting of online lectures, reading materials, individual assignments, forum discussions and live interactions with the teachers. Upon successful completion, participants will receive a certificate.

Learning Outcomes

  • Get a brief overview of the concepts of sustainable development and strong/weak sustainability;
  • Understand the Systems Thinking approach;
  • Know the elements that define a system and the elements that define a system’s behaviour;
  • Acquire competence in using qualitative System Dynamics tools, such as Causal Loop Diagrams (CLDs) or Stock and Flow Diagrams (SFDs);
  • Understand the concept of Leverage Points of Intervention in a system and how this concept can be used to change a system’s behaviour;
  • Acquire basic skills in quantitative System Dynamics modelling;
  • Have basic competences in VENSIM® and STELLA® modelling softwares.

Participation fees

The tuition fees for the course is €400 for students, policy makers and NGO representatives and €800 for business representatives. A limited number of competitive scholarships are available for students and NGO representatives only, subject to the quality of their application and the motivation for scholarship request.

Applications and deadlines

Deadline for applications for the course is April 25th 2022, 17:00 CEST.

If you only plan to take the online course, you simply need to send us an email at systems@erasmecentre.eu and briefly introduce yourself, your motivation for taking the course and your area of expertise. We will get back to you with further information. The online course will take place between May 2nd and May 30th 2022.

If you apply for a scholarship, please also e-mail us a scholarship request statement (in English or French), in which you provide details on the motivation for your request and you show you have been unsuccessful in securing funding. Please note that there is a limited number of scholarships and they are highly competitive. Scholarships will be assessed based on the quality of the applications.

If you apply for the online course because you plan to participate in the Summer School on System Dynamics for Sustainability, please also submit a motivation letter, your CV and one recommendation letter to systems@erasmecentre.eu.

Testimonials from previous participants

Catherine Saldutti, President & Founder, Educhange, Inc.: The System Dynamics Online Course helped me revisit and apply certain principles as well as learn new concepts. It reminded me how important it is to involve stakeholders in the modeling process and discussions, and to focus on certain feedback loops and relationships rather than trying to include all factors in a single model. The introductions to VenSim and STELLA were great, and I want to move further ahead with another ERASME course to improve my skills. Sustainability concepts are central to the work we do in education (Ages 13-20), particularly when exploring short-term and long-term impacts on students based on decisions made now. Further, it is imperative that we teach students how to think about system dynamics as they face complex issues in an uncertain world. As an instructional designer, I appreciated the organization and content of the course, the instructors’ knowledge and their welcoming and inclusive approach, and that I could participate while working full-time. I recommend this ERASME course without reservation!

Neethi Rajagopalan, Senior Researcher, Sustainable Mobility and Construction, VITO: I work extensively with life cycle assessment modeling. The perspective in my field is on the product or process one is modelling. All other integrated systems that might be connected indirectly to the product are not included. With this system dynamics course, my perspective was broadened on my decisions and their impact on the broader societal aspects beyond the product in consideration. I would like to integrate more systems dynamics aspects in my work in life cycle assessment. I would definitely recommend life cycle assessment scholars to learn more about system dynamics aspects for their research. 

Dieter Cuypers, R&D, VITO Transition Platform: The course was very relevant for someone starting to apply system dynamics tools. It saved me a lot of time in finding the best resources and tools to get started with it. Especially the regular feedback and discussion among teachers and participants on the assignments was revelatory both during the assignments in team as afterwards in a broader setting. It demonstrated clearly that there are multiple ways to analyze and solve these wicked sustainability problems, and how non-systemic approaches fail. What I enjoyed most about the course is the combination of theory (backed with a huge list of resources), practical exercises from a wide variety of research fields, with direct feedback from the experts but also among participants from different backgrounds (cultural, geographical and expertise-wise).

Mariia Kostetckaia, PhD Student, Institute for Managing Sustainability, Vienna University of Economics and Business: As a researcher, I find it important to keep learning about new methods and approaches in my area of scientific interests. I hope I can apply the knowledge on system dynamics to monitoring sustainability level of countries. I really liked a combination of self-learning through the recorded lectures and recommended literature and of interactive sessions on Fridays where we discussed the topic of the week and could ask any questions. Our instructors always provided good feedback on our work and were approachable and willing to help.

Timothy Marcroft, PhD Student, UCA, France: I work with a small municipality on how to get the population engaged in the energy transition. This means dealing every day with complex systems in which variables of many different types are interconnected in ways that may not be immediately obvious. Systems dynamics and systems thinking can help clarify these relationships and give me and my collaborators important perspective on the opportunities for effective action hidden within the system. This course offers a solid grounding in those tools and has allowed me to better arrive at shared understandings with my team and with the inhabitants of our territory. Intelligently structured in a way that builds from simple concepts to complex insights, the course is perfect both for people like me who have some knowledge of systems dynamics and for complete novices. A very worthwhile use of your time.

Nkameni Daniel, Masters of Engineering Student, ENSEA, France: ERASME’s online course on system dynamics for sustainability was a major step in easing the understanding of systems dynamics. It presented with details the way in which elements that constitute complex systems interact. This course, if well applied, can help prepare and achieve sustainable development. Indeed, the knowledge acquired through this course can help forecast the outcome and consequences of a decision related development making it possible to decide in a way that will minimise undesirable results in the future. As a statistician and future actuary, this course will help me break down complex problems that will come my way in my area of work into smaller ones. I will then assemble these sub problems in a systematic way and provide simple solutions that will interact through the system I constructed to provide answers to the initial complex problems. What I enjoyed the most was systems modeling with Stella. The scientific and mathematics part of this modeling was close to what we do in statistics but was a little more close to reality and easy to understand by both statisticians and non-statisticians. It was very inspiring the way in which the model helped in forecasting and studying the effects of present decisions on future outcomes.

Jan Zeiss, Lecturer, Department of Environmental Sciences, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences: By introducing us to systems thinking and system dynamics, the course provided a standardized approach to deal with the various feedbacks that need to be considered in respect to the energy transition – or any other issue, for that matter. In the interdisciplinary bachelor program, I am teaching in, we often observe that students may gain a good understanding of each individual subject but still struggle to see the bigger picture that connects all the subjects. After completing ERASME’s system dynamics course, I am convinced that including an introduction to systems thinking and systems dynamics in our bachelor program would greatly help the students to “connect the dots”. As the concept of sustainability touches upon almost every aspect of society, so does a basic understanding of systems thinking seem to be a skill that could be beneficial in almost every profession.The course was well structured, providing a theoretical introduction to the topic, followed with a more practical focus on various tools for system dynamics modelling. The fact that the course was spread over 4 weeks instead of being condensed into a few days allowed us to contemplate on the individual lectures and assignments. I was especially happy about the diverse group of teachers and participants, coming from all over the world and representing various different work/research areas.

Aynur Mammadova, Research Fellow at the University of Padova, Italy: The complexity of sustainability issues require a mindset that can think in systems and see order in chaos. ERASME School on Systems Dynamics focuses on nurturing that mindset through theory and hands on experiences using different modelling tools. I found the course extremely useful for my current research where I explore the topic of human-nature interactions. I very much enjoyed short, concise video tutorials that deliver complex topics through simple messages and explanations. I recommend the course to anyone who would like to dive into the topic within a short period and have an expert guidance while doing so. 

Océane Duluins, PhD Student, Earth and Life Institute, UCLouvain: The course takes a systemic approach to address very different issues. It allows to give tools and very concrete notions of the systems dynamics. In my PhD, I focus on the transformation of the agricultural and food systems towards sustainability and resilience. In particular, my research focuses on the protein transition and the impacts on the livestock sectors. I really look forward to using what I learn in the course for my research.