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Online Course

Computer Simulations

University of California, Davis via Coursera

Overview

Big data and artificial intelligence get most of the press about computational social science, but maybe the most complex aspect of it refers to using computational tools to explore and develop social science theory. This course shows how computer simulations are being used to explore the realm of what is theoretically possible. Computer simulations allow us to study why societies are the way they are, and to dream about the world we would like to live in. This can be as intuitive as playing a video game. Much like the well-known video game SimCity is used to build and manage an artificial city, we use agent-based models to grow and study artificial societies. Without hurting anyone in the real world, computer simulations allow us explore how to make the world a better place. We play hands-on with several practical computer simulation models and explore how we can combine hypothetical models with real world data. Finally, you will program a simple artificial society yourself, bottom-up. This will allow you to feel the complexity that arises when designing social systems, while at the same time experiencing the ease with which our new computational tools allow us to pursue such daunting endeavors.

Syllabus

Getting Started and Computer Simulations
-In this module, you will be able to define theoretical computer simulations, specifically agent-based models (ABM). You will be able to recall how and why agent-based models can be useful and you'll be able to examine Schelling's famous segregation model.

Artificial Societies: Sugarscape
-In this module, you will be able to identify how to mix different models to create new and more complex models. You will be able to explore how to create sophisticated versions of artificial societies. You'll also be able to examine an artificial society called Sugarscape.

Computer Simulations and Characteristics of ABM
-In this module, you will be able to discover how one uses computer simulations to solve practical problems. You will be able to discuss agent-based models (ABM) and identify how ABM can be used in social science.

Model Thinking and Coding Artificial Societies
-In this module, you will be able to describe what agent-based models are. You will be able to identify their capabilities and limitations. You will be able to define and use vocabulary and terminology around model thinking. You'll also be able to code using NetLogo and be able to grow your own artificial society.

Taught by

Martin Hilbert

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Reviews

5.0 rating, based on 16 reviews

Start your review of Computer Simulations

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This was the first course that introduced me to Agent-Based modeling. At first, I was intimidated by the complexity of this method; understandably computational models are slowly becoming a norm in university curriculums. Despite of this, this course empowered me to foster functional knowledge and curiosity for computational social methods through concise and clear step-by-step guidance. Notice, computational social modeling MAY seem redundant and very systematic (just like any type of coding), BUT this course really bridge theory-to-practice by providing real-life examples and enough flexibility to get creative.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course is my favorite Coursera course I have taken so far. Programming my own artificial society was a great way to apply the simulation material learned in the course. I think it is interesting how we can use these societies to study what could possibly happen in our real lives. Building the artificial society is absolutely effective in understanding the effects of disease, resources, and others in today's society. Great course.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this course. I never knew computer simulation was considered the third branch of science and agent-based modelling can be so much fun. The course materials here are great for a primer to computer simulations and I strongly recommend anyone who is new and wishes to learn computer simulations to take this course. I have benifited much from it and I hope future students feel the same as I do.
  • Profile image for Jesus Maria Godoy Bejarano
    Jesus Maria Godoy Bejarano

    Jesus Maria Godoy Bejarano is taking this course right now.

    Computer simulation is a fantastic course and fulfiled all my expectations. Netlogo was a great choice for this course. I plan to go deeper into that tool to improve my research and teaching tasks in my university because Netlogo allows me to tests some of the hypothesis that I did not explore yet due its complexity. Netlogo and your reflections empower my skills in research. The course includes some exciting thoughts about some methodological issues in the study in social sciences that one generally miss because they are includes in the landscape. Congratulations on your course design, and I am motived to begin the other courses in the specialisation. I enjoyed it all activities.
  • Profile image for Gang Li
    Gang Li

    Gang Li completed this course.

    Great teacher, great course,thank you very much! Thanks a lot for teaching us so useful course!Great teacher, great course,thank you very much! Thanks a lot for teaching us so useful course!Great teacher, great course,thank you very much! Thanks a lot for teaching us so useful course!Great teacher, great course,thank you very much! Thanks a lot for teaching us so useful course!Great teacher, great course,thank you very much! Thanks a lot for teaching us so useful course!Great teacher, great course,thank you very much! Thanks a lot for teaching us so useful course!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course was very exciting and not that hard to follow along. The most exciting part of the course was being able to explore different versions of societies and add certain aspects to see what effect that plays on the societies. This course was one of the most interesting courses I have taken on Coursera and is very applicable and useful in my own career path. I definitely recommend this course to anyone that want to extend their knowledge in this field.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course was definitely the most hands on course I have ever took. With the focus on computer simulations, I was able to learn how to program my own simulation using agent-based models to grow and study artificial societies. I loved this because I am naturally a hands-on and visual learner. Overall, this course teaches you how to use computational tools to further understand society with artificial and real data.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    I am about to finish this course and it was really interesting to learn how to create computer simulations and play around with the existing models. The model library in Netlogo is quite rich and one can try out various scenarios to develop understanding and interpretations of these models. I am very excited to delve into some serious research problems and use computer simulations to enhance my study.
  • Anonymous
    I hold a master's degree in Social Psychology and I wish I did this course as a part of my curriculum. The concept of running computer simulations of a virtual society whilst being able to manipulate variables is paradigm shifting (for me). I'd like to convey my utmost gratitude to Prof. Martin Hilbert and other professors for designing this course. Danke schön!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Thanks to this class, I am hooked on agent-based modeling and systems thinking. The lessons were fun and engaging. Also, I was amazed at how I went from having no experience with agent-based models to building and playing around with them. I can't wait to learn more. I highly recommend this course.
  • Anonymous
    Great Course. It was very useful to know the NetLogo tool and learn the basis for doing code. It's a second or third language, necessary for these days. On the other hand, it was important to understand how it is to work with questions born in the epidemiological field.
  • Anonymous
    Simple, but doable. Great experience overall. The teacher is super capable, and everything was very clear. The Net Logo applications were hard for a beginner like me, but it was not completely impossible. So, I appreciated that a lot.
  • Anonymous
    The course was very informative and practical. Writing code in NetLogo was the best part and I would appreciate more of it as we wrote a toy model but didn't get too deep into it. It's a great introductory course in computer simulations.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The course helps to understand how computers can help on understanding theoretical studies on massive societies, by analyzing behaviors and apply it to real life situations
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Wonderfully delivered! Professor Hilbert is very engaging.

    It lived up to its fascinating title and got me really interested in computational social sciences!
  • Anonymous
    Very structured overview about simulations in NetLogo. Prof. Hubert explains everything very clear, sometimes on a humorous way.

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