Complexity Explorer Santa Few Institute

Introduction to Complexity (Spring 2013)

Lead instructor:

This course is no longer in session.

When does the course start? February 4, 2013

When does it end? June 30, 2013

Who is the instructor? Melanie Mitchell, External Professor, Santa Fe Institute

How much does it cost? Nothing. The course is completely free.

How is the course funded? The course is funded by the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. In order to support future courses, we will be asking for small, voluntary donations to cover the costs of developing and providing those courses.

Who is the intended audience and what are the prerequisites? This course is intended for anyone with an interest in complex systems. For this introductory course, there are no prerequisites, and no science or math background is necessary. The level is be similar to that of an interdisciplinary undergraduate class, though the topics are broad enough to be of interest to people ranging from high school students to professionals.

What topics are covered? This course is a broad overview of the sciences of complexity. There are 11 units; each covers one major topic in complex systems. See the course description for specific topics.

How does the course work? Each unit consists of a series of short videos, with each video corresponding to subtopics of the unit's main topic. The course website leads you through the videos in order, allowing you to skip or repeat videos as you desire. You can watch these videos at your own pace and in any order you desire; once posted, they will remain available indefinitely. Anyone is able to watch the videos even without enrolling in the course. However, in order to be graded and receive a certificate of completion, you will need to enroll and finish all the homework assignments and final exam within the course period (i.e., by June 30, 2013).

How long does the course last? 11 weeks. We expect that participants will complete about one unit per week. However, the videos will stay online indefinitely.

What about quizzes? Many subunits are followed by a quiz that you can take online and that is graded automatically. These quizzes won’t count towards your final grade; their purpose is to allow you to see how well you have understood the material in the video, and what you might need to review.

What about the final exam? There will be a final exam that must be taken during the last week of the course in order to receive a certificate of completion. The final exam will test you on all the units. Like the quizzes, the final exam can be completed online and will be graded automatically.

And homework? Each unit is followed by a homework assignment that you can complete and submit online. Part of each homework assignment is to be submitted and will be graded, and part is to be done but not submitted or graded. Each homework assignment is a combination of written exercises (with numerical answers), multiple-choice questions, and experiments with computer simulations using the Netlogo platform.

How is the course graded? There will be 10 homework assignments and one final exam, all to be submitted online. Each homework assignment will count for 5%, and the final exam will count for 50%. All are open-notes, open-book, open-internet. Once you finish all homework assignments and the final exam, you will receive a total course score, as a percentage from 0 to 100. Of course, since the course is not for credit, your scores are meant to be for your own tracking of your progress in the course. They will not be seen by anyone but you, and possibly our course team.

How well do I need to do to receive a certificate, and will the certificate list my grade? You need to have a total course score of 60% or greater to receive a certificate of successful completion. The certificate will not list your total score; it will simply say that you have successfully completed this course.

What is Netlogo and how do I get it? This course uses the Netlogo simulation platform for examples, demonstrations, and homework assignments. Netlogo is a free software package that runs on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems. No previous experience with Netlogo, or with computer programming, is required. The introductory videos of the course gives instructions on how to download and use Netlogo and further videos teach students the Netlogo language and how to develop their own simulations. You can download NetLogo at

Will Netlogo run on iPads or other tablets, or on smartphones? No, not yet, though the NetLogo team is working on this. For now you have to run it on a regular computer. Any computer running Windows, Macintosh, or Linux should work with NetLogo.

Is there a required textbook? No textbook is required. There are a few reading assignments that will be provided on the course web site.

Do I have to enroll to take the course? Anyone is able to watch the videos and take the embedded quizzes at any time. However, enrollment is required for you to be able to submit homework, take the final exam, participate in the student forum, and receive a certificate of completion.

How do I enroll? Go to the course website: and click the “Enroll” button. You will be guided through the short enrollment process, and then can immediately begin taking the course.

Can I enroll after the course begins? Yes, but to receive a grade and a certificate you must register and complete the homework and final exams before the end of the course (i.e., by June 30, 2013).

How much time does the course require? To complete the course in the given 11-week period, you should expect to spend 1–2 hours per week watching videos and taking quizzes, and 2–4 hours per week on homework, for a total of 3–6 hours per week.

How will my work be graded? You will be graded on the basis of your homework and final exam. Each will count for 50% of your grade. Quizzes do not count toward your final grade.

What are the rules on collaboration with other people? You are free to discuss anything with anyone! The course website hosts an online forum for students to discuss the course material, homework, etc. However, we ask that your homework solutions be your own (albeit with help from others if necessary) and that your final exam be taken entirely on your own, without collaboration with others or help from the Web. Of course, we are relying on the honor system for our students to abide by these rules.

Can I get university credit for this course? No, not at this time. It is possible that in the future we may be able to partner with colleges and universities so as to offer our courses for credit, but there is currently no mechanism for this.

Will I get any kind of certificate? Everyone who registers for and finishes the course will receive a certificate of completion from the Santa Fe Institute. Finishing the course means successfully finishing all homework assignments and passing the final exam.

What is this "Student Forum" you've been talking about? The course website hosts a forum in which enrolled course participants can post questions, answers, and otherwise discuss the course materials. Questions posted to this forum will be answered by the instructor, teaching assistant, and/or other students.

Will there be any other kind of social networking for participants? We hope to help organize local "Meetups" (via for course participants who would like to meet in person.

I’d like to take this course, but I won’t have time to finish it by June 30, 2013. Will the course be offered again? Yes, we plan to offer this course again, most likely in Fall, 2013.

Will you be offering any follow-up courses? Funding permitting, SFI hopes to offer a follow-up course to this one (Introduction to Complexity, part 2) starting in Summer 2013. We also hope to offer a series of more advanced, special-topic courses related to complex systems. All of our initial course participants will be notified of these courses when and if they are offered.

What if I have more questions? Please address any other questions you have to .