Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute /
15 Aug 2017

SFI and ASU to offer online M.S. in Complexity

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SFI and Arizona State University soon will offer the world’s first comprehensive online master’s degree in complexity science. It will be the Institute’s first graduate degree program, a vision that dates to SFI’s founding.

“With technology, a growing recognition of the value of online education, widespread acceptance of complexity science, and in partnership with ASU, we are now able to offer the world a degree in the field we helped invent,” says SFI President David Krakauer, “and it will be taught by the very people who built it into a legitimate domain of scholarship.”

ASU contributes to the partnership its degree-granting accreditation and its powerhouse online education platform EdPlus, with its 30,000-student enrollment and 150 degree offerings. It also offers faculty experts in various areas of complexity research. SFI contributes its global network of complexity researchers, many of whom are the recognized giants in the field, as well as its position as the world headquarters for complexity science and education.

SFI also “has the disciplinary breadth and leading ideas that other universities offering complexity degrees can’t offer,” says ASU President’s Professor Manfred Laubichler, an SFI external professor who is leading the university’s faculty collaboration on the project.

The curriculum builds on existing free online courses offered through the Institute’s highly successful Complexity Explorer, which has, in a few short years, enrolled more than 36,000 students in 15 complexity-based courses and tutorials.

“One of SFI’s goals is to help develop the next generation of scientists and students ready to understand the complex realities we’ll face in this century,” says SFI Director of Education Paul Hooper. “This first SFI degree program gives us an opportunity to amplify the impact of the science, and to define the field.”

The degree planners envision 30 credit hours comprising 15 two-credit-hour courses: five in the fundamental concepts of complexity (e.g., generalized evolution and collective computation), four in the methods of complexity science (e.g. networks, game theory), four electives (e.g. economics or cities), two independent study options, and an original research project. The first degree cohort is expected to be admitted in fall 2018 or spring 2019. 

Both institutions are looking to the future. “This collaboration with ASU allows SFI to do what it has always done best: encourage integrative scientific and educational opportunities with integrative ideas, across fields and across institutions,” says Hooper. 

For ASU, says Laubichler, the program is an example of the “global classroom,” a vision for higher education in which common online courses are among the listings at multiple universities. “Breaking the place-bounded nature of graduate education may prompt synergies we can’t anticipate, such as collaborations, cohorts, student projects, and summer schools across borders,” he says. 

The online master’s program is currently under development. Course content, prerequisites, and cost structure are not yet set. If you’d like to receive email updates on this and other online education program news, please register on Complexity Explorer. Check this page for up to date information on the Master's.

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