Geodesign: Change Your World

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Course Date: 13 August 2014 to 17 September 2014 (5 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

What happens when creativity and science come together? The power to design our world is unleashed, providing tools to inform choices about how we live! Geodesign is the glue—it’s a process that deploys creativity to connect information to people, using collaboration to better inform how we design our world.

Estimated Workload: 3-5 hours/week

Course Instructors

Kelleann Foster

Professor Kelleann Foster, RLA, ASLA, is the Lead Faculty for the Online Geodesign Graduate Programs at Penn State, the Director of The Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Architecture.

Kelleann has 30-years of professional practice experience as a landscape architect and has been teaching at Penn State for 25-years.  A recent sabbatical, based at Esri’s World Headquarters in Redlands, CA, enabled her to research how Penn State’s new online geodesign programs could most effectively engage students in a collaborative, virtual studio environment.  This research resulted in the creation of Penn State’s new geodesign graduate programs -- a Geodesign Option in the MGIS degree, a Graduate Certificate in Geodesign, and a forthcoming Master in Professional Studies in Geodesign – all offered exclusively online through Penn State’s award winning World Campus.

Much of Kelleann’s work uses computer technologies to communicate alternative scenarios to citizens.  Her work has received national and international recognition.  She also focuses on generating awareness about career opportunities as a landscape architect.  Kelleann recently authored a book, part of John Wiley & Sons “Careers in Design” series— titled “Becoming a Landscape Architect.”  In 2014 the book became available in Chinese through Chinese Architectural Press.

When she’s not working, Kelleann can be found exploring the world via bicycle and she is enjoys anything connected to chocolate!  She is a board member of the central Pennsylvania land trust, ClearWater Conservancy, and helps with their annual fundraiser “For the Love of Art and Chocolate.”

Course Description

Our world is awash in facts and information, which are now easily accessible.  So why are so many bad decisions being made?  What is needed is creativity and design that brings those facts to life – to create a vision and choices as well as an understanding about the potential impacts of those choices.  The geodesign process has evolved over nearly 40 years and now combines the core concepts of design thinking with the latest in geo-spatial technologies.

Geodesign is a proven form of design that uses techniques and practices from a multitude of professions to determine optimal ways to design for complex land use challenges. It is a collaborative process that capitalizes on the strengths of people with a variety of expertise to create and implement unique models to aid in the design decision-making process.

Our MOOC will introduce the average person to the core concepts of geodesign through real-world examples which showcase how geodesign has worked across the globe.  People from all walks of life with interests in science, design, sustainability and environmental stewardship will want to learn about geodesign.  Together we will explore how anyone can use the geodesign process to work with others to effect change in their world.


  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • What resources will I need for this class?
    For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, copies of the texts (most of which can be obtained for free), and the time to read, write, discuss, and enjoy some marvelous geodesign literature.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?
    You realize the opportunities are all around you to do geodesign.

  • What future learning opportunities will this class prepare me for?
    Students who successfully complete this class will be prepared to continue their education in more advanced post-graduate geodesign classes

  • How can I learn more about Geodesign right now?
    Read this article by MOOC Instructor Kelleann Foster here.  Check out this page for news and blog postings.


Week One:  Shared Languages
The key underpinnings of geodesign include aspects we all share: spatial thinking, creative change, and being rooted in real places.

Week Two: The Three D's of Geodesign
Decision is the driver but one must also consider Data and Design.  

Week Three: The Three C's of Geodesign
Dealing with tough challenges is the main issue.  Imbedded in those are Complexity, Computation, and Collaboration.  

Week Four: The Influence of Context
Place matters and is shaped by culture.  Who are the people of the place and what scale is best?

Week Five: Process and Framework  
The value of a proven process.  How to set up a project, outline an approach, understand the options, and get feedback about the impacts.


The class will consist of lecture videos, which are between 4 and 7 minutes long. Each has 1-2 integrated quiz questions.  There will be a forum discussions each week to hear what everyone is thinking.  

We'll begin with an introductory (volunteer) assignment that engages everyone is identifying land use challenge they care about.  

A final assignment in week 5 will enable students to outline their own approach to geodesign.   

Course Workload

3-5 hours/week

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