This May, Tom Sanchez, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning in Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs, will collaborate with a faculty member from Ohio State University to offer a massive open online course, or MOOC. 

Jennifer Evans-Cowley, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University, and Tom Sanchez are the instructors for the four-week class TechniCity, which begins May 4, 2013. 

TechniCity is offered through Coursera, which offers college-level courses online for free.

When the course was first posted, more than 2200 people registered within the two weeks. It currently has more than 14,000 registered students from around the world, with nearly 70 percent residing outside of the United States.

“We were inspired to engage with thousands of students across the globe who share our passion for cities and want to think creatively about how technology can improve our quality of life,” said Evans-Cowley.

TechniCity is geared toward upper-level undergraduate and graduate students and will explore how the increasing availability of networks, sensors and mobile technologies allows for new approaches to address the challenges facing modern cities. It will cover how cities are changing, how technology is used to engage with the public to support decision-making, tools for analyzing the city, the infrastructure that makes the real time city possible, and how creativity can spawn technological innovation.

“This course covers some of the most fascinating technologies in cities today. It's also structured to encourage students to look into the future and imagine the new roles that technology will play,” Sanchez said. 

The instructors envision the course as an active virtual salon, or discussion forum, where participants can engage in reasoned debate and polite conversation while offering criticisms of current technology issues facing the world's cities. Students will hear from technological innovators and thought leaders, complete homework assignments, and engage in a peer evaluation project.

In addition to Sanchez’ instruction, Gardner Campbell, director of professional development and innovative initiatives for Learning Technologies and associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and Jennifer Sparrow, director of Emerging Technologies and New Ventures for Virginia Tech’s InnovationSpace, have contributed their technical expertise to the course preparation.

Tom Sanchez earned his Ph.D. in City Planning from Georgia Tech. He conducts research in the areas of environmental justice, technology, and the social aspects of planning and policy. He also serves as editor of the journal Housing Policy Debate and is a nonresident senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution.