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TCP2031 : Digital Civics - Exploring Opportunities in Digital Public Engagement

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Sebastian Weise
  • Owning School: Architecture, Planning & Landscape
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


In this module, students can research and design a service concept for digital public engagement. This module introduces students to the key activities of user-centered design (incl. requirements research, application prototyping, and prototype demonstrations ). Taking an engaged approach, students work with an external project partner (e.g. community groups, local governments, charities) on a practical challenge outlined in a project brief. As part of the design activities, students explore the political context their work is embedded within. Projects from past years included a service that supports volunteers capture their skills attainment, an interactive dashboard for an energy cooperative, and a game to engage young people in master planning. With no skills in computer programming required on this module you learn to research, design, and propose a service concept (and associated prototype) the client could implement. In the process, students learn about digital opportunities in planning, entrepreneurship, and working for a client. These skills are of increasing importance for planning professionals.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline Of Syllabus
The module combines theory and practice through a series of weekly lectures, practice-focused seminars, and an accompanying client project. Students develop a work relationship with the project partner assigned by the module leader, and work with this project partner throughout. Lectures and seminars to provide all essential support. Additionally, students are supported by a project mentor with expertise in the area the project is in (e.g. energy, volunteering, master planning).

The indicative outline of sessions per week:
1. Introduction and module overview: What is the ‘digital civic’ turn in urban planning?
2.       Role and purpose of user research and an introduction to simple techniques for requirements gathering with users.
3. Overview of key digital technologies that influence public engagement.
4. Creativity and tools for the design process: Tools to document insights from user research, such as activity mapping, mood boards, and story boards
5. Feedback session: Teams present initial findings and receive feedback from staff and fellow-students.
6. Digital transformation in local government: A look at the challenges to implement digital public services.
7. Civic groups and digital technology: A look at software and digital media used by civic groups in their campaigns
8. Prototyping techniques: An intro to the role of prototyping in design processes; a basic overview of simple techniques for visually prototyping an app / service idea. No technical skills are required.
9. Introduction to usability testing: We discuss how interactive prototypes can be used to test and validate project ideas.
10. Project surgeries: Help with project work
11. Pathways: Taking your prototype or service idea forward
12. Final project presentations

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture12:002:00Final presentation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Present in Person - Formal lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading125:0060:00Working within project group
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops112:0022:00Design workshops
Guided Independent StudyProject work194:0094:00Working within project group
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

This module raises students’ awareness of digital technologies in processes of public participation. The teaching methods emphasise guided live projects that let students explore the position of an advisor to a community group or other third party stakeholder. A focus on creative and visual designs enables students to handle successes and setbacks in a constructive manner. Self-reflective practice, within for client project, challenges students to be self-evocative to their problem-solving capacity, integrity, and resilience. Evaluation of knowledge through blogs, all hands meetings, and a client presentation encourages risk taking, creativity. The team projects enhance students’ ability to collaborate and develop a client-focused approach combined with understanding of technological possibilities.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Design/Creative proj2M50This component assesses designs produced (including story boards, videos, presentation slide, and app prototypes).
Report2M30Group work, Reflective log documenting the teams' background research activities and learnings. 8,000 words
Reflective log2M20Group Fieldwork Logbook. (A series of 11 blog posts on the digital civics blog).
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation2MInterim group presentation and progress review
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment contains a group-based client project fostering collaboration and team-work, widely expected in the ‘industry’ and thereby fosters students’ employability.

• For the creative output of the work, a portfolio assessment is used, facilitated by a final presentation of design proposals
• background report is used to assess theoretical understanding and problem-solving skills as relevant for design contexts.
• The log enables students to rotate writing posts so to include a personal voice and open space for individual interests and observations.

Formative assessments including a mid-term presentation in week four enable students to present early ideas and receive feedback without penalty to their final mark.

A peer review is employed at the end to account for individual contributions to the final work.

The APL group work policy applies in this module, except for requirements to keep a log on e-portfolio as the module provides a dedicated Wordpress site.

Reading Lists