230.053 System analysis, strategic planning and policy modelling with system dynamics
This course is in all assigned curricula part of the STEOP.
This course is in at least 1 assigned curriculum part of the STEOP.

2020S, VU, 2.0h, 3.0EC


  • Semester hours: 2.0
  • Credits: 3.0
  • Type: VU Lecture and Exercise

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of the course, students are able to use the method of Causal-Loop-Diagrams (CLD) for a qualitative assessment of the effects of policies and strategies in their field. In particular this includes the following skills:
a) Converting verbal problem descriptions into a qualitative system description using CLD.
b) Definition of system elements (entitities), cause-effect-relations and polarities.
c) Determine and interpret the basic system behaviour (dynamic equilibrium, exponential growth).
d) Identify leverage points for policy interventions.
e) Give advice about the design of successful policies and strategies.

Subject of course

The capability to analyse the behaviour of complex systems is a prerequisite for sustainable planning and resource management. Both, decision makers and scientists need adequate tools to understand complexity and effects of policy interventions and strategies. System Dynamics offers such tools, which are suitable for strategic corporate planning as well as policy development. An important domain of System Dynamics is the identification of feedback loops, unintended side effects and rebound effects. System Dynamics is useful in a wide range of different fields and contexts like environmental, energy, health or transport planning. The course is hence open for all disciplines.
The main objective of the course is to enable students to use the principles of System Thinking and the qualitative methods of System Dynamics to solve problems in their respective discipline. Sub-objectives of the course are as follows:
a) Understand the principles of complex, dynamic systems on the basis of System Thinking
b) Learn qualitative methods to communicate and discuss complex relationships
c) Utilise qualitative methods from System Dynamics (Causal Loop Diagrams) to improve system understanding
The course offers a basic introduction into System Thinking and the qualitative methods of System Dynamics. The course is the basis for the seminar 856323 „Applied System Dynamics Modelling in Transport“. The methods presented form an excellent basis for the analysis and structuring of problems in the framework of term papers, master thesis, etc.
The main topics addressed in the course are:
a) Basic understanding of dynamic systems and the dimensions of System Thinking
b) Qualitative methods (Causal Loop Diagrams) for the analysis, communication and discussion of complex interactions
c) Overview of important generic structures and system archetypes
The course will be held in English and in cooperation with Institute for Transport Studies of BOKU.

Teaching methods

The course is based on a mix of presentations, interactive elements (Group Model Building Exercises), hands on group work and student presentations.

Mode of examination

Written and oral



Course dates

Tue14:00 - 16:0025.02.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/46)Emberger
Tue14:00 - 16:0003.03.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/46)Emberger
Tue14:00 - 16:0010.03.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/46)Emberger
Tue14:00 - 16:0017.03.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/20)Emberger
Tue14:00 - 16:0024.03.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/27)Emberger
Tue14:00 - 16:0031.03.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/20)Emberger
Tue14:00 - 16:0028.04.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/20)Emberger
Tue14:00 - 16:0005.05.2020 BOKU Seminarraum Verkehrswesen (EXNH-DG/46)Emberger

Examination modalities

Grading will be based on students active participation in the lectures and interactive elements, the final report of their homework work and the presentation and discussion of their home work.

Course registration

Begin End Deregistration end
13.02.2020 12:00 23.03.2020 00:00



* Pfaffenbichler (2011) Modelling with Systems Dynamics as a Method to Bridge the Gap between Politics, Planning and Science? Lessons Learnt from the Development of the Land Use and Transport Model MARS, Transport Reviews 31(2):267-289
* Arndt, H. (2017) Systemisches Denken im Fachunterricht. Edited by H. Arndt. Erlangen, DE: FAU University Press. Available at: https://opus4.kobv.de/opus4-fau/files/8609/HolgerArndt_Systemisches+Denken+Bd.2_OPUS.pdf.
* Sterman, J. D. (2000) Business Dynamics - Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.