Teaching and Courses @ the GovLab

This Fall, the GovLab staff are teaching a variety of courses at the intersection of governance, technology and society – experimenting with new technologies and teaching methodologies. We are also overseeing a variety of Wagner capstone projects. Here are some of the courses being taught this semester, with links to more details, as well as further information on the capstone projects and how we contribute to education innovation:


Government 3.0: Solving Public Problems with Technology is taught by Beth Noveck, Director of the GovLab. Reflecting the GovLab’s mission to harness technology to solve social problems, the course offers students the opportunity to “develop the mindset and skillset for leveraging the power of institutions and networks to design and implement effective solutions to public interest challenges.” Each week, the course delves into a new avenue such as crowdsourcing and collaborative technologies, peer produced governance, and new paradigms for social services and law-making. Through her experience as the former deputy Chief Technological Officer at the White House, Beth brings a lot of real-world issues to this discussion-based class at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. You can follow the course each week live at #gov30


Beth Noveck commenting on Prof. Francois Grey’s lecture on Citizen Cyberscience

Mapping Internet Governance: Principles, Policies and Practices is taught by Stefaan Verhulst, GovLab Chief of R&D. At the GovLab, we aim to tackle complex issues of governance and explore the redesign of institutions through technology. As the Internet is an essential platform for collaboration, economic development, and approaching public problems, issues of its governance are crucial. This course sets out to address some of the key challenges in the realm of Internet governance, including the concept of net neutrality, architectural openness, and the promotion of Internet freedom. Over the course of the semester, as students discuss and track developmental shifts, “this course seeks to provide insight into the possible future of the medium.” Students post and discuss new developments in the field on the class blog, which you can read here.

Statistical Methods for Public, Nonprofit, and Health Management is taught by Shankar Prasad, the Director of Operations at the GovLab. This course reflects the public policy training and statistical thinking that the GovLab applies in its work, and “introduces students to basic statistical methods and their application to management, policy, and financial decision-making.” The course provides students with the basic skills necessary in conducting statistical work, using statistical reasoning in decision-making, and reviewing statistical findings critically.

Capstone Projects:

Capstone projects allow graduate students from the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service to work on real-world problems. During this academic year, the GovLab is offering Capstone projects that allow select Capstone teams to work with the GovLab and its network of academics, technologists and policymakers, to design, deploy and test engagement platforms for GovLab’s client, New York University.

These projects will reflect the GovLab’s core focus this year, which is Smarter Governance: “How can institutions seek input to inform how they solve problems and make decisions?” The Capstone projects will involve testing, development and research to attain in-field results in specific areas of focus within New York University, and are listed below:

1) Public Health Research at NYU Medical School

2) Evolving the NYU Bookstore

3) Future of Technology Enhanced Education

4) Human Resources and Operations

5) New Site Development

In addition, two Capstone teams will focus on producing research and crowdsourcing expertise:

6) Identifying Models of Crowdsourcing

7) Peer Expertise: Identifying the ‘Peer Network’ at NYU

Capstone teams will also have the opportunity to work with NEO, leading product design and innovation company, to learn skills in lean and agile design and development to help them reach their goal of developing new models of participatory governance using technology.

Teaching Methodology

Beth’s Gov 3.0 class is also an experiment in using new tools and teaching concepts. In particular, the GovLab aims to innovate how we teach along the following lines:

1) Flipped Classroom – In Gov 3.0 as in all of Beth’s teaching,  we’ve adopted the flipped classroom approach. We record the lectures on video ahead of time so that students can watch from home. This enables us to use class time for more discussion, exercises, guests, training and all manner of active learning. We also use video to capture guest speakers. This way, a speaker only has to give the lecture once at their convenience and generations of students can benefit. They can still come in for the live experience in person or via Skype or Google Hangout. But we can get guests from places like the White House who otherwise never could show up in person.
2) Collaborative Notetaking – In every session, the students use Hackpad, a free tool like a Google doc, but that enables all of them to take notes on a common document. With a Hackpad, we have a permanent record of what happened in class. With lots of people working, we can practically have a transcript without anyone having to do that much work. It allows us to have an authoritative set of notes and to do brainstorming together on a common problem or project.

3) Listserv – For each class, we set up a listserv using Google Groups. In fact, every one of our 7 capstone teams has its own as does the class as a whole. We also have one in Gov 3.0. This enables the students to communicate with each other as well as with me. Google classes like Blackboard is set up for me to broadcast to them. But with a Google Group, we share articles of common interest, news about events and questions about class.

4) Social Media (Twitter, Blogging, Storify, Tumblr) – The GovLab is big believer in students actively reflecting on what they are learning rather than reading passively. Especially at the Wagner School of Public Service where they have diverse interests, we ask them to write about how the technology, policy and social science innovations they learn about in the class impact what they care about. They blog individually or in teams about their passion. This also gives them a way to create a body of work and demonstrate mastery and expertise in a field. This term we are trying tumblr. Both are free. We also actively use Twitter in and out of class. We have a unique hashtag or label “Gov 3.0.” they will see anything with that label appended. Last term, students would create summaries of what happened in class as well as all the tweets accompanied by pictures. Here are two examples of how Storify works:



5) Visual Annotation – Whenever we have a wireless keyboard in the classroom different students are tasked with pulling up examples on the screen of whatever is being discussed.
6) Surveys – We use Google Surveys on a regular basis to get feedback on and improve the class.

7) Video – Finally, we ask students to do qualitative research and interview one or more people. This requires them to teach themselves how to record, edit and post. Learning to experiment and teach oneself are meta-lessons of the course. But on a practical level, this gave them original content to add to their blog and an opportunity to teach themselves a new skill. Similarly, we do data collection exercises and other “active” learning projects that technology can facilitate.


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