UCL Changemakers


Building Blocks: Big Data for Urban Design

Megawati tells us about her internship experience working with the Bartlett School of Planning team on developing Moodle resources.

This UCL Connected Internship project added three tabs to the existing Moodle page on Building Blocks. This started with an overview of research design and continued with three tabs of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research approach to provide student the initial description of how to apply big data in their research design.

What did you do/what happened?

Within this three week project, we grew the existing ‘Building Blocks: Big Data for Urban Design’ Moodle with three further tabs of research design. We also added an ‘overview’ to describe these three further tabs. The overview illustrates the process of defining a framework of research methods and techniques. The ‘Quantitative’ and ‘Qualitative’ tabs show how big data can fit within the research methods, along with the  advantages and limitations of them. Finally the ‘Mixed Methods’ tab shows how to integrate the quantitative and qualitative approaches for urban design.

Why was this project important? How would it improve the learning experience of students?

Originally, the project was funded by UCL ChangeMakers in April 2020. The project itself aims to demystify big data in urban design. However, in focus groups and interviews with students and staff, they mentioned significant changes in terms of methodology for urban design due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By providing them the initial understanding of qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods and big data, students can be more aware of the possibilities and limitations of big data in research design context. Therefore, students will have more time for their critical engagement and design process.

What roles did other team members play and how did staff and students work together on the project?

This project was very much a collaborative piece. We worked with students, the programme director and module coordinator by doing interviews and focus groups to gain and integrate their feedback. The interviews and focus groups were carried out at least twice or more for the pre-project, during project and post-project stages. At the initial phase, the focus groups mainly identified relevant resources and some insights for the structure whereas the programme director focused on providing feedback for the structure and research examples at the Bartlett. During the project, we mainly focused on gathering more data, graphics and research. We had weekly meetings with the staff partner to discuss this project. My role was more graphics focused and initial writing whereas Isabel's role was more text heavy. In this time, we also conducted some interviews with the module coordinator from CASA (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis) to gain cutting edge resources for research design and big data. Finally, in post-project, we presented the Moodle page to the focus group and staff for the final revision.

What was involved in terms of approach, logistics, time or resources?

  • This was a part-time role for three weeks:
  • Each week, we had fixed weekly meeting with the staff partner;
  • Week 1: We created the structure of the tabs (overview, quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods) + overview;
  • Week 2: Quantitative and qualitative + feedback from module coordinator;
  • Week 3: Mixed methods + final revision.

What difference has this made to staff or students?

  • This resource was presented at induction week at the Bartlett School of Planning. Approximately 270 students attended and most of them self-enrolled to the resource.
  • It provides a collaborative platform to share datasets, research and more learning resource through The Bartlett Urban Planning Society.

What are your plans for the future?

This project is based at the Bartlett School of Planning, it had started out as a collaboration between MSc Urban Design and City Planning, MSc Sustainable Urbanism and MRes Interdisciplinary Urban Design.  However, the Bartlett Urban Planning Society have taken on an administrative role in taking the resource forward. We hope that this could be a community building project where everyone across the Bartlett could access and evolve this resource.