Short courses


Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing: an Introduction

  • 30 hours
  • No start date. Work at your own pace


This online course will introduce you to the theory and practice of citizen science and scientific crowdsourcing.

Citizen science is the participation of members of the public in scientific projects, including the engaging a large group of people in the creation of new scientific knowledge (crowdsourcing). 

You'll explore the history, theoretical foundations, and practical aspects of designing and running citizen science projects.

By the end of the course, you'll have a good understanding of citizen science and be familiar with the academic literature in this area.

The course is run by the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group, part of the Department of Geography at UCL. The course is part of the department's MSc programmes but, in the spirit of citizen science, it's being offered here as a free online course.

Course content

The course starts with the basics of citizen science and scientific crowdsourcing.

You'll then learn about:

  • the technical aspects of citizen science projects 
  • how to make projects participant-centred
  • volunteer management
  • user-centred design and human-computer interaction
  • data issues in citizen science - managing data and ensuring quality
  • environmental citizen science
  • ethics and legal issues
  • evaluation and policy

The course ends with a look at social theory approaches to thinking about citizen science and its place in the world.

There will be plenty of hands-on experiences to help you analyse and understand citizen science.

Structure, teaching and assessment

For each topic, there'll be two lectures and a practical session. These will last about two or three hours in total. You'll also need to spend time watching a video or two and reading two or three pieces of text.

Further (optional) readings will also be provided to help expand your understanding.

All the lectures and materials you'll need to complete the course will be available online. You'll also be able to take part in discussions with other students online.

There's no formal assessment but there will be reflection questions and quizzes for you to complete.

Who the course is for

The course is aimed at:

  • those involved in citizen science and public engagement with science
  • scientists who are considering developing a citizen science project

There are no pre-requisites for this course. You don't need any prior knowledge of what citizen science is, or what happens in crowdsourcing.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course you should:

  • be able to demonstrate knowledge of the field of citizen science and scientific crowdsourcing, including the activities that are include in it and its history
  • have familiarity and knowledge of relevant social science theories that explain the role of citizen science within scientific knowledge production
  • be able to use the technologies used in citizen science and scientific crowdsourcing, and understand how they shape and impact the projects and the applications of their outputs
  • understand the practice of citizen science through participation in several activities, and be be able to critique and evaluate such practices
  • have knowledge of the appropriate evaluation techniques for citizen science and scientific crowdsourcing, including the experience and learning of participants


To prepare for the course, it's recommended that you get a copy of Citizen Science - How Ordinary People are Changing the Face of Discovery by Caren Cooper. This book provides an accessible introduction to the area of citizen science, along with further details and background to topics covered by the course.

Course team

Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS)

Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS)

The course is taught by researchers in the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group, who are exploring different facets of citizen science and crowdsourcing practice. They will be joined by several guest lecturers from external organisations.

The ExCiteS group is part of the Department of Geography at UCL. Further details about their experience can be found on the ExCiteS website.

Course information last modified: 30 Nov 2022, 15:59