What do current students think of our MSc Smart Cities programme?

Our Course Director, Adam Dennett, recently received a delightful and unprompted email from one of our current students who gave his permission for us to reproduce it on this website.  We thought by sharing this feedback, you’d get an insight into the course from a student perspective.

Hi Adam,

I was going to write this note at the end of the term, but decided to write it earlier since the student staff consultative meeting is coming up.

In short, I wanted to thank you and CASA for providing a great environment and experience in the MSc programme. There are many things I love about the programme, and these 3 have been the most important to me:

The focus on skills. I belong to the camp that prefers to do many rapid small experiments to test what works rather than build elaborate theories and hypotheses without validation. I love that the course teaches so many practical skills that I could apply to actual projects. I am also inspired by the numerous projects that CASA has developed and have lying around on display and pushed out online, and hope to emulate such work in future.

The vast scope of the course. While many of the topics could not be covered in depth, I appreciate that I have been given a small foothold in each domain from which to explore what they have to offer, and that I have the flexibility to adopt the tools most appropriate to my task, be it in visualisation, geospatial analysis, network theory, simulation, machine learning, web and mobile development, and more. My sentiment is similar to what Patrick expressed once: “I feel like I have finally joined the 21st century”. Learning the basics of each domain has given me the confidence to continue growing after the course, and also where to seek help when needed.

Great people. I love that my lecturers and course mates have such diverse backgrounds, and have benefited greatly from their different perspectives. The lecturers are great at imparting their knowledge and generous in sharing their struggles, tips and code snippets. They have managed to push me past the first hump in the learning curve in what used to be daunting subjects. I have enjoyed conversations with my course mates greatly and hope to work with them even after the course is over. Also, props to Pablo and Paula [fellow students] for starting a series of sessions where the students get together to discuss topics of interest.

I am pleased with the course overall. I make some suggestions below, but they are minor in the overall scheme of things.

Some suggestions

Give students some optional pre-course materials to work with. The diverse background of students means that everyone starts from a different base in different topics. While the courses do assume no prior knowledge, I think it would help if there was a list of resources (books/articles/websites) pointing to useful introductions in each knowledge area. For example, I think my attempt to learn Python programming before starting the course helped me to better understand many of the concepts Martin was teaching in his Intro to Programming class.

Is there an engagement plan or students when the course ends? I would love to maintain a connection to CASA. For example, being on the casa-office email group has been beneficial and it would be great to continue receiving updates on conferences, papers, technology and food in the office even when I’m in Singapore.


Tai Tong