SMUS MOOCs (3rd Generation) – Call for Applications

Action 5 and the SMUS MOOCs

Drawing on the themes of the “Urban” SDG #11, the SMUS MOOCs are envisioned to Enhance higher education teaching by encouraging exchanges, debates and discussions between research and practice. In a time of global, and particularly urban, polycrises (societal, environmental, political), critical questions arise: How do we teach a new generation? Who produces new knowledge, and for whom is it produced? What research methods do we teach, and what examples (both successes and failures) do we draw lessons from? How do we bring practice and local (non-scientific) expert knowledge into the auditorium and how do we open that auditorium to a larger ad? What are potential synergies between research methods of the social sciences and those of planning, design and policymaking? These are some of the questions we want to tackle by the SMUS MOOCs series.
MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are a model for delivering learning content online to anyone who wants to take a course, with no limit on the number of participants and no fees. The recent pandemic has presented universities with many challenges in terms of online teaching, workshops and conferences, but it has also brought new opportunities by making online interactions more accessible and acceptable to a broader audience. MOOCs are a good match for a more engaging and stimulating digital teaching and learning experience, bringing research and practice into the auditorium. Furthermore, past experiences attest to the far-reaching potential MOOCs offer.
MOOCs allow us to learn from our peers around the world. However, the big bulk of MOOC production is concentrated in the global North. At the same time, particularly in the field of Urban Sustainability and Spatial Research Methods, there is a need to produce, teach and exchange contextualised spatial practice and knowledge. These MOOCs are envisioned to meet SMUS’ aims of furthering a more diversified and decentralised knowledge production as well as promoting its exchange.


This call for the third generation of SMUS MOOCs follows the successful production of the first generation SMUS MOOCs by 7 SMUS partners from Nigeria, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru, Indonesia, India-Chennai and India-Roorkee, and 3 second generation SMUS MOOCs by SMUS partners from Colombia, Serbia, Egypt, Germany, and India-Kharagpur.
This call for applications, is looking for innovative ideas for the production of up to 4 MOOCs on urban sustainability, spatial research methods, and their practical/professional application. The MOOCs should focus on SDG #11 (see a list of possible themes on the last page). Due to the wide range of possible topics, we suggest a theme driven by the context of the location, picking up other pressing local urban development themes.
While the MOOCs may be produced in a language other than English, English subtitles must be made readily available (please remember to set aside sufficient funds for this!).
Practice-oriented local/national/regional partners such as practitioners, public servants, members of NGOs and/or Community Based Organisations (minimum 3 per MOOC) should be actively involved in the content production of each of the SMUS MOOCs.


This call is in this first phase only open to SMUS partner institutions who have NOT yet produced a SMUS MOOC. In case there are not enough good quality applications from new teams, in a second phase, the call will be opened to repeating SMUS partner teams (meaning Gen 1 and Gen 2 teams) as well as for “Wild Card” (max 1 will be awarded) applications from higher education institutions from DAC countries.
Partnerships are welcomed but not mandatory. In case of a partnership, a SMUS partner needs to be the MOOC Team Lead, the other partners can be either SMUS partner institutions but they may also be non-SMUS partners (from for instance your region).


SMUS has a budget of up to 25.000 Euro per MOOC to fund up to 4 MOOC Teams. Please fill the attached budget sheet detailing your planned spending in the given categories for 2023 and 2024 and submit it together with your application.

Please note the following:

  • Half of this budget will be transferred in 2023 after signing the cooperation agreement and half at the beginning of 2024.
  • According to DAAD regulations, the funds of 2023 can NOT be transferred to 2024 and therefore a financial report with proofs of all expenses will need to be presented each year. Funds that have not been spent within the financial year, have to be returned to DAAD via TU Berlin. This is unfortunately beyond our control and we’ll have to comply with this.
  • Overhead costs are NOT eligible and you will need to prove all actually incurred costs in your financial report, including receipts, payroll (in the case of personnel), invoices for external services, …
  • Any shifts of more than 20% between the 3 main categories need to first be agreed upon with the SMUS office as we in turn have to report any major shifts in the overall SMUS budget to DAAD.
  • Your preliminary financial report for 2023 is due by 15 Nov 2023 (we need to know at this time if any monies for 2023 will be returned), your final one by 31 Dec 2023.
  • Your final financial report for 2024 and a short 3-page report on activities (template will be provided) are due by 30 Sept 2024.

Please keep in mind that you need to be able to run the MOOC in 2025 on your own budget and within the given and existing teaching load of your department. Please confirm this by a letter of intent from your institution(s) (school or departments).

Application Procedure

Applications should be sent before 11 June 2023 to: Dr. Katleen De Flander:
All applications should include:

  1. The filled application form
  2. The filled budget sheet
  3. A signed Letter of Intent of you institution/department, confirming that it will support the running of the MOOC within the existing teaching structures and teaching load. In case of a partnership, each institution needs to provide a LoI.

Application Procedure

Based on the incoming applications, a SMUS selection committee will select up to 4 proposals for production. Consideration is given to the thematic and professional spectrum of different disciplines and to the representation of the world regions within the SMUS partners network.


Possible SMUS-MOOC themes

Due to the wide range of possible topics within SDG #11 we suggest a theme driven by the context of the location, picking up other pressing local urban development themes.

Social Sustainability, Social Inequality, Social Exclusion

• reducing spatial segregation of different social groups
• reducing gender inequality, social inclusion of women
• social inclusion of children
• social inclusion of elderly persons
• social inclusion of persons with disabilities
• reducing effects of poverty
• strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage

Housing, Architecture and Urban Design

• upgrade slums
• building sustainable and resilient buildings utilising local materials
• access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing
• access for all to adequate, safe and affordable basic services
• provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces

Transport and Mobility System

• provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all
• improving road safety
• expanding public transport

Environmental Sustainability, Environmental Planning and Landscape Planning

• provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green spaces
• improve air quality in cities
• improve quality of and access to (drinking) water in cities
• improve municipal and other waste management
• reduce other negative environmental impacts of cities
• reduce negative effects (deaths, number of people affected, economic losses) of water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations
• reduce negative effects (deaths, number of people affected, economic losses) of other disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations
• strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s natural heritage

Economic Sustainability

• overcoming economic exclusion
• creating career and business opportunities for all income groups
• building resilient societies and economies


• methods of social research, social science methodology, which could be both general overviews or courses on specific methods (such as ethnography, biographical research, interviewing, survey research or statistics)
• spatial methods
• assessing causality
• cross-cultural, historical or comparative methods
• decolonising social science methodology
• developing methods for a specific local context

Planning and Policymaking

• enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management
• support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning
• increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels