SUSS Core Course Synopses

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NCO101 Living with Community

What does it mean to be a part of a community? How do we negotiate between individual impulses and broader community wellbeing? How have diverse groups built and sustained relationships, evolving and learning together as one community? How has the concept of community evolved to include even the physical environment? This course invites students to discuss these questions and related issues concerning the dynamic relationship between the individual and community. Students will be encouraged to study the evolving concept of community through philosophical examinations, historical and sociological investigations, socio-cultural analyses, and other discourses and methods. This interdisciplinary approach is grounded by case studies of issues concerning Singapore and similar societies, namely the multifaceted realities of nation-states with diverse communities and their various mitigations. These include military defence, regionalism and internationalism, multiracialism and other strategies of managing diversity, the use and impact of digital technologies, ESG and related measures for sustainable development (such as the UNSDG and the Singapore Green Plan 2030). Students will also have the opportunity to test their knowledge through experiential assessments designed to give a deeper appreciation of community engagement and collaboration.

NCO102 Effective Writing 

Effective Writing aims to equip students with the necessary writing skills in academic and professional contexts. Students will learn how to write effectively for different audiences as well as with various purposes. This course will cover a variety of writing topics such as how to write an academic essay, how to write a report, how to write a professional email, and how to synthesize ideas from external information through writing. In addition, students will learn to evaluate their writing critically and adopt the feedback provided by instructors. From the revision process, students will learn to refine their writing drafts into clear and polished papers.

NCO103 Listen and Be Heard: Effective Communication through Storytelling

In this course, students will acquire a knowledge of the synergies between communication and storytelling, and learn to harness the necessary techniques and competencies for impactful and creative communication. The course focuses on the following areas: audience and context, verbal and non-verbal communication techniques, and communication mediums. It will underscore the importance of audience and context as the basis of all forms of communication, verbal and/or non-verbal. Students will learn to engage and connect with their audience via storytelling and rhetoric by using the most appropriate techniques and mediums. They will also gain an understanding of the ways in which technology has revolutionized communication and explore how stories are told via a dynamic combination of audio/visual, and/or social media. As part of the assessment, students will produce their own storytelling projects on any issue and in any medium of their choice. These projects can tie in with community engagement activities, overseas programmes, work attachments, or anything else they strongly believe in. This will ensure that students recognise that they can effectively apply the skills and competencies they have acquired in this course to their academic and professional work. They will be able to engage diverse audiences confidently in different settings, and provide clear, well-structured, well-paced and convincing reports across different mediums. In effect, they will mobilise the creative power of focused and concise storytelling arcs and rhetorical techniques in presenting themselves and their ideas, whether they are developing arguments in an academic essay, presenting their professional credentials and track records, making a sales pitch or participating in a strategic planning meeting. In addition, students can implement these competencies for self-empowerment, and for the good of others.

NCO111 Work and Learning in a Changing World 

Much is expected of the modern workforce and aspiring business leaders. All over the world, political and business leaders are constantly exhorting current and future employees to display ‘resilience’ and ‘adaptability’ in the face of social, economic, and technological change. The modern worker and the modern learner are expected to upskill and reskill, be more innovative, be more creative, be more entrepreneurial, and be more efficient. 

Workers and learners today are thus confronted with an intimidating set of professional and educational choices. Should I learn to code to remain relevant? Is it compulsory for me to be an innovator? This course hopes to aid students and lifelong learners in making such decisions by acquainting them with the political, socio-economic, technological, and historical contexts of the demands that are often made of workers and learners in the modern world. This course will show students and lifelong learners that it is not enough to simply respond to such demands. They must also be more conscious of who is making the demands and why.

A person who is armed with such contextual understanding will be able to see that terms like ‘resilience’ and ‘adaptability’ as well as demands along the lines of the ones listed above are value-laden rather than neutral. This means that the way in which they are used in public discussions reflects the assumptions and preferences of certain groups and thinkers about the ideal ways in which society and the economy should be organized. Learners may or may not share these assumptions and preferences. But this course hopes to show them that knowing what they are may pave the way for wiser and more satisfying decision-making in their search for professional and educational fulfilment.

NCO112 Peak Performance

How do some people manage to achieve success in life? In this course, we examine the strategies that successful people use to stay motivated and consistently perform at their very best, overcoming challenges and stressful situations to succeed. By understanding why it is important to win and lose in life, students will learn about the biopsychosocial approach of peak performance, understand mental, physical, and emotional strategies to manage their behaviours, and improve their interactions with the people around them. Drawing upon the multidisciplinary field of performance, this course empowers students with practical strategies as they learn to adopt a growth mindset and apply the habits of high performers to their everyday lives to cope with challenges, achieve their goals, and be resilient in life. 

NCO113 Teamwork in the Modern Workplace 

In the workplace, one’s performance is often evaluated based on skills and competencies – job-specific behaviours defined by an observable set of actions and activities and measured by the application of knowledge, skills, and abilities. This course aims to empower students with the essential skills and competencies required for effective teamwork and the confidence to apply them, taking into consideration cross-functional work contexts, team roles, and influences like culture and personality.

Designed with the experiential learning cycle in mind (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation, and active experimentation), learning in the course will revolve around case studies, self-reflection, role-play, providing and receiving peer critique, as well as active experimentation as students engage in full-cycle learning. Through the various learning activities, students will have opportunities to experience, think about, and use the relevant skills and competencies required for effective teamwork. Assessment will be in the form of a quiz, class participation, an individual assignment and a group-based assignment.

At the end of the course, students will be able to analyse and apply the skills and competencies for effective teamwork.

NCO201 Learn to Learn, Learn for Life

The complex socio-economical-political world that we live in today will require us to constantly adapt and meet evolving needs. The acquisition of the learning-to-learn competency is an approach to manage this challenge. While the ability to learn is intuitive, the ability to learn well requires a conscientious effort. The aim of this course is to help students gain metacognitive awareness of their learning processes and behaviours. With the newly gained insights, students will learn to identify and utilize effective study skills and learning strategies. Students will have a chance to practise and enhance these skills by applying them while completing contemporary social-issue related learning tasks. This is to demonstrate to students that learning can be impactful and meaningful, learning is for life and learning can become a lifelong habit.

NCO203 Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

In this course, students use a reasoned process to choose a course of action to achieve intended goals by executing a problem-solving framework on a problem of their choice. The framework consists of defining the problem, identifying possible solutions, evaluating the possible solutions and implementing the solution. Problem-solving functions as a vehicle for teaching students critical thinking tools like awareness of cognitive biases and informal fallacies, ethical reasoning, and negotiation skills like empathetic listening in order to identify common interests. The tools are systematically and intentionally introduced to students in the form of exercises infused into their implementation of the problem-solving framework. They help students to question, reason inductively and deductively, and make correct analyses, inferences and evaluations. These tools not only facilitate students’ noticing and integrating new information in changing contexts by thinking using micro and macro understandings, but also facilitate consensus building on team directions. As such, they conduce to decision-making in multidisciplinary contexts. At the end of the course, students are assessed on both problem-solving and critical thinking. 

NCO205 User-Centred Design: Human Factors and Design Thinking

User-Centred Design is a key differentiator in the success of products or services for human use. It leads to solutions that better address user needs and provide good user experiences. This course aims to inculcate in students the importance and benefits of User-Centred Design for solutions they develop in their different disciplines and how to achieve it. The course will introduce an awareness of human strengths and limitations through the study of Human Factors, together with user research and design skills from the practice of Design Thinking. Through this course, students will learn to consider scientific knowledge about humans, combined with contextual understanding of user activities and needs, when designing, prototyping and testing new or improved products or services.

NCO211 Data Interpretation and Social Analytics

This course will provide a foundation for students to understand and navigate the complex elements that make up the digital landscape, including online sources, social media platforms, and digital analytics and the collection and deployment of big data. Students will explore how advancements in digital communication affect public discourses, and in turn how such discourses influence and establish dominant perceptions in a world increasingly shaped by digital technologies. Working individually and together in teams, students will identify and investigate perceptions or misperceptions on topics related to their course of study. Examples of topics could include the interpretation of statistical data that frames social issues, approaches to diversity in the classroom, the rationale for taxes, or the use of technology to engage and resolve social and economic problems. Student teams will then design and create a digital product/resource for the purposes of public engagement and education.

In doing so, students will develop fundamental digital literacy skills and awareness, i.e., their ability to evaluate online sources, conduct original research, analyse discourse and media sources, complete complex collaborative projects, and use digital media to assist with decision-making and problem-solving. Course materials will provide theoretical background and content for reflection. Assignments will provide practical experience in conducting and presenting research as well as create space for collaborative experimentation. By producing their own original digital media asset, students will flex their creative and analytical skills. In addition, the production process will require students to consider issues of ownership, integrity, and digital management.

Finally, central to this course is an attention to the learning cycle and individual learning style and team intelligence. As students complete the different components of the project, they will reflect on their own capacities and contributions as well as gain an appreciation of the different learning styles among their teammates.

NCO212 The ‘Smart City’ and Society

The ‘smart city’ paradigm is increasingly popular across the globe as the world continues to urbanise. Many societies seem to uphold a common understanding that a ‘smart city’ is one that exploits information and communication technologies (ICT) for more efficient service delivery. Yet, there is little consensus on the definition of a ‘smart city’, and the pragmatic push to use the technologies provides little room for critical examinations on existing and potential societal consequences. The social, cultural, and political enablers and impacts of the ‘smart city’ implementation may vary across local and regional contexts. While advancements of ICT open opportunities for addressing challenges on managing services, spaces, and infrastructures of urbanising populations, critical questions on the impacts of technology-driven development linger in many societies. What is the emerging social and cultural life of societies in ‘smart cities’? To what extent do conceptual understandings of the ‘smart city’ and its contexts (dis-)allow citizens to play a role in shaping their societies? This course enables students to critically explore the ‘smart city’ as a concept and a challenge in contemporary societies and to apply those conceptual understandings. Students will have opportunities to reflect these critical lenses and conceptual explorations on observations of real-life examples that range from everyday experiences to practices in industry partners and in policy-making. Through this course, students will be equipped with basic understandings to conceptually assess the impact of technologies in the everyday life of a ‘smart city,’ and with basic skills to navigate the challenges of rapidly changing information societies.

NIE201: Interdisciplinary Processes for a Better World

Societies and people are increasingly operating and living under conditions that are characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). In an interconnected and interdependent world, geopolitical, economic, and existential issues converge in a confluence of challenges which the world urgently needs to address. In this environment, the ability to effectively apply interdisciplinary understanding to offer fresh, holistic perspectives and solutions for often intractable challenges becomes paramount. In this course, students will critically assess what and how issues are defined, by whom, and for whom through interdisciplinary collaboration and facilitation.

Building on knowledge and skills from NCO201 Learn to Learn, Learn for Life, this course stretches impactful and meaningful learning strategies to application for interdisciplinary collaboration. Drawing on literature from Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S), this course exposes students to considerations for interdisciplinary thinking, practice, and applications to foster the capacity to address complex and dynamic futures through synthesising disciplinary and stakeholder knowledge, understanding and managing diverse unknowns, and providing integrated support for evaluating and communicating complex issues with selected stakeholders.

At the end of the course, students will be able to: (a) identify disciplinary boundaries and approaches to crossing them; (b) appreciate the challenges and opportunities of adopting interdisciplinarity; (c) apply interdisciplinary approaches to analyse, evaluate and communicate complex issues such as environmental, social, economic, and political challenges; and (d) collaborate effectively to innovate for a better world.

NIE301 Learning with Communities

Communities are complex, since their constituents (well, the humans) have such diverse needs and interests, which are increasingly polarised in current times. This makes community issues even more complex. Service-learning provides much needed experiential learning lens to unpack this complexity in navigating responsible action for collective good. Tapping on multiple perspectives to gain new insights; the experiential learning approach applies these insights to make tangible community-prioritised impact so that theory illuminates and informs experience, and experience lends meaning and energy to translate theory into practice and vice versa.

This course enables learners to contribute to collective impact through a service-learning collaboration with one or more community partners. Through a real-world context, learners will be facilitated through progressive phases of co-constructing and experiencing a community change process - from engaging and learning with relevant partners, understanding the opportunities and context on the ground to proposing and implementing a technique to engage with community.

At the end of the course, students will be able to co-create, implement and co-evaluate reciprocal community change initiatives in collaboration with diverse stakeholders, equipped with the experience, skills and values to continue to learn through practice and critical reflection on what it means to do good well as a way of life.

NIE351 Interdisciplinary Global Learning 

To thrive in an interconnected and interdependent world, it is imperative to broaden one’s experience to a wider context, hone the intercultural competencies to explore, critically analyse and engage with complex global systems and their implications, to connect local and global perspectives. 

Applying and synthesizing concepts and skills from NCO101 and NIE201 in contemporary global contexts, this course further contextualises theory with practice. Through curated engagement with global communities and stakeholders in the university’s network of international partners, students will practice tools and skills for intercultural engagement and learning for respectful collaboration with diverse others, gaining a nuanced understanding of the complex dynamics of perspectives, opportunities, and issues, and diversity of social, economic, political, and environmental concerns. Utilising perspective taking, empathy, balanced perspectives, students will gain confidence and competence to engage constructively with complex global challenges, applying interdisciplinary processes to appreciate and harness the strengths and diversity of the human experience.

At the end of the course, students will gain the experience, skills and values to: (a) be informed, open-minded, and responsible people who are attentive to diversity across the spectrum of differences; (b) seek to understand how their actions affect both local and global communities, and (c) address the world’s most pressing and enduring issues collaboratively and equitably, to continue to learn through practice and critical reflection on what it means to live, work and play intentionally, responsibly and meaningfully as natural collaborators and effective global citizens in an inclusive and sustainable world.

NIE352 Interdisciplinary Problem-Solving for Impact

Following on from the course NIE201 Interdisciplinary Processes for a Better World in which the skills and knowledge about interdisciplinary learning are developed, this course focuses on applying those skills to complex problems identified by local industry, community, or government agencies. 

As a unique island nation-state and society, the issues Singapore face are often complex and multi-faceted, thereby requiring solutions to these problems to be taken from a multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective. Facilitated by academic lead(s) and representative(s) from the partner organisation, students work in teams to research, analyse, and present solutions to an authentic problem drawing on the interaction of different disciplines. Students also build on their interpersonal and problem-solving skills by engaging with and learning from peers and facilitators. At the end of the course, students will experience how a particular phenomenon can be addressed from more than one discipline and that synergy across boundaries, while challenging to integrate, can lead to a better solution. This experience will be invaluable in preparing students for work settings that are ill-structured and VUCA in nature.
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