Ever wonder how a flock of birds collectively makes a turn? How people surf the web for news? Agent-based programming languages allow users to explore such questions through simulation. Beginning in August, programmers and nonprogrammers alike can learn to model by enrolling in Complexity Explorer’s new massive open online course.

The new MOOC, Introduction to Agent-based Modeling, begins August 1 and runs 11 weeks. William Rand, an SFI alum and professor of business management at North Carolina State University, will guide students through the ins and outs of creating agent-based models (ABMs), from programming the individual agents to analyzing the collective phenomena that result. 

The course will explore why agent-based modeling is a powerful way to understand complex systems, what kinds of systems are amenable to complex systems analysis, and how agent-based modeling has been used in the past to study everything from economics to biology to political science to business and management. Students will learn why and when to use agent-based models and will build their own simulations from the ground up. 

“In agent-based modeling you work forward from an individual agent's rules to observe the pattern that is created,” Rand says. “This makes ABM a natural method for exploring complex systems. Students will be able to build and construct their own agent-based models to understand phenomenon of interest to themselves, and analyze the results of those models in a rigorous, scientific fashion so they can make clear generalizations of the results.”

The course’s first module will be open to everyone, and a modest tuition is requested for those interested in continuing through the course and receiving a certificate of completion. Video materials, quizzes, and homework from the course will be freely available after the course is closed.

The course is offered through SFI’s Complexity Explorer. You can enroll and begin taking the course any time during the ten-week course.

The course is a continuation of the successful massive open online course (MOOC) series that began with SFI External Professor Melanie Mitchell’s Introduction to Complexity.

For more information, or to enroll, visit the course page at SFI's Complexity Explorer

Watch an introduction to the course in this video featuring Bill Rand (4.5 minutes)