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Unit of study_

HTIN5001: Nature of Systems

This core unit of study aims to introduce the central concepts of systems approaches to addressing complex, multi-dimensional, multi-scale issues. Systems approaches are increasingly being recognised as essential for unravelling the complex network of influences on human health, from biology and nutrition to economics and society. The Charles Perkins Centre is committed to fostering new ways of thinking with systems approaches, which it sees as the key to identifying innovative solutions to the growing global health problems associated with diet and lifestyle. An understanding of concepts from complex systems thinking will help students develop their own thinking about complex health issues and identify novel approaches and research questions.


Academic unit Computer Science
Unit code HTIN5001
Unit name Nature of Systems
Session, year
Semester 1, 2020
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

Assumed knowledge

The unit is aimed at graduates and researchers who are interested in developing skills in complex systems analysis. The unit is highly interdisciplinary and as such, there is no assumed prior knowledge or course prerequisites. However, students who will benefit most from the unit will be those who are open-minded and motivated to think outside the box. The unit has been deliberately designed as a new teaching and learning experience.

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Mark Read,
Lecturer(s) Juan Ortiz ,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Small continuous assessment Reflections on the relevance of key concepts
20% Multiple weeks n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Behavioural economics short presentation
5% Week 03 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Assignment Causal loop diagrams
5% Week 03 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5
Assignment Video on a systems intervention
25% Week 10 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Collaboration process documents
5% Week 11 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO5
Assignment Individual reflections on systems intervention
40% Week 13 n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

Written assessment tasks incur a 5% per day (including weekend days) penalty for lateness. Assignments more than 10 days late will receive a mark of 0. In general, there will be no late submissions allowed for peer assessments of performance in leading discussions.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction to complex systems; 2. Systems thinking; 3. Design thinking and agile projects; 4. Examples of complex systems approaches Online class (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 02 1. Emergence and self-organisation; 2. Explanations in complex systems; 3. Models and abstraction Online class (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Causal loop diagrams; 2. Systems interventions Online class (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 03 1. Systematic experiments; 2. Robustness, resilience and catastrophes Online class (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
1. Human behaviour and decision making; 2. Nudging Online class (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 04 Social systems and networks Online class (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 05 Applications of systems thinking Online class (4 hr) LO5
Week 06 Applications of systems thinking Online class (2 hr) LO5
Week 07 Applications of systems thinking Online class (2 hr) LO5
Week 08 Project pitching Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 09 Applications of systems thinking Online class (2 hr) LO5
Week 10 Applications of systems thinking Online class (2 hr) LO5
Group videos and discussion Online class (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. develop multi-level perspectives to complex issues
  • LO2. understand key concepts of complex systems theory and their relevance in addressing complex problems
  • LO3. use suitable tools to understand health and related social and economic systems
  • LO4. integrate the expertise of multidisciplinary teams to identify novel solutions
  • LO5. apply theoretical concepts of complex systems thinking to a range of health-related challenges.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
Minor changes to in-class exercises (we are no longer going to rely on Netlogo), minor changes to online discussion structure and marking criteria and minor changes in marking criteria for most assignments. All these changes have been done in response to student feedback

First lecture is scheduled for Friday, Feb 28th


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