F29SS Sociotechnical and Soft Systems

Jenny CoadySteve Gill

Course co-ordinator(s): Jenny Coady (Edinburgh), Steve Gill (Dubai).


  • The module aims to give students the opportunity to develop an understanding and an ability to apply Checkland and Wilson’s Soft Systems Methodology (SSM)
  • They will be introduced to systems thinking as a means of analysing the whole context of an information system
  • The use of techniques such as rich pictures and other diagrammatical notations will be used to allow analysis to incorporate all stakeholders
  • Students will learn to adopt a critical approach of evaluating socio-technical systems based on an understanding of their role as a reflective practioner
  • To examine the underlying frameworks
  • To understand the issues that arise when characterising problems
  • Practical use of these skills will be developed through exercises based on case studies.

Detailed Information

Course Description: Link to Official Course Descriptor.

Pre-requisites: none.

Location: ALP, Dubai, Edinburgh.

Semester: 2.


  • The problem situation unstructured
  • The problem situation expressed
  • Root definitions of relevant systems
  • Making and testing conceptual models
  • Comparing conceptual models with reality
  • Identify feasible and desirable changes
  • Action to improve the problem situation Systems thinking
  • Socio-technical systems methods
  • Modelling frameworks and issues
  • People centred solutions
  • Checkland’s theories and thinking

Learning Outcomes: Subject Mastery

Understanding, Knowledge and Cognitive Skills Scholarship, Enquiry and Research (Research-Informed Learning)

Students will develop skills in the following areas:

  • Critically analyse system problems from a holistic perspective. Understand and evaluate the theory behind systems thinking and Checkland’s theories
  • Analysing problems using systems thinking
  • Critically evaluate socio-technical systems methodologies
  • Compare and contrast the frameworks and methods used within the field
  • Propose and reflect on solutions to problems.
  • Determine the effectiveness of conceptual models in capturing reality
  • Examine the rise of people centred solutions in the modern organisation

Learning Outcomes: Personal Abilities

Industrial, Commercial & Professional Practice Autonomy, Accountability & Working with Others Communication, Numeracy & ICT

Students will develop skills in the following areas:

  • Identify stakeholders and their interests in solving a problem and evaluating methods and frameworks for solving problems
  • Employ a range of modelling techniques to capture and communicate key aspects of a system
  • Inform and guide the solution of problems within and improvements to systems
  • Understanding the people / cultural aspects of the Information Systems field
  • Ability to use directed reading, and critically evaluate articles and develop learning through case studies
  • Report writing and demonstrating argument development
  • Use of VLE as a means of learning, contributing and discussing

Assessment Methods: Due to covid, assessment methods for Academic Year 2021/22 may vary from those noted on the official course descriptor. Please see:
- Maths (F1) Course Weightings 2021/22
- Computer Science (F2) Course Weightings 2021/22
- AMS (F7) Course Weightings 2021/22

SCQF Level: 9.

Credits: 15.