IKNS Elective Courses and Curriculum Areas
In order to tailor your experience in the IKNS program to your individual intellectual interests and career objectives, you have the flexibility to choose your 6 elective courses from graduate classes (in-person or online) anywhere across Columbia University, including Columbia's Business School, Data Science Institute, Engineering School, Journalism School, School of Arts and Sciences, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Mailman School of Public Health, and the School of Professional Studies. Choose online or on-campus electives, according to your location, work-schedule, and personal preference.
Found an exciting new course elsewhere at Columbia that has not yet been pre-approved? As your six electives, you can choose any other graduate-level, Columbia University courses not yet listed on our Bulletin of pre-approved electives by applying for individual approval to the IKNS Program Administration.
Please note: Electives are typically offered only once a year (fall, spring, or summer semester), and their schedule and capacity in a particular semester, including whether online or on-campus, is subject to change. Please consult the Columbia University Directory of Classes as you plan your curriculum. Your designated Academic Advisor will be happy to help.
IKNS Curriculum Areas (CA)
In order to guide you in your choice of elective courses and to ensure that you graduate with a balanced set of theoretical foundations and practical skills, your 6 electives must be chosen according to the following Curriculum Areas.
Electives Taught by IKNS Faculty
A portion of the ~75 pre-approved electives have been developed specifically for IKNS students and are taught by IKNS faculty. These curated electives provide deep-dives into specific areas of IKNS' skillsets, from digital product design to project management or social network analysis. However, including these IKNS-taught electives within your personal choice of 6 electives is not mandatory.
Electives Taught by IKNS Faculty (CA = Curriculum Area) [excerpt from ~75 electives on Bulletin]
This course will equip students with skills and strategies on how to plan, design, develop and deploy knowledge management programs for different types of organizations as well as for different sectors of the global economy. A hallmark of the course’s approach is that students will learn the steps from planning to deployment from a systems standpoint, i.e., students will learn how to use systems engineering principles as an analytic and structured framework for designing and implementing knowledge management programs that are responsive to organizational needs.
The course first provides an overview of the strategic value of institutional and project knowledge when properly managed, shared and applied, or leveraged to support decision making. Next, a system’s view and analysis of knowledge management (KM) is introduced as critical to business success because of the strategic value of knowledge assets. The knowledge management “system” as used in this course comprises of all the organizational elements that go into formulating a knowledge management strategy and its related implementation programs. Such system is made up of a defined KM strategy, appropriate information technology (IT) tools, processes, teams and leadership engagements, implementation programs delivery, institutional learning, lessons learned, knowledge sharing and transfer methodologies. Further, students will learn how to conduct organizational KM needs assessment, define institutional KM drivers, strategy formulation and knowledge sharing protocols. Students will also acquire skills for developing robust knowledge management practices and programs that support business objectives, enable project success, and sustain improved organizational performance. Additionally, students will apply the structured KM design principles they learned to real-world organizational challenges and opportunities. Assignments comprise a combination of individual exercises, a group project, and a final exam.
Pre-requisites: There is no pre-requisite knowledge or specific competency required for taking this course, because the instruction will include knowledge management fundamentals as well as systems engineering basics.
Course NumberIKNS PS5994
The exponential growth of information and data—combined with software that can understand and learn from experience—provides entrepreneurs with tremendous opportunities to bring innovative customer-focused solutions to market. While there are no direct paths to bring a new product idea to market, there are easily identifiable milestones that can guide the way from idea generation to product profitability. This course will explore the process of early-stage development of knowledge-driven, data-intensive digital products like Spotify, Netflix, Watson, and TripAdvisor. The goal is to create a hands-on entrepreneurial experience at its most elemental and visceral level—ideation, brainstorming, interacting with customers, building a founding team, developing a business model, managing risk, investigating competitors, pitching the business to potential investors, and creating an interactive mobile app prototype (a design proof of concept for your business idea) through an iterative user-centered design process.
In this course, we use Eric Reis’ startup method from his book, Lean Startup, as a foundation for creating and testing new ideas. Students learn to validate their new product ideas in the market by immediately engaging with customers to gauge whether their idea solves a problem better than alternative solutions. Building on the insight generated by customer interviews, students design a business model using the Lean Canvas approach designed by Ash Maurya and iterate their ideas based on Design Thinking (Tim Brown) principles. Throughout the course, we will shift from learning to the rapid application of new frameworks to speed up product design and development.
Students will be exposed to all the pressures and demands of real-world start-ups by participating in teams tasked with creating weekly deliverables required to launch a new business. The user-experience skills and methods that are taught in this class are in demand by employers and startups across nearly every industry and reflect the latest best practices used to create today’s most widely used and award-winning digital products. The skills developed in this class apply to many real-world business problems that require an agile and iterative approach.
Course NumberIKNS PS5338
In this course, students will explore designing effective information and knowledge systems, focusing on semantic models and computational classification techniques to enhance findability and facilitate analytics. The curriculum covers a range of foundational concepts and methods, including computational thinking, agile requirements-gathering methodologies, use cases, epics, user stories, audience profiles, personas, and user experience design decisions. Students will learn to organize data using semantic modeling techniques, such as taxonomies, ontologies, and database schemas, and apply various classification methods to improve system functionality.
Practical assignments will provide students with hands-on experience in organizing and enriching data. A model-driven approach (MDE) will guide design decisions on data organization, storage, analysis, and interaction. By the end of the course, students will be equipped to address specific use cases using the tools, methods, and models learned throughout the semester. No programming background is required, but students will use tools like Excel, Power BI, PowerPoint, Optimal Workshop, and Protégé for organizing data, exploring classification techniques, and authoring semantic models. This course offers a valuable learning opportunity for those interested in creating efficient information retrieval systems and contributing to the future of information and knowledge access.
Course NumberIKNS PS5989
Overview: This one-semester course (elective, IKNS students only, hybrid) provides an opportunity for a student to extend or supplement their educational experience via a deep-dive into an established or novel area of research of their choice (the topic), under the guidance and supervision of a faculty member (the supervisor). An independent study course allows a student to work one-on-one with a faculty member to gain and contribute new insight into the discipline of Knowledge Management.
Topic and objective: The topic can be chosen freely by the student as long as it falls within the general realm of Knowledge Management or its specific content areas in the IKNS curriculum, such as IT systems, knowledge organizing systems, data repositories, business data analytics including machine learning and AI, learning processes, collaboration, dialogue, team and project management, transformational leadership, change management, digital transformation, or digital product innovation. The course will therefore serve the dual purpose of allowing a student to pursue their own intellectual curiosity and to make a contribution to the wider discipline of Knowledge Management. In addition, students will deepen their understanding of the content they acquired in other courses, by applying this content to the specific topic chosen for the Independent Study.
Logistics: Ahead of registration in this course, the student meets with the supervisor to discuss and agree on (i) the topic and the relevant IKNS curriculum area(s); (ii) the timeline of deliverables, milestones, and contact hours for the semester; and (iii) the number of credits. The student summarizes these points in a ~1 page Independent Study Proposal (template is available from IKNS). The student can register for the course only once the supervisor and the Academic Program Director agree to and sign the Independent Study Proposal (which includes the topic, the IKNS curriculum area, the number of credits, and the assigned supervisor). The number of credits (1-3) will be commensurate with the scope of the Independent Study. The scope can range from a summary of existing sources (typically 1 credit. 5-10 page report), to a synthesis or meta-analysis of existing and new sources, e.g., interviews with subject matter experts (typically 2 credits, 10-15 pages report), to a comprehensive study which adds the student’s own critical discussion and suggestions to the topic (typically 3 credits; 15-20 pages report).
Academic Commons: Upon completion of the Independent Study, students may choose to submit their findings to Columbia University's Academic Commons. Materials submitted to Academic Commons are accessible to anyone in the world, free of charge. It is the responsibility of the submitting student to make sure that the submitted material is free of confidential or otherwise sensitive data or information that may have been part of the student's research process (e.g., names of interview partners who may not want to be named, company-proprietary data or business strategies, etc.). Please consult with your supervisor to consider sanitizing respective portions of your Independent Study report before submitting it to Academic Commons.
Pre-requisites: PS5300 (Foundations of the Knowledge-driven Organization) or instructor permission.
Course NumberIKNS PS5999
FormatOnline & In Person
Students enroll in this course (for credit) in parallel to carrying out an internship with a non-Columbia entity (private sector, NGO, non-profit, or government). International students can enroll in this course as part of their optional Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Please contact the IKNS program administration for details.
This course requires you to experience firsthand a program-related job in a real working environment. You will engage in personal, environmental and organizational reflection. The ideal Internship will provide you an opportunity to gain tangible and practical knowledge in your chosen field by taking on a position that is closely aligned with your coursework and professional interests. Before registering for this course, you must have completed the Internship Application Form in which you will describe your internship sponsor and provide details about the work that you will be doing. This form must be signed by your internship supervisor and approved by your program director BEFORE you register for this course.
To receive instructor approval, the internship:
- Must provide an opportunity for the student to apply course concepts, either at the organizational or team level
- Must fit into the planned future program-related career path of the student
You must identify your own internship opportunities. The internship must involve a commitment to completing a minimum of 210 hours over the semester.
Course NumberIKNS PS5995
FormatOnline & In Person
Project management has been important to many types of missions, projects, and activities for many years; however, it has been especially critical to the success of large complex projects across decades and centuries. Large complex projects span the globe across all industries and sectors. They also span concepts, product design, development, manufacturing, operations, and logistics, etc. Products may include hardware, software, services, product support, systems, and systems of systems, etc.
The primary focus of this course will be around project leadership as projects are planned and executed (project management). The course will start by recognizing the need and benefits of project management for large complex global projects, explore characteristics of project managers, and study the commonality and differences in types of projects. The course will continue with understanding the essential capabilities of project management, and analyze the variations in project lifecycles. The course will address managing risk throughout the project lifecycle, controls, and performance measurement, and maximizing the use of knowledge. Lastly, the course will visualize the future of projects and project management structure and core capabilities.
Our fundamental goal is to better prepare leaders for large complex global projects. This will be gained via readings; real-world case studies; and study, research, analysis, and exploration by the students. Therefore, the course will require students to engage in reflection, discussion, activities, and assignments aimed at personal unlearning and learning. The assignment and class discussions will be quite provocative to drive maximum learning.
Course NumberIKNS PS5991
This course is offered in block week format, typically held in January.
The economy of the world is changing. The goal of this course is to understand the drivers of the change, study organization exemplars innovating to harness these drivers for advantage, and provide the tools and strategies for staying competitive and successful. We will explore the changing nature of work, provide the means for better understanding what is occurring, and develop strategies for successfully navigating this new world.
This course will start by noticing how platforms, robotics, AI, automation, data, digitization, and the speed of technology has changed work. We will then connect technology innovation with the ultimate advantage of people and the adaptive and value-centered capabilities of leaders that are taking these advantages to the next level of delivering notable value.
This will lead to learning from the forward leaning “See’ers and Do’ers” from teams and organizations that are harnessing successes in three vital areas of “intangibles” — leadership, knowledge, culture — the pillars necessary for success in the many potential futures of work organizations are facing. The course focus will be on offering students an understanding of the critical capabilities necessary for success, and providing skills that can be applied to successfully navigating the future of work for themselves, their team, and their own organization.
Our core question is, how to start, build, and sustain capabilities for successfully navigating the future of work? The course will answer this question by looking to current leaders and success organizations who are demonstrably leading the way. This will be combined with research that validates a set of core principles. Our learning bias is based on action and doing. Therefore, the course will require students to engage in reflection, discussion, activities, and assignments aimed at personal unlearning and learning.
- Alicia Aitken, Executive Investment Management, ANZ Australia
- Alison Bakken, SVP, Thomson Reuters
- David Dabscheck, GIANT Innovation
- Stephane Kasriel, CEO, Upwork
- Navy Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation (TANG) Design Team
- Greg Robinson, NASA, Program Director, James Webb Space Telescope
- Barry O’Reilly, CEO, Unlearn, Best selling author
- Alan Richter, QED, Ethical Standards and Decent Work
- Lt. Gen, Sattler, Chair – US Naval Academy Center for Ethical Leadership
- Ben Williams, COO Exyn, Entrepreneur in Residence, UPenn
Course NumberIKNS PS5990
This course has been designed for students looking to learn how to effectively consult with clients, peers, and others. This course is a guide for living in a time of free agency, outsourcing, and cross-functional work. Consulting skills are essential to design, recommend, implement, and sell your ideas and programs. The need for expertise goes far beyond having the best idea. It is knowing how to create an idea using a process that builds collaborative relationships and ensures successful adoption of your expertise.
Drawing on examples from a variety of organizations, this course will focus directly on strategies and tactics for designing services and products for organizations or institutions. The entire course and assignments will focus on working with a client to assess the environment, create a prioritized business case, and conclude with an implementation plan. Topics will include whole systems development, strategies for engagement, diagnosis to discovery, ethics and managing your consulting relationship, change management, and establishing yourself as a trusted advisor.
This is a hands-on course where students are expected to identify an existing consulting assignment (internal or external) that we will work throughout the class to help their client improve its effectiveness and competitiveness. Illustrative examples, case studies, interactive exercises, faculty expertise, and special guest leaders will be used to build your confidence and capability for consulting to clients.
Course NumberIKNS PS5301
As the pace of technological change accelerates, and market and social disruptors lurk around the corner, organizations and policy makers find that traditional hierarchies pose a huge disadvantage. Decision-making is often layered and ponderous, insular cultures block new ideas, and information moves inefficiently. Increasingly, managers find that, to compete, they need novel operating models. Organizations and institutions need to readily access resources and markets. At the same time, they need diverse intelligence, large multidisciplinary data sets, and novel product ideas. The answer lies in the network, an organizational construct that involves people engaging across boundaries, organizations, and/or geographies with shared knowledge-creation goals.
For-profit and nonprofit organizations, alike are embracing networks to share insights and data, act as a voting block, serve customers, and innovate. For example Proctor & Gamble, World Health Organization, the World Bank, and German Aerospace and Technology Center are all leveraging networks. The ideas of “open” and “contagion” are no longer seen as a rarified university experiment. Now these present a viable means for a growing number of purposes: get to market faster, thwart climate change, clean the oceans, and find cures to intractable diseases.
“The Science of Communities and Networks” presents the quantitative structure, impacts, and practical work of networks. There are many different forms of network, varying in size, shape and purpose. Yet there are some common practices and behavior patterns and models that trace their origins back to the science of the human brain, mathematics and social and behavioral psychology. After computing and interpreting the metrics of social network structure, we will use the Knowledge Network Effectiveness Framework, a logic model flowing backwards from outcomes, to individual and social behavior, to dynamics, to design. We will also use other scholarly research, along with practical cases, to study different network forms: communities of practice, knowledge-networks, crowds, open source, open data, and open innovation. Students will envision, diagnose and design networks for “cooperative advantage.” We will do that while considering that networks operate in the context of human bias, complex contagion, common-pool resource dilemmas, and technology advancement.
IKNS and other SPS students will find that the course incorporates both social science and data science on the future of work, in which operations and innovation come increasingly from parties outside the organization or department. The course relates to three main themes of the IKNS curriculum, digital transformation, future of work, and collaboration.