Instructor Information

Max Crownover

Cell Phone: 410-782-5536

Course Information

Course Description

Traditional systems engineering is usually applied to closed, precise, and recursive systems with the assertion that the methodologies used can be scaled up to more elaborate systems of systems. This course addresses the more realistic and emerging field of complex systems, where multiple current development efforts with disparate and nonlinear attributes characterize the system components. Managing complex systems must account for the likelihood of multiple disciplines, differing scales, often unpredictable future states, irreducible uncertainty, and nonlinear behavior. Customers, corporations, governments, technologies, and systems now must be considered on a global scale with a mix of new and legacy systems. The student will be encouraged to think differently and creatively about the approaches to managing complex systems and to use adaptive strategies and tools. Special attention will be given to risk assessment and management for dynamic systems. Case studies and examples will be drawn from commercial industry and DoD/government systems. Students will be expected to discuss several readings and complete academic papers to explore in depth one or more of the concepts discussed.


EN.645.769 System Test and Evaluation or advisor and instructor approval. Course Note(s): Selected as one of the electives in the Master of Science in Engineering or Master of Science program or a required course for the post-master’s certificate.

Course Goal

The purpose of this course is to blend systems theory, systems thinking, systems engineering, management, and application to address the field of complex systems. It focuses on exploration, and critique of central issues and themes related to complex systems.These themes are expanded upon through class discussion and student research, exercises and cases studies designed to increase understanding through application, and exploration of student experiences and personal/professional knowledge relevant complex systems.

Course Objectives

  • Explain the fundamental systems concepts and principles that form the foundation for analysis, engineering, and management of complex systems; and illustrate their use in the understanding various systems and situations.

  • Analyze the range of philosophical, methodological, and application issues that constrain/enable the management of complex systems (including complex system problem formulation, analysis, and interpretation).
  • Differentiate among multiple methodologies and processes for analysis of complex systems/complex system problems.  Critique various methodologies/approaches based on capabilities and limitations.
  • Examine and provide scholarly critique (in writing) of various systems-based approaches to management of complex systems.  Formulate a unique approach to a given complex problem/situation, and justify methodological selection.

When This Course is Typically Offered

This course typically offered each semester via online format.


  • Systems Thinking: Philosophy and Concepts
  • Emergence, Creativity, Adaptation and Complex Systems
  • Causality in Complex Systems / Complex System Problems
  • Chaos Theory
  • Complex Organizations, Relationships, and Partnerships
  • Learning Organizations / Von Neumann's Model
  • Organizational Evolution
  • Business Process
  • Agent Based Models
  • Group Decision Support
  • Innovation and Its Role
  • Networks and Their Application

Student Assessment Criteria

Homework (6 Assignments) 20%
Projects (1 Case Study and 1 Literature Review) 30%
Final Project (Research Paper) 30%
Online Discussion Questions (1 per Module) 20%

Case Studies: Case Studies general will be evaluated on the effectiveness of the analysis and proposal.  Effectiveness is a function of incorporation of concepts from class and reading assignments, demonstration of the ability to apply course concepts to a case situation, depth of sophistication demonstrated, and written presentation.  Each assignment will have components of theory, practice, and application. 

Class Project: Class Project is designed to demonstrate the level of mastery students have achieved with respect to complex systems and complex systems management.  In general, the project will be evaluated on the degree to which:

 - course material, class discussion, and external supporting literature has be drawn upon to support central themes, arguments, and conclusions

 - the project demonstrates, through application, the student’s grasp of the topic; (3) the project is representative of scholarly post-Masters graduate research

 - the project develops substantive implications for systems engineering and management practice based on application and development

Participation Expectations

Reading Assignments:  Reading the assigned course material is critical to the student's ability to fully understand class lectures and to contribute during discussions.  The class lectures and other exploration will run parallel to but do not replicate material presented in the course text.  Students should concentrate on reading to develop major points/themes, fundamental assumptions, central issues, skill in application of techniques, and identification of implications. 

Homework and Case Study Assignments:  Assignments will be evaluated and graded on a 100 point scale.  Assignments that fully meet all objectives will receive a grade of 95.  The remaining 5 points are reserved for products that go beyond the established objectives of the assignment and clearly identify additional effort, additional research, or self-assessment.  Assignments not submitted will receive a grade of 0.  Late assignments will be reduced by a 10 point penalty per week late. For a given "due date" specified in the assignment, the latest date/time stamp for on-time completion is 11:59pm of that date. Starting with 12:00am of the next day, the first 10 point penalty will be received and an additional 10 points each 7 day period following. Deficient assignments may be returned to students for resubmission; the final grade for the specific assignment will be the average of the two grades.  The intent is to ensure that students are successfully learning the concepts taught in this course.

Assignments will be introduced within each module's "Course Content" (a link from the left menu) within a specific "Module #" under the "Assignments" section.  More detailed information will be available via the "Assignments" link from the left menu bar where a detailed description of each assignment will be provided, including a downloadable description.  Assignments are to be submitted in Microsoft Office compatible format or in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file format.  Assignments are to be uploaded into Sakai via the "Submit as student" link within the "Assignments" area.  Grades and instructor comments will be provided viat the "Assignments" area.

Online Discussions:  During the course, students are expected to engage in online discussion via Sakai. The discussion assignments will consist of two parts. First, a discussion question(s) will be provided by the instructor at the beginning of the module. Students are expected to provide responses to questions and statements by the mid-point of the module. This first part is an individual assignment, and is to consist of a "significant posting" of original work by each student.  A "significant" posting: consists of 200 words or greater, is properly referenced, and demonstrates critical thinking skills (opinion should be clearly separated from fact).

The second part of the discussion assignment is to respond to other students’ posts. Students should post responses to other statements, including engaging in a discussion with other students about particular issues raised. Students should provide responses by the end of the module.

The instructor will occasionally also provide responses to students’ submissions, and at times post additional questions for the students.

In summary, students are expected to post initial, individual responses to discussion questions and statements by the mid-point of the module, and participate in a discussion of those initial responses by the end of the module.

Final project:  The project requires conduct of a scholarly critique of an article, paper, or other writing within the domain of complex systems management.  Project subjects must be approved by the instructor.  The critique will include a discussion of philosophical issues and their implications for research, methodology, and practice in the area of management of complex systems.  The result of the project will be a 10-12 page paper.

Online Office Hours:  Office hours are not only a time when students can ask questions about the course and their assignments; they are also used to provide feedback on assignments, discussion questions, and issues or questions related to the course. Even if no students attend an Office Hour session for a particular week, there will be an Office Hours recording covering topics related to the course.

Office Hours will be conducted using software called Adobe Connect - date and time to be determined. Synchronous meeting times are not required of online students.  However, if you have a question, you will find it valuable to attend. If you cannot attend, please post your question in advance to the Office Hours discussion thread for inclusion in the Office Hours. You will be able to review the recording asynchronously after the session is complete.


Textbook information for this course is available online through the MBS Direct Virtual Bookstore.

Course Notes

There are no notes for this course.

Term Specific Course Website

(Last Modified: 10/29/2020 10:34:16 AM)