Scanning for Cultural Competency in Online Urban Planning Programs

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Scanning for Cultural Competency in Online Urban Planning Programs

  • Brian Garcia Urban and Regional Planning, California State Polytechnic University Pomona, USA

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Abstract:  This article investigates online urban planning degree programs. The Covid-19 pandemic forced urban planning programs to pivot to online delivery instantly. However, there is little preexisting knowledge on online learning in place-making fields of study both in the literature and in practice. Meanwhile, working and learning from home is expected to continue as part of urban planning education and practice. The key tension of teaching urban planning online, as a traditional place-dependent field, is the starting point for our inquiry in this article. To understand the state of online urban planning programs, an internet search was conducted. A database of 176 higher education programs was created that identified only eight online programs including degree-granting and certificate programs in urban planning. These urban planning program results were concentrated in the western United States. Key challenges in online learning were identified through a literature review, including pedagogical efforts in skill transfer and multiculturalism. The eight-program curriculum strategies were analyzed through a qualitative case study analysis. A discussion on the tactics during the transition from in-person to online education in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at California State Polytechnic University Pomona is also presented. This article provides online urban planning program information for educators currently teaching online and for those interested in creating an online program. Online programs in place-specific fields such as urban planning have particular challenges in understanding communities without site visits, ethnography, or robust in-person community engagement. Online urban planning programs must make additional efforts to achieve a social, collaborative learning and practice environment.

Keywords:  online degrees; online teaching; online urban planning classes; urban planning education

Published:   17 November 2021


© Brian Garcia. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.