Introduction to Systems Engineering (Coursera)

Introduction to Systems Engineering (Coursera)
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Introduction to Systems Engineering (Coursera)
"Introduction to Systems Engineering" uses a structured yet flexible approach to provide a holistic, solid foundation to the successful development of complicated systems. The course takes you step by step through the system life cycle, from design to development, production and management. You will learn how the different components of a system interrelate, and how each contributes to a project’s goals and success.

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The discipline’s terminology, which can so often confuse the newcomer, is presented in an easily digestible form. Weekly video lectures introduce and synthesise key concepts, which are then reinforced with quizzes and practical exercises to help you measure your learning.

This course welcomes anyone who wants to find out how complex systems can be developed and implemented successfully. It is relevant to anyone in project management, engineering, QA, logistic support, operations, management, maintenance and other work areas. No specific background is required, and we welcome learners with all levels of interest and experience.



Course Welcome & Module 1 (Introduction to Systems and System Life Cycle)

Welcome to 'Introduction to Systems Engineering'! To help you in getting started with this course, we have a course introduction video that will provide you with an overview of the course syllabus.We then begin the course with this introductory module in which we address the nature of systems and the concept of a system life cycle. We identify what is meant when we say that something is a system and we narrow down the very broad definitions to focus on the human-made or modified systems that are our focus in systems engineering. We then look at the broad phases and activities that a system moves through during its life cycle, from early identification of the need for the system, exploration of options, functional design, physical design, detailed design and development, construction and production, utilization and support and then, finally, retirement.


Systems Engineering and its Relevance and Benefits

In this module, we describe the discipline of systems engineering and outline its relevance and benefits. We introduce what we mean by the ‘systems engineering’ and provide a framework within which we can consider the major processes, activities, and artefacts throughout the remainder of the course. In doing so, it will have become evident to you that the systems engineering approach has a number of advantages, so we then examine in a little more detail the relevance and benefits of systems engineering.


Needs and Requirements

Before we look at the various systems engineering activities in more detail in forthcoming modules, in this module we look at what we mean when we refer to the ‘needs’ and ‘requirements’ for a system. We examine the needs and requirements views developed by business management, business operations, and systems designers. We will also consider in this module how we might go about developing a set of requirements—we call that process ‘requirements engineering’.


Requirements Elicitation and Elaboration

In this module, we explore requirements engineering and the processes by which requirements are elicited and defined formally through a process called elaboration (which involves derivation and decomposition of lower-level requirements from their parent requirements). We also look in this module at some simple requirements engineering tools and illustrate how they might be useful to you. Finally, we examine the notion of traceability, which ensures that we know where each requirement comes from, what requirements are related to it, and what requirements were derived from it. At the end of this module, you should be prepared to attempt the mid-course exam.


Conceptual Design

In this module we examine Conceptual Design, during which we investigate how business needs and requirements and stakeholder needs and requirements are translated into a system-level understanding of the requirements of our system. This understanding will tell us what the system needs to do, how well it needs to perform, and what other systems it needs to interact with in order to meet the stakeholder and business needs and requirements. We then look at the concept of system level synthesis where we make some high-level design decisions before reviewing our work in preparation of the core design effort normally associated with preliminary and detailed design.


Preliminary and Detailed Design

In this module we pick up from where we left off at the end of Conceptual Design and we start to make some more detailed design decisions. During preliminary design, we will look at identifying the various subsystems that will need to come together to form our system. What do these subsystems need to be able to do? How do they need to inter-relate? Can we source these subsystems off the shelf or do they need to be designed from the ground up? These are key questions of preliminary design. For the subsystems that need to be designed or modified, some level of detailed design will be required. We will look at detailed design process and talk about tools like prototyping and how these tools help to refine the detailed design.


Construction, Production, and Utilisation

We now move onto the construction and production of the system based on the detailed design from the previous stage. During construction and production, we look at critical systems engineering activities such as configuration audits and system verification. The system then enters the utilisation phase where we explore how systems engineering may continue to be involved via modification and upgrade projects. We finish this section by looking briefly at some of the issues we face when trying to dispose of or retire systems that are no longer required.


Systems Engineering Management

In this final module, we explore some of the key management issues that systems engineering must address in order to maintain balance and control across the systems engineering effort. We look specifically at issues such as verification and validation management, configuration management, technical risk management and the management of the technical review and audit program. We also explore some of the broad strategies that may be adopted when executing a systems engineering process. Whilst we have used what is generally referred to as a waterfall approach throughout the course to explain systems engineering, in this module we also briefly introduce alternatives such as incremental and evolutionary development. We conclude the module by emphasising the importance of planning throughout the systems engineering program and the development of a governing plan known as the systems engineering management plan or SEMP.


Final Exam and Information About Further Study

Having finished the modules, you are now in a position to complete the final exam covering Modules 6 to 9.

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