Case Study: Teaching Urban Analysis

Outline of the Research

Urban Planning Research is an undergraduate course delivered to planning students at RMIT. The course is designed to develop an in-depth understanding of applied social research skills specific to the discipline of urban planning. Students who take the course develop the research skills needed to implement a range of common methods of data collection and analysis in urban and regional planning.

The course has a strong emphasis on the practical challenges that students may encounter as planning professionals, and includes working with complex social issues and diverse groups in a research context. Students develop a critical awareness of the ways in which data are produced and used, and gain insights into the sorts of decisions and compromises that are made at each stage of the research process. They also begin to develop and plan their own  research projects, relevant future studies, and professional work in urban and regional planning.

As a core component of this course, students are introduced to quantitative spatial data analysis. They examine and explore some of the basic and essential types of spatial analysis in a geographic information system (GIS) based environment which they are likely to encounter throughout their professional lives.

How AURIN was used

The AURIN Workbench provides a unique opportunity to introduce Urban Planning Research students to the fundamentals of GIS, and spatial data analysis and visualisation, as part of the course’s Demographics, Statistics and Spatial Analysis module.   Using tutorials and workshops centered on the AURIN Map and the AURIN Portal, students cover a range of ideas and concepts.

Conceptually, the students:

  • Explore the usefulness of spatial analysis as it relates to planning practice;
  • Become familiar with the structure of spatial datasets;
  • Engage with the Australian standard statistical geographies; and
  • Critically engage with the concepts of correlation and causation, the modifiable area unit problem, and the ecological fallacy.

On a more practical level, the students learn how to browse for spatial data in the AURIN Portal, as well as bring their own data into their sessions. They further learn how to merge datasets, visualise spatial patterns, and explore the statistical relationships between variables from a broad variety of disciplines.

As an assessment task for the module, students engage with the AURIN portal’s data, visualisation and analytic functionality to explore the potential relationship between a number of socio-economic, health, community, housing, transport and built form characteristics. By drawing on existing literature examining these intersectional relationships, students use AURIN to develop and test their own unique urban analytical hypotheses.

Impacts of the Project

A number of the students who take Urban Planning Research do not have formal training in either quantitative statistical analysis or in GIS.

The AURIN Portal empowers these students to engage in urban data analysis in a way that is relevant to their planning course context. This allows for an invaluable teaching experience for a cohort of students who may be put off by GIS but can be engaged and enthused through AURIN.

Dr. Joe Hurley, course coordinator, has recognised the value of using AURIN to introduce planning students to quantitative research; AURIN has been successfully used to deliver this component of the course for three consecutive years:

“AURIN connects urban planning students with extensive data, via an interface that is relatively intuitive and ultimately very powerful and an analytical tool. The online portal allows students much more accessibility to engage with the data and tool. Additionally, the willingness of AURIN to commit support to help in developing tailored teaching material had a big impact, not to mention the large bank of general tutorials provides great ongoing support”

Students who took the course reported that the AURIN portal provides a great opportunity to undertake urban research without too much difficulty:

“The AURIN portal was very fun to use! I would work with that program again.”

“I found the AURIN platform particularly useful and can see myself using it regularly in the future and recommending it to others.”

“I really enjoyed learning how to use the AURIN portal.”

Want to try the AURIN Workbench for yourself?

Do you teach GIS and are looking for an accessible way to engage your students?  Are you a student or researcher that wishes they could incorporate spatial analysis into their research?

If you are a teacher looking to develop your curriculum to include the AURIN Workbench, please contact admin (at) 

You can access the AURIN Portal, AURIN Map and Data Discovery on the AURIN Workbench.

Free and open AURINMap with national data layers from various data partners covering subjects such as population and demographics, health and wellbeing, socio-economic indices, vulnerability indicators and access to services.

Data is generously shared by AURIN’s data partners and visualised by AURIN Data team.

The AURIN Portal contains a rich range of data and analytical tools.

Over 1200 datasets from more than 80 data providers can be retrieved through the AURIN Portal and over 100 analytical and visualisation tools provide extensive scope for spatialising, integrating, manipulating and mapping diverse data from across the full gamut of research disciplines.


Browse the growing list of all datasets accessible through the AURIN Portal.

Over 1,200 datasets from hundreds of sources covering a wide range of disciplines.

With AURIN’s unique federated system, the data stays with the data custodian,  allowing researchers to browse the data before accessing or downloading custom datasets.


AURIN has a huge repository of tutorials and use cases to help you learn how to get the most from the data and tools.  We recommend starting with our Quickstart guide: