Jenna Witzleben

Ecology School blog

Welcome to the Ecology School blog, where I document my ongoing self-education in ecology, landscape design, and urban design.

Low-cost Online Courses in Urban Design / Landscape / Ecology

In parallel with my book-based learning, I will be starting to study via online free or low-cost courses. This will help particularly with the technical skills that I need to learn, such as drawing and use of software programs.

One such software program that I need to train in is AutoCAD. This seems to be the 3D modeling software of choice in the landscape/urban design world. I’ve seen it appear on many job descriptions and application requirements. I’ve had experience with Solidworks and SketchUp, and am learning Rhino in my current job at Arup, but have not yet worked in AutoCAD. To develop my familiarity with this program, I will be using Lynda is great as many universities and companies provide memberships for their students/employees. Thankfully I have a membership from both of my schools and my office! Definitely check to see if any of your organizations provide membership. If not, it’s not too expensive to pay for yourself, at $25-$30 per month. So to get myself up to speed, I’m going to start with:

Autocad 2019 Essential Training (Lynda)

After this course, I may decide that I want to find additional online courses targeted at AutoCAD for urban and landscape design, but I figured I should get the general training first.


I’m very excited to have found a great deal recently on, another online learning platform. For the next four days, they’re offering all of their courses for $11.99! So I’m planning on taking the following course:

Fundamentals of garden design (Udemy)

This course is taught by a trained landscape architect, and goes through site assessment, drafting, creating a conceptual plan, and hand rendering. I think it will be extremely helpful to work through a typical process of a garden or landscape designer through this class.

The third course that I’m excited to take, to supplement some of the rendering techniques from the Udemy Fundamentals of Garden Design course, is the following from Skillshare:

Rendering Techniques: Creating Customized Trees (Skillshare)

I may find that after these two courses I still need a more technical hand drawing and rendering course for both landscape and urban design. If I do, I will be sure to add which one I take to this blog.

It’s important to me to make sure that I’m balancing the traditional urban and landscape design studies with deeper dives into ecology - as my desire is specifically to train in ecological urban and landscape design. I found this awesome playlist on YouTube that will help me get started:

Ecology Crash Course (Youtube)

This playlist has 12 videos, each about 10 - 15 mins long, going into some fundamental ecological concepts and terminology.



To finish off this round of online courses, I’m planning to explore digital graphics in Adobe Illustrator for urban design and landscapes. I think Illustrator provides a great way of representing designs and concepts in combination to AutoCAD and hand sketches / renders. It also seems very useful for visualizing data and maps, frequently required in urban design. I have worked with Illustrator before, so I chose a series of courses specific to urban design / landscape design on UCL’s website:

Urban Graphics 1: The city Footprint

Urban Graphics 2: Urban Layers and Proposals

Urban Graphics 3: Essential Urban Plans

If you haven’t used Illustrator or Photoshop before, you may want to take a general introductory course on in these software packages. However it does seem like these UCL courses are open to people of all levels of familiarity with the Adobe programs.

Lastly, I thought I should include that Land8 has a great article on many of these different software programs and others used in landscape design and architecture here. So if you want to know more about the differences between them and how they can be used together, I’d definitely recommend reading their comprehensive descriptions.

And, as always, if you have anything to add or suggest in terms of other software to learn or other great online courses, feel free to add it in the comments!

Jenna WitzlebenComment