Online Courses

Training is available both for the use of Vensim and the art and practice of building system dynamics models. Public workshops are offered periodically and workshops can also be delivered in-house when that is appropriate; contact us for a quote.

In partnership with our official distributor in Spain, we can now offer online courses. See the following page for more details and pricing.

Traditional courses

Ventana offers a one day introductory course in system dynamics and Vensim as well as a one day course that covers more advanced Vensim topics. These courses are relatively fast paced, but class size is limited so that the coverage can be kept consistent with the goals of the participants.

We also offer two in-depth courses. The first is on Small Models with Lots of Data that covers techniques for getting more information earlier from detailed data. The second is on modeling issues related to climate change and and industrial activity.

For training in Europe, Ventana Systems UK offers both introductory and advanced courses. In languages other than English, our distributors in Spain, Germany, China and Japan also offer periodic courses in their respective languages.

For a more complete academic grounding in system dynamics consider the distance system dynamics program offered by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). This is a distance program in system dynamics that includes both introductory courses, applications courses and a number of advanced topic courses. The courses can be taken standalone, or as part of a certificate or degree program.

Ventana can also provide on-site and customized training. Please contact us for details.

Instructors Tom Fiddaman and Bill Arthur are PhDs with decades of experience in modeling and consulting.

Schedule & Ordering

While we’re working on the next great thing, we do not have any courses scheduled. But if you would like to be notified of any we do run, please subscribe to our newsletter at, we always announce upcoming courses via the email list.

Don’t see a venue you like? contact us to suggest a location or for custom offerings. We hope to offer Small Models with Lots of Data in 2013, but scheduling is not currently available.

Short workshops covering similar material will be offered at the 2013 System Dynamics Conference. Registration is free for conference participants, but space and time will be limited.


$500 per person per day. We like to encourage teams to attend, because it’s helpful to have partners to work with, so additional participants from the same organization receive a $50 discount. $100 surcharge for late registration.


Introduction to System Dynamics (1 day)

This is a one day introduction to systems thinking and system dynamics simulation, with emphasis on practical Vensim skills needed to get started with model building. The course covers formulating a problem, describing the structure of a system, developing a simulation model, and analyzing the output. This course is appropriate for people who have a limited or no background in model building.

Advanced Topics in Vensim (1 day)

The Advanced Topics course is intended for people who have some familiarity with Vensim and system dynamics modeling, or technically inclined people who have attended Introduction to System Dynamics with Vensim course or web course. It will lay the foundations for the use of powerful modeling tools, improving your ability to simulate and understand more complex problems.

Learn to build models using subscripting (array) techniques, which allow easy replication of structure. For example, in a marketplace with many similar competing firms, one structure can be used to represent the generic firm, with subscripts distinguishing the individual firms.

Learn to use Vensim’s optimizer to fit a model to historical data and select effective policies. Test the robustness of policies with Monte Carlo sensitivity techniques. Find out which factors strongly influence your results, and which do not.

The material presented during this course does not presume a strong mathematical background, though many of the concepts presented are based on fairly sophisticated mathematics. Supplemental course notes provide more of the mathematical details for those wishing to pursue issues more deeply.

Small Models with Lots of Data (2 days)

Working with models and data over the last two decades we have discovered that very small models can yield unique understanding of very large quantities of data.  This is especially true when available data are highly disaggregated. Results from Small Models with Lots of Data (SMLODs) are of significant value in themselves, and can also be embodied in aggregate models. This mini-course focuses on using small models to understand and to leverage disaggregated data.

SMLODs are most valuable when they make reliable predictions that can be compared to new data as they become available.  Surprises signal changes in cause-and-effect relationships or underestimation of inherent uncertainties in the model and data.  When the model is right, and there are no surprises, the model becomes a convenient tool for benchmarking ongoing business processes providing an early warning (or opportunity) signal when something important changes.

This course covers examples of successful SMLODs drawn from Ventana’s consulting experience.  The examples include:

  •  a company trying to decide which of the failing part numbers in their equipment require more engineering attention before setting spare part levels,
  • a grocery chain trying to optimize its shelf stock,
  • a pharmaceutical company trying to identify changes in the behavior of patients on therapy,
  • a property & casualty insurance company trying to adjust rates to complete with an aggressive competitor,
  • a hotel chain trying to set the reserves it will hold to cover the redemption of billions of frequent guest points accumulated over a customer’s lifetime, and
  • a regional bank trying to predict how many loans from its portfolio will eventually default.

Given the currency of national issues surrounding mortgage loans, the main example will be the underwriting and pricing of mortgage loans and the management of financial reserves held in anticipation of loan defaults.  (The larger issues of securitization of mortgage loans and the international financial collapse will not be covered, though some of the insights are relevant to that broader perspective.)

The course includes a mixture of demonstration and hands-on manipulation of models.  The intent is to limit the Vensim manipulation skills required so students can focus more on the problem-finding and problem-solving concepts.  A key objective is to expose possibilities for better monitoring of business performance and the implementation of feedback mechanisms that improve both models and the businesses they support.

Prerequisites: introductory and advanced Vensim course or a general familiarity with using data and optimization in Vensim.

Climate Policy & System Dynamics (1 day)

This course will examine the dynamics of climate science and climate policy, using accessible small-scale models. The climate science section will cover the carbon cycle, minor greenhouse gases, climate, and sea level, emphasizing the implications of accumulation. The policy section will cover emissions drivers (demographic and economic growth, technology), constraints from capital turnover, and policy instruments like cap and trade and portfolio standards.

The instructor, Tom Fiddaman, is the technical lead on the C-ROADS model, a climate simulation for decision support and education. He has modeled technology portfolios for climate policy at DOE and facilitated an extensive series of multistakeholder workshops on greenhouse gas policy implementation in California. His PhD thesis (MIT, 1997) contrasted behavioral dynamic and neoclassical economic models of climate policy.

Prerequisites: introductory and advanced Vensim course, or equivalent. Working familiarity with the problem and terminology assumed.