A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

New year, new(ly) updated MOOC


New year, new(ly) updated MOOC

December 21, 2015Jessica Rivinius

Next month, START will launch the third iteration of its newly updated Massive Online Open Content (MOOC) course “Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat.” Last year, the course served more than 20,000 students from 181 different countries. Participants ranged from high-school students to university professors to government personnel to retired army officers. 

Led by START Director Gary LaFree, START Executive Director William Braniff and START Education Director Katherine Izsak, the course explores the “who,” “what,” “why,” and “how” of terrorism studies by encouraging students to examine the terrorism phenomenon through lectures and readings on START research and guided, interactive discussions.  The course includes modules on individual radicalization, terrorist group dynamics, and terrorist operations, each with their own set of guest speakers from the consortium of START researchers, as well as a module featuring an in-depth investigation of al-Qaida. 

“The first time we offered the MOOC, we didn’t realize how large and diverse our audience would be,” Izsak said. “We quickly learned that we had participants enrolling in the course for lots of different reasons and with highly varied interests, so we’ve made some changes and enhancements to meet those needs.”

New this year is an expanded offering of “Spotlight Lectures” from individuals working in homeland, national, and international security, who comment on how concepts from the main lectures play out in security practice.  These individuals come from, among others, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of State. 

“With our Spotlight Lectures, we are aiming to reach those individuals interested in practical application of academic knowledge on terrorism,” Izsak said. “This component of the course will feature discussions of how the Department of State designates Foreign Terrorist Organizations, how NATO aims to counter terrorist financing, and how the Department of Homeland Security works with community-based organizations to counter violent extremism, among other topics.”

The course will also feature lectures from START researchers including Victor Asal, Peter Krause, Arie Kruglanski, Anthony Lemieux, Gina Ligon, Amy Pate and Jonathan Wilkenfeld, in addition to highlighting other START research.

“Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat” is still open for enrollment and will remain open until the conclusion of the course on March 27, 2016. Students wishing to earn a Verified Certificate, however, should enroll by March 20. Sign up here.