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

START’s free online course is now open for enrollment


START’s free online course is now open for enrollment

‘Understanding Terrorism’ course begins January 2015

July 29, 2014Jessica Rivinius

Registration is now open for START’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on “Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat,” which will run Jan. 12-March 9, 2015. The eight-week course, offered through the University of Maryland and Coursera, will explore questions relating to the who, what and how of terrorism studies by introducing students to cutting edge research and the experts investigating these topics.

The START course will be led by START Director and Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Gary LaFree and START Executive Director William Braniff. Through lectures, guest lectures and readings, START will apply its multi-disciplinary and mixed-method approach to research in this course, utilizing theory and quantitative and qualitative research from a range of the social and behavioral sciences including Criminology, Psychology, Political Science and Communications Studies.

Throughout the course, students will work with START’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD), the largest database of terrorist incidents in the world, learning its capabilities and developing basic skills in searching and utilizing sets of terrorism data.

All participants in this course are eligible to partake in the signature track option for a minimal fee to earn official recognition of course completion from the University of Maryland and Coursera upon passing the course.

The course will begin with a unit examining widely held myths about terrorism and utilizing empirical data to discuss the realities of broad trends and patterns in terrorist attacks over time.  The course will then review the psychological factors at play in individual radicalization and recruitment into terrorism, followed by an analysis of terrorist group dynamics and structure. The course will next look to terrorist operations generally as well as factors that allow terrorist groups to successfully carry out attacks, such as propaganda, use of media, financing, recruitment, and training. The course will conclude by bringing the varied course concepts together through a detailed look at the case of al-Qaida, including the group’s successes, failures, tactics and strategies. 

Funded by a highly competitive seed grant from the University of Maryland, the course first debuted in January 2014 to more than 16,000 students from 179 countries.   “Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat” was met with highly positive reviews from practitioners, professors and students alike for giving a “nice view of what we are facing in the world today” and allowing students to learn “more about terrorism through this course than in 21 years on the job [in the security industry].”

For more information and to register for the course, visit https://www.coursera.org/course/understandingterror.