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

Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorism Threat

Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorism Threat


The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence housed at the University of Maryland, offers a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) looking at the who, what and how of Terrorism Studies, by introducing students to cutting-edge research from the social and behavioral sciences and the experts investigating these topics.

The course will begin with a unit looking at widely held myths about terrorism and utilizing empirical data to discuss the realities of broad trends and patterns in terrorist attacks over time. Then, it will review the psychological factors at play in individual radicalization and recruitment into terrorism, followed by an analysis of terrorist group dynamics. It will look at terrorist group operations, including their attacks and some of the supporting behaviors that allow them to carry out attacks, including use of media, financing, recruitment, and training. In conclusion, the course will look at the factors that drive terrorist group persistence or endurance versus terrorist group desistance, and will bring the varied course concepts together through a detailed look at the case of al-Qa’ida.

Training Objectives: 

After completing this course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe challenges and definitional issues related to the empirical study of terrorism;
  • Summarize trends in terrorism from 1970-2012;
  • Define radicalization;
  • Interpret terrorist group structure;
  • Analyze trends in terrorist targets, tactics, and weapons;
  • Describe the evolution of al-Qaida;
  • Navigate the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD), the largest database of terrorist incidents in the world, developing basic skills in searching and displaying terrorism data.
Intended Audience:
Educator/TrainerGeneral PublicResearcherStudent
Delivery Format: 
Asynchronous Online
Duration/Time Requirements:
25 Hours
Registration Info: 

Registration for Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorism Threat is available through Coursera. Enrollment is available year-round. You do not need to be affiliated with the University of Maryland to enroll.

Contact Info: 

For more information about this course, contact the START Education Team at 301-405-6600, at education@start.umd.edu, or make an online request for more information.