Free and interesting on peace

5 free online courses on peace and conflict.

A quiet revolution has been taking place in the world of education. Online courses, which have been around for a while already, are now entering the big time. World leading universities are offering introductory courses for mass audiences – usually for free, and usually open to just about anyone with an internet connection. This is opening up a whole new frontier in learning. These days we can learn the nuts the bolts of just about anything through a MOOC (I know, weird eh? It means ‘massive online open courses’). Want to build your own app, or website, or even a whole search engine? Or learn about kitchen chemistry, a la Hester Blumenthal? Or maybe you want to start your own local news service, become a whizz at electronics (handy), or brush up on forensic science (hopefully not handy). Fine. No problem. Just enrol in a MOOC.

And what better to learn about in this brave new world of free, accessible and high-quality online learning than peace and conflict. To my mind there are few things more important than understanding the world around us, and this includes understanding why it’s so damned troublesome sometimes. Fortunately some of world’s top universities have risen valiantly to the challenge of providing great courses on just this topic, and I thought I’d put together a list of some of the best offerings that are open for enrolment now.

Some of these courses focus on providing a broad overview of peace, conflict and social justice issues. Others introduce practical skills that peacebuilders, researchers, activists and social entrepreneurs might like to have in their back pockets. Or on their CVs.

No need to thank me folks. Well okay then, you’re welcome.

This course will start by looking at the nature of social groups and the importance of identity and public spaces in politics around the world (for example the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, Civil Rights Movements). It will then examine why understanding public space is important through looking at symbols, parades and memorials. The course will examine well documented examples, focusing on the learning that has arisen from the Northern Ireland peace process. It will explore the role of human rights and public policy. It will conclude by returning to the comparative frame to examine key lessons for understanding conflict transformation in divided societies.

  • Kings College London are offering a 6 week course (4 hours a week) on Causes of War. It has already started but as far as I can see it’s still open for enrolment, presumably it’s possible to catch up given the flexible nature of the course. Get there quick!
  •  Meanwhile, the University of Birmingham will be offering a 3 week course on Cooperation in the Contemporary World. “Why do we cooperate? How can we achieve more lasting forms of cooperation? This course explores the puzzle of cooperation in international politics today.” It’ll take you 3 hours a week and starts 12th May.
  • Crossing over into mainland Europe, Leiden University are offering a 6 week course on the Changing Global Order. It’s pretty hefty at 6-8 hours a week and you can earn your way to a certificate too. Starts May 19th.
  • And finally, Cardiff University have put together the world’s first MOOC on Community Journalism. “Gain practical skills and insight into hyper-local journalism, learning how to create your own service.” Very exciting – starts 15th April, takes 5 weeks with around 4 hours a week of study.

I hope these opportunities are useful – I’d be interested to hear if anyone takes them up. Good luck and happy studying. I’ll be back with more lists soon.


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