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

Massive Online Open Course: Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat

Massive Online Open Course: Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat

Other START Researchers: 
Katherine Worboys Izsak

Project Details


Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist ThreatTerrorism Studies does not fall within any one traditional academic discipline, and it is often plagued by subjectivity and a lack of empirical data. 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, 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.

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.  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.  The course will next look to 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 looking at the factors that drive terrorist group persistence/endurance versus terrorist group desistance, and will bring the varied course concepts together through a detailed look at the case of al-Qa’ida, including the group’s successes, failures, tactics, and strategies.  Throughout the course, students will work with the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD), the largest database of terrorist incidents in the world, learning its capabilities and developing basic skills in searching and displaying appropriate and accurate sets of terrorism data.

Course Syllabus

Week One: WHAT: Dispelling Myths about Terrorism

Week Two:  WHAT: The Global Terrorism Database and Visualizing Terrorism Data

Week Three:  WHO, WHY: Individual Radicalization

Week Four:  WHO, WHY: Terrorist Group Dynamics

Week Five: WHAT: Behaviors that Enable the Next Terrorist Attack

Week Six: Putting it all together: Al-Qa'ida Case Study


Project Period: 
January 2014 to March 2014