Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat

University of Maryland, College Park

This course 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 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 course 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.  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 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.  The course will conclude by looking 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.  

Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to study and 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 terrorism data.


Module 1: How Do We Study Terrorism?
Module 2: Individual Radicalization
Module 3: Terrorist Group Dynamics
Module 4: Terrorist Operations
Module 5: Putting it All Together: Al-Qa'ida Case Study

Recommended Background

No background knowledge is required.  This course is appropriate for both beginner and more advanced learners, as individuals who are more versed in the study of terrorism can choose to augment the course with additional readings, lectures, and discussions.

Course Format

This course presents material on terrorism and Terrorism Studies through lectures with the course instructors, University of Maryland's Dr. Gary LaFree, Mr. Bill Braniff, and Dr. Kate Izsak, as well as guest lectures from faculty researchers located at other universities throughout START's global consortium.  The course also offers short "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 such organizations as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of State, among others.  The course also includes interactive assignments and quizzes (approximately 1 per week), embedded throughout the course to allow students to put their new knowledge of Terrorism Studies into practice. 


  • What can I earn for completing this course?

    To qualify for a Course Certificate, pay the $49 registration fee by the deadline listed in the "Join Signature Track" box at the top right of this page and begin verifying your course work. Coursera Financial Aid is available to offset the registration cost for students with demonstrated economic needs. If you have questions about the Course Certificate, check the information provided by Coursera here. In order to receive a Course Certificate, you must pass the course with at least a 70%.

    If you choose not to verify your work, you can still participate in and the complete course. While your final grade will be recorded on your Course Records page, this course will not offer a Statement of Accomplishment. 

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, copies of the texts (all of which can be obtained for free online), and the time to read, write, discuss, and enjoy some cutting-edge research.

  • Dates:
    • 11 January 2016, 12 weeks
    • 12 January 2015, 8 weeks
    • 27 January 2014, 8 weeks
    Course properties:
    • Free:
    • Paid:
    • Certificate:
    • MOOC:
    • Video:
    • Audio:
    • Email-course:
    • Language: English Gb


    No reviews yet. Want to be the first?

    Register to leave a review

    More on this topic:
    Small-icon.hover The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness
    Learn how social factors promote mental health, influence the onset and course...
    107142_f816_9 Writing Secure PHP Code - PHP Security Tutorial
    Create secure PHP code and prevent attacks and exploits in your code - This...
    Wgs-615f12 Feminist Inquiry: Strategies for Effective Scholarship
    This course investigates theories and practices of feminist inquiry across a...
    12-091iap07 Radon Research in Multidisciplines: A Review
    This course introduces fundamentals of radon physics, geology, radiation biology...
    New-york-city-78181 Understanding 9/11: Why Did al Qai’da Attack America?
    This course will explore the forces that led to the 9/11 attacks and the policies...
    More from 'Social Sciences':
    Regular_bbee46b0-ec6f-4db2-bab2-e4492f89f7a9 Learning Online: Communicating and Collaborating
    Become an effective online learner and develop your online communication skills...
    Regular_f48deff3-8bab-43bb-a866-acb40e4804b1 Learning Online: Studying and Reflecting
    Get the most out of online learning by reflecting and sharing your learning...
    Regular_4753b5bb-e546-40a1-8fd6-221e766dcc06 Learning Online: Managing Your Online Identity
    Reflect on how you want to present yourself online and take positive steps towards...
    Regular_08136130-e4df-47b3-9369-4b5781257e2d Learning Online: Researching Your Project
    Improve your online research skills and your ability to critically analyse sources...
    Regular_657162be-a68b-47d5-a240-d51e86ec0098 Environmental Challenges: Scarcity and Conflict in the Natural Environment
    War and conflict can severely disrupt the governance of the environment. What...
    More from 'Coursera':
    Success-from-the-start-2 First Year Teaching (Secondary Grades) - Success from the Start
    Success with your students starts on Day 1. Learn from NTC's 25 years developing...
    New-york-city-78181 Understanding 9/11: Why Did al Qai’da Attack America?
    This course will explore the forces that led to the 9/11 attacks and the policies...
    Small-icon.hover Aboriginal Worldviews and Education
    This course will explore indigenous ways of knowing and how this knowledge can...
    Ac-logo Analytic Combinatorics
    Analytic Combinatorics teaches a calculus that enables precise quantitative...
    Talk_bubble_fin2 Accountable Talk®: Conversation that Works
    Designed for teachers and learners in every setting - in school and out, in...

    © 2013-2019