Explosions and stabbings over the weekend in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota sent millions of Internet users searching for headlines and articles with the hope of understanding what may be afoot with the United States’ internal security. People wanting to look beyond the headlines and gain a deeper understanding of terrorism may want to enroll in some online college classes offered through Coursera, an online education platform that partners with universities throughout the world for affordable schooling.

Theory and practice

Beginning Sept. 19 is “Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: Comparing Theory and Practice.” Offered through the Universiteit Leiden, the eight-week course offers a beginner’s look at the history of terrorism research, the evolution of methods used in studying terrorism, and issues making it difficult to study many terrorist groups in detail.

The course includes quizzes and discussion forums. The classes may be audited for free, or students may sign up for a certified certificate for $49. The university is located in the Netherlands.

Global Terrorism Database

On Sept. 26, the University of Maryland at College Park offers “Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat.” The six-week course is taught by three instructors affiliated with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. The consortium is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence.Students will have access to the university’s Global Terrorism Database, which it claims is the largest database of terrorist activity in the world.

Responding to 9/11

Coming on an unspecified date in September is Duke University’s “Responding to 9/11: Counterterrorism Policy in the 21st Century.” The instructor is David Schanzer, an associate professor at Sanford School of Public Policy. Among the topics explored by the classes are controversies surrounding the ethics, legality and effectiveness of anti-terrorism efforts.

Iraq and Syria trials

On Oct. 3, the University of Maryland at College Park will offer “Introduction to Criminal International Law.” The instructor is Michael Scharf, who helped train prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys at the Iraqi High Tribunal, which placed Saddam Hussein on trial. He also helped in tribunals in Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Syria and Sierra Leone.

He offers an inside look at how international tribunals work, defense tactics and an overview of other war and terrorism-related trials.

Attacks on heritage sites

In November, the Universiteit Leiden returns with a look at “Heritage under Threat.” The course will offer a general look at issues involving attacks on people’s heritages, with specific looks at terrorist destruction of heritage sites. The course is aided by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Educational Organization.

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