International Relations Online Cross-University Courses

The following courses are available from International Relations Online, the online Master of Arts in International Relations from the American University School of International Service:

International Studies: History, Theory and Practice
As befits the complexity of the realm it investigates, international studies is a multifaceted, interdisciplinary field, characterized more by recurrent debates and disagreements than by broadly consensual knowledge. This course begins by introducing three key controversies in the field—whether international politics is inevitably the domain of coercive force, whether actors on the international stage act based on interests or on ideas, and whether the international environment is relatively immutable or is amenable to more or less deliberate efforts to change it—and then exploring how those controversies inform a variety of historical cases and contemporary issues. The focus throughout the course is on making explicit the principles and perspectives underlying different and divergent views of international relations, including the principles and perspectives brought to the course by the students themselves.

Intercultural Communication
This interdisciplinary course examines the interaction of people across cultures and considers such topics as cross-cultural communication, management and adaptation, intercultural negotiation, and how culture impacts conflict between individuals, cultures and nations. The primary goal is to provide students with concepts, knowledge and skills that will allow them to analyze and interpret the dynamics of any cross-cultural interaction or conflict. 

Global Governance
For centuries, mankind has struggled to find ways to organize international life and restrain the chaos and conflict that have so often plagued it. The increasing destructiveness of warfare and the accelerating pace of economic globalization have made that quest more urgent. But the search for structures to govern the world has always encountered forces that push in the other direction. The desire for uninhibited national sovereignty has been a consistent check on movements for global governance. As daunting have been simple coordination problems. What mission should international organizations have? Who should control them and to whom are they responsible? How should they be funded?

Today there exists a group of powerful but incomplete and often flawed institutions, including the World Bank, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the International Criminal Court, the European Union, the African Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Other less formal global governance initiatives have also emerged as important factors. Understanding the complex interactions between these initiatives and national governments and individuals is essential to understanding contemporary world politics.

Quantitative Methods for International Relations
This course provides students with an introduction to research design and research methods, with a particular focus on quantitative measurement, statistical analysis and computer use for international relations research. More specifically, this course aims to teach students how to design and execute independent, original and quantitatively oriented research on topics relevant to the study and practice of international relations.

International Economics
How do countries exchange wealth in a world with hundreds of currencies? How do we know whether one country is richer or poorer than another? Why do countries trade? What are the effects of trade? This course provides students with the tools and insights that economists have developed over the years to answer these and many other questions about trade and monetary relations among open economies. It also explores the range of policy choices and the impact of those choices on people, countries and the global economy.

Strategy and Forecasting
Strategy and Forecasting is a multidisciplinary method of problem solving. This course teaches students the theoretical and practical foundations of this craft through exploring its application to national security and strategy. The course seeks to provide students with the tools they need to deconstruct and analyze security problems and apply what they have learned over the course of their studies and professional careers to construct an array of potential solutions. To this end, the course problematizes rationality, bureaucratic interests and other sources of bias in the decision making process in order to help students evaluate alternative policy options.

Program Design, Monitoring and Evaluation
This course is designed to build and/or strengthen an individual’s knowledge, methods and skills to (1) situate evaluations within project cycles; (2) identify organizational and project “hot spots” for decreased efficiency and effectiveness; (3) design, implement and analyze comprehensive program and project evaluations for domestic and international NGOs, either as internal or external evaluators; and (4) train others, including nonprofessional indigenous populations, in evaluation methods, tools and implementation processes.

Politics of Global Development
Politics of Global Development offers examination into the field of international development. The course focuses on the history, theory, and current approaches toward alleviating poverty and global inequality, and focuses especially on the impacts of development strategies on the environment and on the most vulnerable members of society. This course emphasizes critical analysis of the central assumptions and power relations that have influenced the field, and resulting discourses, policies, programs, and political arrangements. In the course, we explore what development means, how to measure it, and how to understand attempts to balance between economic, ecological, and equity concerns. The course engages the key propositions that emerge in contemporary international development debates, and offers frameworks for evaluating theories, interventions, and policies. The course offers a foundation for uncovering and assessing social structures, institutions, inequalities, and development policies as theories meet practice. Students will be able to:

  • Define and understand central concepts of international development, including measurement of development, actors, theoretical approaches, and the history and trajectory of the field
  • Gain greater ability to apply knowledge and analysis to specific development contexts and cases in order to evaluate the strengths and limitations of theoretical approaches, programs, and projects
  • Evaluate the merits of different approaches to international development on the basis of values at stake, including ethical, political, social, environmental, and economic ramifications
  • Foster development of a skill set in the areas of theory, critical analysis, and methodology that is suitable for thinking, researching, and writing about development and inequality

Global Politics of the Environment
Global environmental dangers are among the most profound challenges facing humanity. They currently undermine the quality of life for many and threaten, in the extreme, to compromise the fundamental, organic infrastructure that supports all life on earth. This course introduces students to the sociopolitical dynamics of global environmental affairs. It explores the causes of environmental harm and avenues of effective response. Furthermore, it examines a number of key environmental challenges including species extinction, food and agriculture and climate change. Its overall aim is to familiarize course participants with the role power plays in the emergence of environmental problems and how power in turn can be wielded in the service of sustainability. Those who participate fully in this course should by its end:

  • Have a working understanding of the causes and implications of a range of global environmental challenges, and of different approaches to their resolution
  • Comprehend the role of the state system, global political economy and civil society in exacerbating and/or mitigating environmental problems
  • Articulate the difference in perspectives of developed and less-developed countries and understand tensions between conservation and development
  • Appreciate the ethical dimensions of the environmental problematique
  • Differentiate among the perspectives and approaches of key social scientific traditions as they apply to environmental studies

Global Health Politics
Beginning with an overview of the most significant health and disease issues facing the global community—including HIV, TB, malnutrition, SARS and avian flu, endemic diseases like malaria, and the growth of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer—this course will relate these nontraditional challenges to current theories and research in international relations. The course addresses a number of different issues in international relations and affairs, primarily from the perspective of how they interact with global and international public health.

Topics covered will include the following:

  • The idea of human security and address whether health challenges pose similar threats to traditional security topics.
  • It will also consider the set of international organizations and institutions that have arisen to address epidemic diseases, questioning how these differ or resemble other IOs.
  • Political economy and organizational issues pertaining to health, including intellectual property, domestic institutions and macroeconomic effects.
  • Finally, the course will use contemporary political and social science methods, as well as research on these issues, to stimulate student research and contributions.

Introduction to Economic Theory
Introduction to fundamental principles of modern economic theory, including the major analytical tools of price and income theory. Includes foundational concepts of both microeconomics and macroeconomics.