Disclosure: Human Rights Careers may be compensated by course providers.

40 Top-Rated Social Issues Courses to Study in 2024

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the 21st century, the significance of understanding and addressing pressing social issues cannot be overstated. To navigate this complex terrain, we have curated a list of 40 courses that delve into crucial topics shaping the world in 2024. From climate change to migration, each course offers comprehensive insights, empowering learners to contribute meaningfully to positive societal change.

#1 Climate Change

The impacts of climate change are far-reaching. They affect our health, livelihoods, economic systems, and overall well-being. Vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected, disease patterns are altered, people are forced to leave uninhabitable areas, food shortages are on the rise and conflicts erupt. Those most affected contribute the least to climate change. With 2023 being the hottest year on record, 2024 could become even worse. The need for bold and fast collective action is evident. The courses below look at different dimensions of climate change from the science behind it to the ways to take action.

Title Rating Access
What is Climate Change? 4.8 Link
Climate Solutions 4.8 Link
Act on Climate 4.8 Link
AI and Climate Change 4.8 Link
From Climate Science to Action 4.7 Link
Climate Change and Human Rights 4.6 Link

#2 Racism

Racism involves the systemic discrimination, prejudice, and unequal treatment of individuals or groups based on their race or ethnicity within society. It extends beyond individual attitudes and encompasses institutional and structural practices that perpetuate inequality.  Examples include biased hiring practices, discriminatory housing policies, laws that favor one group over the other. According to a survey with people of African descent that was conducted by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency , 45% of respondents experienced racism in the past 5 years. People who are victims of racism often experience limited access to social, economic, and political opportunities. Racism is bad for every society and it often leads to unjust arrests, harassment and violence. The courses below explore different aspects of racism, from its history and root causes, to identifying racism and ways to take action against it.

Title Rating Access
Addressing Racial Health Inequity in Healthcare 4.8 Link
Anti-Racism Specialization 4.7 Link
Black Lives Matter 4.5 Link
Structural Racism: Causes of Health Inequities in the U.S. N/A Link

#3 Poverty 

Poverty is a social issue that significantly affects individuals, families, and communities. It often arises from systemic and structural factors within society and is exacerbated by global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, wars and climate change. Poverty often has severe impacts on all areas of life including access to education, healthcare, employment and housing. According to estimates by the UN, 670 million people are facing extreme poverty today. The courses below look at different aspects of poverty in a national, regional and international context. You will learn about the root causes and key factors, hardships people living in poverty are experiencing, and the tools and strategies you can use to take action.

Title Rating Access
Poverty & Population: How Demographics Shape Policy 4.8 Link
The Age of Sustainable Development 4.7 Link
The Sustainable Development Goals 4.8 Link

#4 Healthcare

The way healthcare is organized, funded, and distributed within a society has profound implications for the overall health of its population. Marginalized communities often experience healthcare disparities and face barriers to accessing essential medical care. According to the World Health Organization, half of the world lacks access to essential health services. Disadvantaged neighborhoods lack adequate healthcare infrastructure. High healthcare costs exacerbate poverty. The courses below look at healthcare issues from a variety of perspectives including health inequalities and healthcare advocacy.

Title Rating Access
International Women’s Health and Human Rights 4.9 Link
Foundations of Health Equity Research 4.8 Link
Social Determinants of Health 4.7 Link
Structural Racism: Causes of Health Inequities in the U.S. N/A Link

#5 Migration / Refugee Rights

According to UNHCR, the global refugee population reached 36.4 million at mid-2023, an increase of 3 per cent from the end of 2022. Moreover, 117 million people were forcibly displaced or stateless in 2023. 52% of all refugees originated from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine. Addressing the social aspects of migration involves providing support for refugees and displaced populations, addressing their basic needs, and promoting social stability. In their new homes, migrants often face discrimination, xenophobia, and unequal treatment, requiring efforts to address underlying social prejudices. The courses below tackle various aspects of migration, from global facts and figures to specific case studies.

Title Rating Access
Internal Displacement, Conflict and Protection 4.9 Link
Refugees in the 21st century 4.8 Link
Public Health in Humanitarian Crises 4.8 Link
International Humanitarian Law in Theory and Practice 4.8 Link
International migrations: a global issue 4.7 Link

#6 Child Rights

Child rights revolve around the recognition and protection of the fundamental rights and well-being of children within a society. Ensuring the rights of children is not only a moral imperative but also crucial for building a just, equitable, and sustainable society. More than 1 billion children are estimated to experience physical, sexual or emotional violence every year. In places where human rights are neglected or oppressed, children often suffer the most. They are especially vulnerable to hazards during times of crises. The courses below are free to audit, you can choose to obtain a verified certificate for an extra fee.

Title Rating Access
Children’s Human Rights – An Interdisciplinary Introduction 4.7 Link
Resilience in Children Exposed to Trauma, Disaster and War 4.7 Link

#7 Gender Equality

Gender equality seeks to eliminate discrimination, biases, and stereotypes. It seeks to promote fairness and equal opportunities for everyone. Despite more efforts in recent years, many inequalities persist. In fact, progress has been marginal since 2015. Women are still getting paid less than men for the same work, they are frequently subjected to intimate partner violence and are deprived of their bodily autonomy. The first step to change is education. Below are several courses that focus on a broad or more specific aspect of gender equality and the ways how we can create change.

Title Rating Access
Gender Analytics: Gender Equity through Inclusive Design 4.9 Link
International Women’s Health and Human Rights 4.9 Link
Diversity and Inclusion in Education 4.8 Link
Queering Identities: LGBTQ+ Sexuality and Gender Identity 4.8 Link
Queering the Schoolhouse: LGBTQ+ Inclusion for Educators 4.7 Link

#8 Social Justice

Social justice refers to the fair and just distribution of resources, opportunities, and privileges within a society. It involves recognizing and addressing the inequalities and injustices that exist based on factors such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability, and other characteristics. The goal of social justice is to create a society where all individuals have equal access to opportunities, rights, and resources. Social justice is multifaceted and intersectional. Because of that, the courses below look at how social justice connects with issues such as feminism, communities, love and energy.

Title Rating Access
Feminism and Social Justice 4.8 Link
Community Organizing for Social Justice 4.8 Link
Love as a Force of Social Justice 4.7 Link
Advocating for Social Justice and Change 4.8 Link
Energy Justice: Fostering More Equitable Energy Futures 4.8 Link

#9 Mental Health 

Mental Health has profound implications for individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. According to the NHS, in 2023, about 1 in 5 children and young people aged 8 to 25 years had a probable mental disorder. Covid-19 and its consequences further exacerbated the situation. Learning more about mental health, its signs and symptoms, is crucial to address it. The courses below look at different aspects of mental health from well-being and resilience, to mindfulness and positive thinking.

Title Rating Access
The Science of Well-Being 4.9 Link
Positive Psychology: Resilience Skills 4.9 Link
Mindfulness and Well-being 4.8 Link
The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness 4.7 Link

#10 Clean Water

We all depend on clean water. Without it we get severely ill or die. With the effects of climate change, water is getting more scarce and less available in many regions of the world. According to World Vision more than 770 million people lack access to safe water. Access alone isn’t enough. Women and girls spend 200 million hours per day carrying water. Moreover, almost 500 million people are forced to defecate in the open and 1.69 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation. The courses below look at various aspects of water access, laws and distribution, from urban water systems to current environmental policies.

Title Rating Access
International Water Law 4.6 Link
Sustainable Urban Water Systems 4.9 Link
Climate Change and Water in Mountains 4.7 Link
Environmental Law and Policy 4.8 Link

Note: If you would like to obtain a certificate in more than one course, you might want want to consider a Coursera plus subscription. Make sure the courses you want to take are included. You can check here. As of January 2024 the subscription is available at a discount.

About the author

Robert Fellner

Robert is founder of Human Rights Careers (HRC). A platform with the aim to support human rights students, alumni, graduates and professionals in pursuing and developing their career in human rights. Prior to launching HRC, Robert worked as Global Human Rights EdTech Manager at Amnesty International in London and as consultant for international human rights organizations globally. During 2011 and 2012, Robert worked as lecturer at Ain Shams university in Egypt. Robert has a masters in literature and human rights.