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Top 5 Free Human Rights Online Courses

Universities and international organizations around the world have created a number of online courses dedicated exclusively to human rights-related issues. The idea behind these courses is that anyone, no matter what educational background they have and regardless of where they are in the world can have access to important new knowledge.

Here are the top five human rights online courses which you can enroll today!

Please note that while it is possible to obtain free course materials for most of these courses, you might be requested to pay a small fee to be issued a certificate upon course completion.

Social Norms, Social Change I

Created jointly by University of Pennsylvania and UNICEF, this course takes students on a 4-week long journey through the concept of social norms.

The course, taught by Cristiana Bicchieri from the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Philosophy, is designed to give very practical skills. Students learn about diagnosing social norms, differentiating between them and other social constructs, creating new, beneficial norms through policy interventions, and making sure any harmful norms are removed.

The human rights-specific character of this course stems from the several lessons on violent behaviors such as child marriage and gender violence which this course offers.

Each week is dedicated to a specific broad topic or module, which will be narrowed down and followed by examples. There is a number of videos and readings that need to be completed so that the student can pass the assignments which are designed for each module.

The first half of the course deals with more theoretical concepts and learning how to measure expectations and preferences. The second half is about putting this knowledge into practice and looking at different tools policy makers can use to trigger and effect change. This material is included in a separate course called Social Norms, Social Change II.

In order to successfully complete the course, students must pass all graded assignments, which usually amount to 2-3 per week. Upon course completion, a certificate will be issued.

Although this is a course with a fee, Coursera awards financial aid to the students who cannot pay for the course tuition.

International Women’s Health and Human Rights

Stanford University offers a unique, all-encompassing course of women’s health and human rights, focusing not only on adult women but girls and infants. The course includes overviews of a range of topics, including discussing women in war and women as refugees, economic empowerment, and aging. The Women’s Health course offers examples of good practice and practice-oriented assignments which human rights practitioners can apply in their work.

This is a beginner’s course designed for undergraduate students as well as high school students. Anyone else who is interested in women’s rights and health is also free to register.

The length of the course depends on student’s pace, but it can typically be completed in 10-11 weeks, considering that there are 10 major modules. Each module deals with a broadly defined topic such as education or reproductive health, and it consists of various videos and readings. Several graded assessments are available for every module and must be passed in order to complete the course.

There are many reasons why this course is so special. First and foremost, the creators of the course made the learning materials available online for free for anyone interested. That said, you may wish to apply for Coursera’s financial aid to help you purchase the certificate, or simply choose to enroll the course without obtaining the certificate, in which case you can attend the entire course at no cost.

What’s more, the creators of the course, including Professor Anne Firth Murray who teaches it, encourage interactive discussions throughout the course, so students, who usually come from all over the world, can learn from each other.

 Children’s Human Rights – An Interdisciplinary Introduction

This fantastic course on children’s human rights is offered by the University of Geneva and taught by three different professors who work at the Center for Children’s Rights Studies.

The course deals with the concept of children’s rights from a variety of perspectives. It adopts an interdisciplinary approach that voices opinions and concerns from law, psychology, sociology, history, economy, and other sciences to present all critical issues which concern children’s rights.

Students are introduced to the history of children’s rights and the evolution of this human rights category. Of course, such knowledge is complemented by many examples from practice and discussing topics such as the role of international organizations. That said, the course also incorporates a presentation of international and regional standards of children’s rights, as well as different bodies which are meant to ensure that these rights are respected.

The knowledge participants can gain through this course is impressive and very holistic, which makes the course great for both students and professionals. Although this is a beginner’s course, more advanced students who are already familiar with some of the topics will have a chance to access additional readings each week. Those who successfully complete class assessments can request to be issued a statement of accomplishment.

Several modules are discussed over the course of 4 weeks. In addition to the issues mentioned above, the instructors will also dedicate separate modules to juvenile justice, violence against children, children’s right to participation, and global health.

Coursera’s financial aid is available for this course.

Human Rights Defenders

No other online course is entirely dedicated to the activists who continuously speak against injustice. Amnesty International offers a free course where participants learn about who human rights defenders they are, what they have achieved so far, and how they overcome struggles. The creators of the course have prepared plenty of materials which give insights into hands-on experiences by both human rights defenders and their families.

Essentially, this course is not only about honoring human rights defenders but also learning how to become one. During the course, students are taught how they can decrease some of the risks human rights defenders expose their lives to, and what their local governments can do to protect the rights of those defending the rights of others. Participants are also shown how they can take action and become vocal defenders of the inalienable human rights and freedoms.

Everyone enrolled in the course is encouraged to join discussions with other students throughout the course duration, and share personal experiences and insights from their own communities. Working together is an integral part of this course and of any successful campaign that seeks to defend human rights, which is why participants will have a chance to join a truly global human rights community.

This is the only course on the list which is available in languages other than English. Spanish, French, and Arabic speakers are also invited to enroll. The course is self-paced so you can enroll whenever is convenient. Once you start, it will take 4 weeks to complete the course. All the materials will be provided for free; however, if you wish to obtain a verified certificate, you must pay a $49 fee.

Human Rights for Open Societies

This course is inspired by the numerous threats human rights face nowadays, such as undemocratic voting and deteriorating rights of minorities. These events occur around the world and are harmful to open societies which foster freedom and equality. To join the struggle to maintain open societies and learn how to act for human rights, enroll this amazing course.

The course is offered by Utrecht University from the Netherlands and is taught by three different professors from Utrecht Law School.

The first and central topic this course deals with is the European Convention on Human Rights. Participants are introduced to the Convention as well as the European Court of Human Rights which serves to protect human rights of individuals living in 48 different states. By the end of the course, participants will be familiar with technical bits related to the work of the court and will understand how an application can be made by someone whose human rights had been violated.

Different individual rights such as freedom of expression, particularly in the context of public protest, and the prohibition of discrimination are discussed throughout the course. Essentially, this will open room for debates about certain vulnerable groups like migrants. Debates about how essential democratic governments are for open societies and the links between human rights and democracy will be essential components of the course.

This is a beginner’s course where no prior knowledge needed, although some legal background could be useful.

It takes 6 weeks to complete the course. Each week, course instructors will deal with a different broad topic which will be explained through videos and readings. In order to qualify for a certificate, participants must receive a passing score on each graded assignment.

Coursera’s financial aid is available for this course.

Join these amazing courses today and equip yourself with useful knowledge and skills!

About the author

Maja Davidovic

Maja Davidovic is a Serbian-born independent researcher and Human Rights graduate. She holds her M.A. degree from Central European University in Budapest, and had previously lived and worked in Greece, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maja mostly researches about women’s rights, child protection and transitional justice, and has been involved with organizations such as MSF and OSCE, as well grassroots initiatives. You may follow her on her newly-made Twitter profile @MajaADavidovic, where she aspires to open discussions on a variety of human rights-related issues.