POLSC211: Introduction to International Relations

Course Syllabus for "POLSC211: Introduction to International Relations"

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The purpose of this course is to provide you with a basic understanding of foreign affairs and introduce you to the fundamental principles of international relations within the political science framework. We will examine the theories of realism and liberalism as they are understood in world politics. These theories will serve as the foundation for more advanced study in the International Relations field of the Political Science major, and will help you develop the critical thinking skills you need in order to analyze conflicts between states. We will also explore issues that relate to the politics of global welfare, such as war, world poverty, disease, trade policy, environmental concerns, human rights, and terrorism. You will learn about the ethics of war, the global distribution of wealth, the concept of the balance of power and its relationship to the causes of war, and what happens in the international system when the balance of power collapses. At the end of this course, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the basic principles and concepts of International Relations, as well as the analytical ability to examine the global political system.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • discuss and explain the various analytical and theoretical positions used in the subfield of international relations to explain world politics;
  • delineate the historical development of interstate relations and the place of the nation state in that development;
  • describe specific issues that have relevance to the study of interstate relations, national security, war, economic integration, trade, and so forth;
  • describe the differences between national and transnational actors in the international arena, both public and private;
  • distinguish between the three levels of analysis of the international system: individual, domestic, and global;
  • discuss the role of national power and diplomacy in international relations;
  • discuss the nature and development of international organizations;
  • identify and discuss major issues associated with international law and morality;
  • identify and discuss major issues of the international economy;
  • identify and discuss major issues related to human rights;
  • identify and discuss global environmental issues; and
  • discuss the economic relationship between the North and South.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:
√    have access to a computer;
√    have continuous broadband Internet access;
√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);
√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;
√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);
√    be competent in the English language;
√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed POLSC101.

Course Information

Welcome to Introduction to International Relations. Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements.

Course Designers: Theresa Leigh-Nguyen and Dana Schueneman

Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology: Professor Terrence Casey’s Lecture Notes
  • iTunes U: American University: Professor Patrick Jackson’s Lectures
  • Princeton University: Professor Robert Keohane’s Publications 
  • University of California, Berkeley: Harry Kreisler’s Conversations with History
  • Princeton University: Professor Andrew Moravcsik’s Publications

Requirements for Completion: In order to compete this course successfully, you will need to read all of the materials, gleaning the important ideas and taking notes. Use the course learning outcomes below and the learning outcomes below each unit introduction to help you look for important material. You will also need to complete:

  • The Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. In order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all of the course materials.

In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: Completing this course should take you approximately 133 hours. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 10 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 and half of subunit 1.2 (about 3 hours) on Monday night; the remainder of subunit 1.2 (about 2 hours) on Tuesday night; subunit 1.3 and half of subunit 1.4 (about 3 hours) on Wednesday night; etc.

Tips/Suggestions: Use the learning outcomes, which are listed under each unit introduction, to help you take notes and look for important information. Questions on the Final Exam will be based on general ideas rather than specifics. It will be useful to use these notes as a study guide in preparation for your Final Exam. 

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.