POLSC312: International Organizations

Course Syllabus for "POLSC312: International Organizations"

Please note: this legacy course does not offer a certificate and may contain broken links and outdated information. Although archived, it is open for learning without registration or enrollment. Please consider contributing updates to this course on GitHub (you can also adopt, adapt, and distribute this course under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license). To find fully-supported, current courses, visit our Learn site.

This course will provide you with a basic understanding of two core concepts in International Relations and, more generally, Political Science: international governance and international government.  Governance refers to the processes of decision-making, while government is the formal institutions associated with those processes. These two dynamics are interdependent; it is necessary to study both to fully understand this subfield of international relations. Thus, this course will serve as the basis for further studies in the International Relations field within the Political Science major; it also serves as a companion course or “alter-ego” for the International Law course. You will begin studying the fundamental issues of international organization by exploring some conceptual frameworks pertaining to governance dynamics.  This will be followed by investigating the three primary ways in which the participants in global affairs, both state and non-state actors, organize themselves: intergovernmental, nongovernmental and transnational organizations.  The United Nations will be given special attention due to the truly global scope of its activities and impact.  Your examination of the formal institutions will include questions pertaining to their structures, functions, activities and relevance for global events and issues.  Throughout your studies you will compare and contrast political/security, social/humanitarian and economic organizations; global and regional organizations and, finally, single and multipurpose organizations. By the end of the course, you will have a firm understanding of the interplay between international governance and government and how they shape international relations.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Define and correctly use the core vocabulary and concepts relevant for international organizations and global governance.
  • Discuss various theories of international governance as they pertain to regional and global contexts.
  • Identify and describe the major intergovernmental, non-governmental and transnational organizations that are participants in global relations.
  • Describe and discuss international regimes distinct from international organizations.
  • Compare and contrast various IGOs, NGOs and transnational organizations with respect to their structures, functions and activities.
  • Discuss the United Nations’ effectiveness with respect to addressing global issues such as armed conflict, human rights and environmental crises.
  • Evaluate the conceptual material in light of global realities through the exploration of case studies.

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 completed the following courses from the Political Science Discipline “Core Program: POLSC101 and POLSC211

Course Information

Welcome to POLSC312.  Below please find general information on this course and its requirements.
Course Designers: Marchéta Wright
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: This course is designed in a somewhat modular manner.  Each unit, while being discrete, nonetheless builds upon previous material.  Therefore, at times you will need to refer back to previous units as you progress through the material.  As an advanced level undergraduate course, POLSC312 entails comparative analysis of the diverse organizations and theoretical concepts that are its foundations.  Political Science in general and International Relations in particular, relies on the nexus of political, economic, social, and cultural dynamics for a full, rigorous understanding of world affairs.  You will also need to complete the Final Exam.

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all of the resources in each unit.
The successful completion of this course requires that you 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: In general, this course should take approximately 104 hours to complete.  However, please keep in mind that these are rough estimates.  The expectation is that each person will work at her/his own pace.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  Thus, the time advisories are meant as general guidelines, not ‘hard and fast’ rules for completing each unit.  It may be helpful to review the time advisories for a unit, subunit or reading prior to beginning that section; this will enable you to set realistic goals and manage your time in an effective, efficient manner.  For example, Unit 1 should take 3.5 hours to complete and Unit 2 should take 8 hours to complete.  Perhaps you can sit down with a calendar and decide to complete Unit 1 (a total of 3.5 hours) on Monday; subunit 2.2 (a total of 4 hours) on Tuesday; subunit 2.3 (a total of 4 hours) on Wednesday; etc.

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