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8 Free Online Courses on Social Activism and the Media

Discover some of the less boring courses offering free insights into societal development and social change.

People engage in political protests with the hashtag:  #BlackLivesMatter #JeSuisCharlie #MeToo #Resist #LoveWins 

The social media is where we see people sharing and responding to messages that resonate the most with their interest and passion. Every 60 seconds 2.4 million snaps are created, 973,000 users log in to Facebook, 481 tweets are sent, over 174,000 users scroll through Instagram, and at least 38 million messages pass through WhatsApp. We're pretty used to all the buzzings, the dings, the ringings and the chimes of the daily notifications by now. 

The social movement of the information age is not just giving voice to the underrepresented groups. New exciting channels make it easier to get involved in things that are meaningful to us. Our societal development is also a branding issue that need to adhere to the privacy policies and are regulated in the terms of our social media use. 

A top excuse people use for not engaging in societal development (other than lack of time and lack of interest) is that our technology use has isolated us from our new realties. So let's not let ourselves get lost in the numbers. Instead, let's internalize these social changes that are happening in our society with the following free online courses to find out how our own collective powers, or lack thereof, have made them happen.

1. How Fearless Women Are Changing the World

Why are so many women becoming politically active? Psychology of Political Activism: Women Changing the World focuses on six of the psychological theories that explain the individual motivation for social change, applying them on a group of North American women activist. The course, presented by the Smith College, is no longer actively offered, but you can still access all the readings, lectures, and study materials from the edX archive. Throughout the course, you'll listen to the voices of some women activists – Gloria Steinem, Ginny Apuzzo, Katsi Cook, and a host of featured activists. Each week there'll be a quiz you can work on to check on your understanding and papers you can work on. 

2. The Missing Link Between Art and Activism

Politics, Art, and Resistance is offered by the University of Kent on Future Learn online learning platform. The term "resistance" might sound familiar, but what does it really mean to you and to art practices? The course explores the practices of resistance in relation to creative practices, while inviting you to reflect on the role of the artist and the Utopian idea of life as a work of art.  The course is free, but you are given a chance to upgrade and receive your printed certificate by mail. 

3. Digital Technology & Social Change

Digital Technology and Social Change explores the interesting relationship between digital technology and social change. The course’s objectives include learning the two concepts and apply them to real-world examples of your choice and developing a basic appreciation of the complexities of human development. You’ll learn about various topics, including social evolution, the digital age, and digitalization. Although no longer actively offered, you’ll have access the course materials from Canvas, including video links and links to reading materials. 

4. the Social and Cultural Aspects of 'Networked Life'

Networked Cultures guides you in discussing the major themes in the study of network cultures and then position them within broader cultural conversations. Within the course, expect to learn how to read and evaluate a full academic monograph—a work of writing specializing on a single subject or an aspect of a scholarly subject. You're recommended to watch a documentary about a journalist's meeting with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, "Citizenfour (2014)," and "We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists (2012)". 

The course is available through the MIT Open Courseware, so there won’t be any seminar discussions and lectures to attend. If you’re not sure how you'd go about the open course material, you might want to read this article on how to get started on your own. The reading materials include books on hacktivism, platform politics, social media and the hack crash, and guides—for example on how to read.

5. The Media and Mobilization

Taught as a weekly seminar course in 2014, Networked Social Movements: Media and Mobilization is now available from the MIT Open Courseware. The course aims to understand the plural relationship between social movements and the media system. You'll identify and articulate the major shifts in research approaches to media and mobilization. Since only an archived version is accessible through the Courseware, you won't be required to apply some of the learning tools and activities, such as attending a protest event and documenting media practices, co-facilitating a seminar discussion, or interviewing a social media participant. 

But if you're inspired, you can still do something meaningful with the suggested tools and activities—perhaps an online seminar discussion. Instead of attending an event, go through online documentations about a protest event. You'll find plenty of inspiration from the course's blog

6. How Musicians Respond to the Changing World

When listening to music, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you might find that they reflect the changes happening in the real world. Is this also the case with classical musicians? Music and Social Action tries to answer some of the questions related to how musicians respond to the condition of the world. 

You'll find out how classical music can effect social change and how music in general has made a positive impact around the world. The course even goes deeper into the teaching or the arts—how educators and philosophers have connected the arts with the daily contemporary life. The course is prepared by the University of Yale and is accessible from the Coursera platform, with a certificate option. 

7. Issues Behind the Popular Music of the World

Popular Musics of the World identifies the issues behind popular music - the type of music created for and transmitted by mass media. The course is accessible from the archived MIT Open Courseware, and you will find in your syllabus a comprehensive list of reading materials. These are the specific issues you'll consider: musical change, syncretism, Westernization, globalization, the impact of recording industries, and the post-colonial era. Focusing on Afro-pop, reggae, bhangra, rave, and global hip-hop, your topics include protest music, music as a tool for humanitarian aid, rap and hip-hop in Japan, and how music creates identity. 

8. Social Entrepreneurship

This time we're going into the organizational structure of a changemaker in Social Entrepreneurship, a free learning path from Springboard. The course identifies today's social entrepreneurship as a global movement comprising of individuals and organizations. The ideas of innovative social change can be found in the public, private, or non-profit sectors. 

In the course you'll be able to understand what a social problem is and how to design a solution, develop a social enterprise business plan and find out how to finance your social ventures. The course is designed to be complete in about 17 hours, but you're free to work on your own pace. 

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