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5 Public Policy Courses You Can Audit for Free

Public policy refers to a collection of regulations and laws that governments use to address citizens’ needs and maintain order. There’s a variety of public policy categories, such as healthcare, the environment, criminal justice, education, and more. Essentially, policies are a form of problem-solving. Questions about who makes the decisions, who benefits from policies, and how they work are constants, making public policy a complicated, often contentious field. It’s also a very rewarding field because public policy is an essential part of improving society. Here are five public policy courses you can audit for free:

Public Policy Challenges of the 21st Century

Length: About 9 weeks (12 hours total)
Provided by: The University of Virginia

In this course, students will learn about the challenges the United States and international policymakers deal with. It begins with the global public policy challenges facing the next generation and moves through the role of media; healthcare systems and insurance markets; federalism and state governors; war powers; and more. Students will gain a deeper knowledge of how private interests, NGOs, and governmental policymakers advance policy issues. By the course’s end, students will understand policy challenges and how policies are adopted today.

The course stretches over nine weeks and takes about 12 hours to complete. You should only need to spend about 1-2 hours on study each week. Deadlines are flexible. This is a beginner course, but it’s helpful if students have a basic knowledge of democratic processes and governing institutions.

U.S. Public Policy: Social, Economic, and Foreign Policies

Length: About 6 weeks (2-4 hours per week)
Provided by: HarvardX

This course guides students through American social, economic, and foreign public policy, using specific examples like climate change and the 2008 recession to show how policy affects society. Other topics explored include the politics and structure of the tax system, the American fiscal and monetary policies, and foreign policy. By the course’s end, you’ll also have an understanding of how religion and politics keep causing conflict and how America’s welfare policies differ from other Western societies.

This course is divided into six weeks with about 2-4 hours of work required each week. It’s a self-paced course, but with the audit track, your access to the course materials expires at a certain point.

Political Governance and Public Policy in Russia

Length: About 6 weeks (13 hours total)
Provided by: Saint Petersburg State University

What’s the political structure in modern Russia? This course explores general information on the Russian political system and public policy, as well as the challenges and future of political development in Russia. There are three main sections in the course: the political system and regime, the public policy process, and challenges/directions of economic and social policy. It’s a great choice for students interested in Russian policy and political development.

With about 2 hours of work per week, students can complete this beginner course in six weeks. Deadlines are flexible.

Tools for Academic Engagement in Public Policy

Length: About 3 weeks (1-3 hours per week)
Provided by: MITx

Engineers and scientists often want to participate in public policy or engage with policymakers, but they don’t receive the necessary training. This course offers an introduction to policy-making and how to engage with the policy community. Students will learn the basics and how to identify important policy stakeholders. You’ll also learn different engagement strategies, how to develop a pitch, and how to build relationships with policymakers.

No prerequisites are required for this introductory course. There are five sections divided over 3 weeks or so. You can expect to complete the course in that time with 1-3 hours of work per week. With the free audit track, keep in mind that access to the course is time-limited.

Quality of Life Studies and Public Policy

Length: 4 weeks (2 hours per week)
Provided by: Universidad de Palermo

In this course, students will examine the relationship between public policy and quality of life. What are social citizenship and social participation? What are public policies and who is involved? Students will learn the essentials of quality of life, public policies, social actors, and more. By the end, you’ll be able to identify the subjective/micro and objective/macro domains in quality of life studies, as well as the processes of social citizenship and the connection between quality of life and satisfaction with democracy.

“Quality of Life Studies and Public Policy” is a great choice for anyone interested in the topic, including university students and working professionals. With the free audit track, you’ll have access to the course for 6 weeks. It should take about 4 weeks if you commit to 2 hours of study each week.

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About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.