2017 ICNC-Rutgers Online Course Assessment
ICNC offered a moderated online course: “People Power – The Study of Strategic Nonviolent Resistance” in partnership with the International Institute for Peace at Rutgers University Graduate School, which took place from September 25 to November 10, 2017. This was the fifth year that ICNC has run this course.
Read more about the 2017 course and assessments below.
Applications, admission and course participants
In 2017, ICNC received 182 applications for the People Power online course. The quality of applications was high and it took three rounds of reviews to select the 64 participants who were invited to take part in the online course.
Among those 64 accepted applicants there were 36 females, 27 males & 1 two-spirit from 30 countries. Most of them were mid-level professionals, a number of them were experienced civic organizers and activists. A handful had journalism experience, or were NGO executives. Many of them engaged in academic work, usually in conjunction with other activities such as organizing.
The surveys conducted during the orientation webinars before the course began showed that the participants wanted to gain practical knowledge on how to organize civil resistance campaigns more effectively, as well as learning about general dynamics, concepts and cases of civil resistance. The participants also wanted to share their own on-the-ground experience with other learners.
A new feature this year was the interactive group work that participants engaged in. Participants completed this work during Modules 2, 4, & 6. Their work consisted of answering discussion questions, holding video conferences, and developing a summary/statement regarding the content in each respective module.
The course also included two exclusive webinars. The first webinar, “Creative Strategies for Civic Mobilization” was with Ivan Marovic and included time for course participants to ask questions and have a discussion on the webinar’s content. The second webinar, “Armed Flanks & Civil Resistance” was with Dr. Kurt Schock and also included a time for questions and discussion.
Forum discussions were a key component of the course, with 341 discussion posts in Module 2, 373 discussion posts in Module 3, 298 discussion posts in Module 4, 302 discussion posts in Module 5, and 200 in Module 6.
For the second year, ICNC had Academic Advisers who moderated the various discussion forums, adding an important value to the overall educational experience and a recognition to the course standing. The course moderators included: Dr. Erica Chenoweth, Dr. Kurt Schock, Dr. Jason MacLeod, Dr. Mary King, Dr. Stephen Zunes, Dr. Veronique Dudouet, Dr. Maciej Bartkowski, Dr. Steve Chase, Azaz Elshami and Amber French.
Course instructors provided summaries of the forum discussions in a particular module, highlighting key points made, debates taking place and core information that was shared.
Welcome and Introductions
In the welcome module, we laid out the objectives of the course. We discussed course activities, including forum posts, recorded webinars, readings, videos, webinar meetings and online discussions. We then introduced the participants and course organizers and moderators. We provided online learning tips to help participants make the most of the online learning experience. Finally, we introduced participants to the People Power Game: A Strategic Game About Civil Resistance, a strategic video simulation that participants play throughout the course, during which the player takes on the role of a strategic planner for a nonviolent movement.
Module 2. Foundation of Civil Resistance
In this session we laid the theoretical groundwork out of which this field has grown, digging into both data and the big picture. Virtually every day, somewhere in the world, there are people engaging in civil resistance. But what do we mean by this term? Do we all understand it the same way? How is civil resistance defined and spoken about in participants’ towns, communities, regions or countries? In this session we clarified the concept of civil resistance, looking into power that underlies people’s actions and considering the track record of civil resistance over the past 110 years, including the reasons behind its effectiveness. This module aimed to equip participants with data to share with others in their networks about the effectiveness of civil resistance, and to enable them to articulate what civil resistance is in a clear and concise manner.
Module 2 Group Work. Foundations of Civil Resistance
For the first time, course participants were given group work as part of the online course. There were eight groups total that participants were in. In Module 2, participants held group discussions and a video conference to discuss civil resistance’s portrayal in the media. Following these discussions, each group drafted a summary of their conversations and shared it with the other groups.
Module 3. Emergence of Civil Resistance, Conditions and Skills
In this session, we looked at the emergence of civil resistance, the role and impact of conditions, and the importance of skills. We discussed the commonly-held view that certain conditions need to be in place for civil resistance to succeed. We looked at how skills of a movement actually stack up against the conditions civil resistance faces in a particular struggle context and what makes nonviolent actions effective in an environment that inhibits civil resistance. This session explored how civil resistance emerges often despite unfavorable conditions, considered various social developments within groups that make them more likely to rise up, and reflected on the importance of conditions in analyzing emergence and trajectories of civil resistance struggles. This module aimed to help participants understand the interplay between skills and conditions, and how skills can help overcome adversarial conditions
Module 4. Strategies and Tactics of Civil Resistance
In this session, participants looked at what strategy in civil resistance is, and how it relates to tactics. We examined examples of different tactics, including cultural resistance tactics, and discuss tactical innovation, including strategic sequencing of tactics that enhance the effectiveness of nonviolent methods and campaigns. Finally, we explored different conflict analysis tools that help movements systematically assess and analyze the battlefield in which they are engaging nonviolently.
Module 4 Group Work. Strategies and Tactics of Civil Resistance
Participants continued their group work in Module 4. They held an online discussion and video conference to discuss Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of civil resistance. After doing so, they created a group summary and shared their conversations with other groups.
Module 5. Repression and Backfire, Defections, Violent Flank
In this session, we started with a discussion about repressive contexts in which nonviolent resistance movements take place, and the phenomenon of backfire when violence against unarmed activists boomerangs back to those who carried out the repression. We explored how civil resistance movements can optimize the impact of backfire and use it to their advantage. How does the side that uses repression aim to hinder potential backfire? We then discussed defections that often, though not always, occur as a result of the backfire effect. This module focused on understanding defections from one group — security forces — and explores conditions under which the defections might happen. It also explored how regimes often try to mitigate the likelihood of security defections, and strategies that movements might deploy to increase chances of loyalty shifts among security forces. The last topic that this module explored was that of violent flanks. We looked at how the presence of a violent group — either part of a larger nonviolent movement or existing separately from it (e.g. armed insurgency) — impacts the dynamics and effectiveness of nonviolent struggle overall.
Module 6. New Frontiers in Civil Resistance
This module explored a variety of topics in the study of civil resistance, including: people power to fight corruption and impunity, civil resistance in war-torn environments, women and nonviolent resistance, democratization and civil resistance, and civil resistance and corporate governance. These (and other) topics were considered new frontiers in the quickly evolving field of civil resistance studies. They are often seen as either under-researched or only now gaining significance in the analysis of nonviolent conflict. First, we took an in-depth look at how anti-corruption campaigns work. Then we explored how people organize nonviolently in extremely violent environments, and discussed the role of women and gender in nonviolent movements. We also examined the long-term impact of civil resistance on democratization and democratic transitions and, finally, looked at how civil resistance can challenge effectively unlawful or unjust corporate behavior.
Module 6 Group Work. New Frontiers in Civil Resistance
The groups in this module held online discussions and video conferences to discuss anti-corruption campaigns. Their final group assignment was to develop a strategy for an anti-corruption campaign and share it with the rest of the groups.
Module 7. Final Course Evaluation & Learning Gains Survey
In the last two days of this online course we solicited participants’ views about the course and their learning experience. We asked about their learning progress, overall educational experience, assessment of the course content, interactions in the forums, and their personal engagement during the six-week period. This feedback has allowed us to improve our future online courses and make our teaching pedagogy on civil resistance more effective and more impactful on all learners involved.
Learning gains survey results
Included below are the graphed responses to selected questions from the learning gains survey (conducted among the same group of participants that took both surveys) that demonstrate the extent of the knowledge improvements that is assessed based on participants’ knowledge base prior to taking the course and after they completed it.
- On a scale of 1-5, please select the number that best represents your current knowledge of civil resistance or nonviolent movements.
- On a scale of 1-5, identify your comfort level in speaking to others about civil resistance or nonviolent movements
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view that revolutions against brutal regimes can succeed ONLY if revolutionaries retain the option to use violent means.
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view that protests, marches, and demonstrations are the ONLY civil resistance methods.
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view on how successful you think civil resistance campaigns against repressive states have been in the past.
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view that movements that face repression must fail.
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view that in order to be successful nonviolent movements must receive support from external actors, have access to the Internet, or face a regime that is weak and divided.
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view about how important you think strategic planning is in a successful civil resistance movement.
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view about how important you think participation is in a successful civil resistance movement.
- On a scale of 1-5, select the number that best represents your view about how important you think nonviolent discipline is in a successful civil resistance movement.
- This was a short answer question and is not included in this report.
- Do you think that nonviolent civil resistance is more effective than violent resistance against repressive regimes?
- How do you envision applying the knowledge that you gain from this course?
- More than 79% of participants who completed the post-seminar survey selected 4 or 5 in comparison to 23.7% of participants who selected 4 or 5 in the pre-seminar survey. This reflects a 55.3% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 31.6% of pre-seminar respondents selected 2, whereas none of the post-seminar respondents selected 2, showing a decrease in misconstrued knowledge about civil resistance.
- 84.2% of participants who completed the post-seminar learning gains survey chose 4 or 5 in comparison to only 31.6% of participants who selected 4 or 5 in the pre-seminar learning gains survey. This reflects a 52.6% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 29% of pre-seminar respondents selected 1 or 2 whereas none of the post-seminar respondents selected 1 or 2, showing a decrease in misconstrued knowledge about civil resistance.
- 100% of participants who completed the post-seminar survey selected 4 or 5 as compared to 81.6% in the pre-seminar survey. This shows a nearly 20% increase in civil resistance knowledge
- 18.4% of pre-seminar respondents selected 1, 2, or 3, whereas none of the post-seminar respondents selected 1, 2, or 3, showing a decrease in misconceptions about civil resistance.
- 97.4% of participants who completed the post-seminar selected 4 or 5, as compared to 69.8% in the pre-seminar survey. This reflects a 28% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 94.7% of participants who completed the post-seminar survey selected 4 or 5, as compared to 55.3% in the pre-seminar survey, reflecting a 39.4% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 44.7% of pre-seminar respondents selected 1, 2, or 3 whereas only 5.3% of post-seminar respondents selected 3 and none of them selected 1 or 2, reflecting a 39.4% decrease in misconstrued knowledge about civil resistance.
- 94.7% of post-seminar respondents selected 4 or 5, as compared to 84.2% of pre-seminar respondents, showing a 10.5% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 60.6% of post-seminar respondents selected 4 or 5, compared to 55.4% pre-survey respondents, showing a 5.2% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 100% of post-survey respondents selected 4 or 5 compared to 94.8% of pre-seminar respondents, showing a 5.2% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 100% of post survey respondents selected 4 or 5, as compared to 92.1% of pre survey respondents, showing an 8% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 97% of post survey respondents selected 4 or 5 as compared to 92.1% of pre survey respondents, showing a 5% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- 97.4% of post survey respondents selected “Yes” as compared to 89.5% pre survey respondents, showing a 7.9% increase in civil resistance knowledge.
- Participants were able to choose multiple answers for this question. 86.8% of pre and post seminar respondents plan to use their knowledge from the Rutgers course in teaching education or training others. 84.2% of post seminar respondents plan to use their knowledge in a nonviolent campaign.
Final evaluation results
41 course participants completed the final evaluation. See below for selected graphs from the evaluation showing participant’s responses.
- The goals of the course and its modules were clear
- Taking this online course was a positive experience
- The course met or exceeded my expectations
- I would recommend this course to other people
- I now have more knowledge about civil resistance and its various topics than I had before taking the course
- The knowledge I gained from the course will be relevant in my current and future study/work/activities
1.The goals of the course and its modules were clear.
94% of course participants selected 4 or 5 for this answer, indicating that almost all of the participants found the module and course goals to be clear.
4. I would recommend this course to other people
97% of course participants said that they would recommend this course to other people, indicating the high rate of satisfaction that participants had with the course.
5. I now have more knowledge about civil resistance and its various topics than I had before taking the course
97% of course participants indicated that they knew more about civil resistance after taking the course than they did before the course
6. The knowledge I gained from the course will be relevant in my current and future study/work/activities
98% of course participants found the course content to be relevant to their current and future work and study.
Follow-Up Survey Results
In order to measure the long-term impact and effectiveness of our online courses, ICNC sent out a follow-up survey three months after the 2017 Rutgers course ended. 22 participants completed the follow-up survey. Please see below for selected graphs.
- In what ways have you used the knowledge from this course?
- Compared to before the course, how interested are you in learning more about civil resistance?
- In the past three months, how many times have you participated in a civil resistance action?
- In the past three months, how many times have you shared your knowledge on civil resistance (through writings, trainings, workshops, journal articles, speaking etc.)?
- Compared to before the course, your current engagement with civil resistance (e.g. its practice, scholarship, media coverage, etc.) has...
- How many times did you return to the ICNC-Rutgers online course to consult its materials, posts and other information after the end of the course?
- After the past three months, how relevant and/or valuable do you find your learning gains from the ICNC-Rutgers course?
- 72% of survey respondents had used their knowledge in planning nonviolent civil resistance campaigns. 59% had used their knowledge either in participating in nonviolent civil resistance campaigns or in writing/reading.
- 73% of survey respondents reported that were more interested in civil resistance. None of the survey respondents reported that they were less interested in civil resistance.
- 59% of survey respondents had participated in a civil resistance action in between 1-5 times.
- 59% of survey respondents had shared their knowledge (through teaching, writing, etc.) 1-5 times.
- 64% of survey respondents said that their engagement with civil resistance (e.g. its practice, scholarship, media coverage, etc.) had increased. None of the survey respondents reported that their engagement had decreased.
- 50% of survey respondents returned to the ICNC-Rutgers online course between 1-5 times to review its materials, videos, posts, etc.
- 50% of survey respondents reported that their learning gains were still valuable/relevant to them.
Overall, survey respondents indicated that they were more interested in civil resistance three months after the course had ended than when the course began. A majority of them reported that they were either engaged in civil resistance campaigns or in teaching civil resistance to others. Almost all of the survey respondents had consulted the ICNC-Rutgers at least once in the three months since the course ended.
- “I felt happy to complete the course. This course has improved my awareness about civil rights movements and has also helped me to start a project towards ending dictatorships in Africa through building a civil resistance website.”
Ssebuliba Naluswa Wilson, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “ICNC offered a great and valuable course about civil resistance. They didn’t skimp on the quantity and quality of the information they offered. It is really a great job they are doing in favor of humanity. They are helping everyday people wake up and fight battles for their own rights and freedoms. It is a beautiful job that deserves all my support and respect.”
Alba Purroy, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “Before this course, my perception about civic resistance in the form of protests, strikes, and boycotts was negative. This was due to media portrayal of nonviolent resistance by people as an illegitimate means of opposing the legitimate government. But this course has transformed my mind about nonviolent civil movements. Now, I believe people in a country have rights to participate in nonviolent protests, strikes and boycotts if they feel they are being marginalized and suppressed by the violent regime.”
Qamar Jafri, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “As a novice in the domain of nonviolent resistance, I navigated the rich content, videos, required readings, and contributions from cohorts with keen interest. It was a challenging, but enriching and exciting experience that has kept me motivated to hone my skills anywhere in the world to make it a better place to live in.”
Amos Buh Nyoh, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “For union activists to successfully confront corporations it is important to learn from other nonviolent social movements about theory, strategy, tactics and victories”
Daniel Huegli, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “First of all, I have to thank ICNC for selecting me in this course. It was a great honor and a privilege to participate. I was given a huge opportunity to better understand civil resistance in all its dimensions. This course has invested me with the skills on how to plan a successful campaign, even in a very repressive state. I learned how to be powerful without using weapons or any kind of violence. In simple words, I learned how to resist in different ways and push through to create change”
Mbongo Ali, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “The ICNC course was fascinating because it gave me a positive experience on how conflicts arise and how it can be solved using nonviolent means. The course enabled me to understand the dynamics of civil resistance and how applying nonviolent means can contribute to a peaceful world. I am now equipped with thorough knowledge of how to take nonviolent action to resist oppression. I am so grateful to the ICNC team for affording me this opportunity to learn and I would recommend the course to friends and colleagues and will take the campaign further by applying knowledge gained in my professional endeavors.”
Kate Duru, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “At this historic moment, the need for informed and committed nonviolence civil resistance has never been greater. This course provided the theoretical and practical content that activists and educators need to face the challenges of dictatorship, climate change, racism, and many others. I’ve never had a learning experience that allowed me to interact with so many people around the world who are deeply engaged in the work of liberation.”
Meta Mendel-Reyes, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017
- “This course is perfect for students, activists, journalists and lifelong learners of strategic nonviolent civil resistance. It is a course that transcends time and space, as people power participants from around the world discover in-depth knowledge on nonviolent movements and engage with people from across the globe! The reading material, video lectures and webinars given are excellent. Plus, the discussion boards provided fruitful debate, dialogue and exchange of opinions and views. Overall, I highly recommend this beneficial learning opportunity and I am thankful to ICNC”
Reela Khalifa, ICNC Online Course Participant 2017