e-Learning Course on "Statistics, Knowledge and Policy: Understanding Societal Change" (March 1 to April 2, 2010)



UNITAR is currently migrating to a new website. You may be temporarily unable to register for our online courses directly using this page. We thus request you to kindly send an email to sfd@unitar.org with the course title(s) of your choice in the subject line and your name and phone number in the body of the email. We will get back to you concerning your registration at the very earliest. We apologize for the inconvenience caused.

UNITAR e-Learning Team

A joint OECD/STATEC Luxembourg/UNITAR training course under the OECD-hosted Global Project


OECD is spearheading a global project to foster the development of a set of comprehensive and diverse indicators to measure progress and well-being of societies, challenging the more traditional and narrowly defined measures that focus only on economic growth (e.g. GDP). UNITAR has been selected as the e-Learning partner for this project, providing a training and awareness platform for the fundamental concepts and principles of this programme to a global audience. 

As their first joint activity under the Global Project, OECD, UNITAR and STATEC LUXEMBOURG will conduct an instructor-led five-week e-Learning course on “Statistics, Knowledge and Policy: Understanding Societal Change”. The course is aimed at all those who wish to learn more about the use of progress measures to inform and have an interest in increasing the use of evidence in public debate and policy making, either in the developed or developing world.

Course objective

The main objective of this course is to create a greater awareness of the importance of statistics for democracy and democratic decision-making; measures of progress that go “beyond GDP”; tools to transform statistics into knowledge; evidence, civic engagement and policy making. It is part of the OECD-hosted Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies, which aims to foster the development of sets of key economic, social and environmental indicators to provide a comprehensive picture of how the well-being of a society is evolving. The Global Project seeks to encourage each society to consider, in an informed way, the crucial question: is life getting better?  It also seeks to encourage the use of indicator sets to inform and promote evidence-based decision-making, within and across the public, private and citizen sectors.

Target Audience

This course is aimed at all those who have an interest in increasing the use of evidence in public debate and policy making, either in the developed or developing world. The target audience will include:

  • Researchers (economists and statisticians) who want to learn methods to measure overall societal progress and its multiple dimensions;
  • Practitioners (from national and local governments, NGOs, etc.) who want to know how to implement progress initiatives;
  • Policy makers with an interest in developing, or using, sets of progress measures to improve decision making;
  • Media and others who want to communicate information to citizens.


Course Structure/ Outline
Week 1
Module 1: General introduction to the Global Project

This module is a discussion on why measuring progress is important, and why developing an accurate and representative set of progress measures for a society can be challenging.

The module covers the following topics:

  • Understanding the role of statistics in the democratic decision making
  • What new measures do we need to understand a modern society
  • How to communicate the measures to citizens

Week 2
Module 2: What to measure: progress and its dimensions

In order to measure progress we must know what it looks like. Progress means different things to different societies, and there are many different opinions on what to include among the key component of progress and how to label them. This module is a description of the elements that constitute frameworks of progress. 

The main objectives of this module are to:

  • Introduce the different ways to think about progress
  • Give an overview of objective and subjective indicators
  • Describe the frameworks to measure progress: the OECD framework to measure the progress of societies

Week 3
Module 3: How to measure progress

This module presents a description of how to measure overall societal progress and its multiple dimensions (theories, statistical approaches, etc.), especially in emerging and complex areas not yet covered by statistical standards.

The main objectives of this module are to:

  • Provide an overview of the main approaches to measuring progress and well-being
  • Discuss the criteria for selecting good indicators

Week 4
Module 4: Ensuring that measures are used

When good statistics exist, they too often go unnoticed or misunderstood by the broader audience. This module is a description of the basic principles of communication and looks at what Information Communication Technologies (ICT) tools are now available to better disseminate statistical information and to facilitate the transformation of statistics into knowledge.

The main objectives of this module are to:

  • Explore what makes a set of indicators successful
  • Discuss how to turn statistics into knowledge: new ICT tools to communicate statistics and share information
  • Debate how to improve the credibility of evidence (working with the media)

Week 5
Course Wrap up and Conclusion, Online Participant Survey

Course Methodology

This online course will be jointly conducted by OECD and UNITAR over the internet using UNITAR's e-Learning infrastructure for a five week period. The course is structured around four one-week modules plus one wrap up week. Each module is equivalent to a five to six-hour training session. Core module texts will be complemented with online discussions, peer to peer exchanges and case studies.

The course pedagogy will allow for three levels of interaction. At the first level, the participants will interact with the training content and reading material provided. At the second level, the participants will interact with each other through the online discussion board facility, sharing experiences, opinions and views, thereby giving the learning a contextual framework. At the third level, the participants will interact with a panel of international experts on economic and social development who will act as the course mentors. The mentors will not only moderate the course for its entire duration, but also provide feedback and discussion wrap-ups as well as respond to participant queries.

This course creates a progressive learning environment in which participants have the flexibility to structure their own learning process and interact with peers and experts through the discussion board facility. It is expected that online discussions will constitute between 30% and 40% of the learning time of participants.

The online course will be conducted in the English language.