Building character through youth social action

2 Weeks
Course Type

Learn about the history of social action, and how youth social action can help build character in young people.

Youth social action – activities young people do to help others and the environment – is becoming increasingly recognised as a means of improving our communities and developing young people’s character. Educational institutions, businesses, voluntary sector organisations and governments are investing in social action to provide opportunities to young people of all backgrounds.

This MOOC discusses social action as a form of character development. It explores the historical and theoretical roots of youth social action and character, and positions participation in social action as a journey for young people from the age of 10 through to adulthood. Involving academics and practitioners from a range of sectors, this MOOC aims to explain why character and social action matter to society, and how organisations can work collectively to support young people to build character through social action.  

The ‘Building character through Youth Social Action’, MOOC has been created by the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham. This unique and leading research centre examines how character and virtues impact on individuals and society.  Based within the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, the Centre also seeks to promote the practical application of its research evidence through various development projects.  A key conviction underlying the existence of the Centre is that the virtues that make up a good character can be learnt and taught. 

What is a MOOC?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course - these are free, open, online courses designed to offer a taste of Higher Education to learners from across the UK and the world. The University of Birmingham is delivering new MOOCs in partnership with FutureLearn, the UK’s first MOOCs provider established by the Open University.

Delivered by world-class academics from the University of Birmingham, the courses enable learners worldwide to sample high-quality academic content via an interactive web-based platform from a leading global University, increasing access to higher education for a whole new cohort of learners.

The courses have been developed by senior academic staff and their content is quality-assured in line with our other programmes. The courses do not offer credits towards admission to the University of Birmingham.

Course knowledge requirements

No previous knowledge necessary.  This MOOC will cover a range of material designed for a diverse audience and has been developed on the assumption that learners have no previous knowledge.  If they wish, learners will have the flexibility to explore the topics in more depth.

Course duration and week by week content

This course aims to equip learners with new knowledge and understanding about youth social action – activities such as volunteering, fundraising and campaigning – and how it builds character and makes a difference to society. 

Duration: 2 weeks

  • Week 1: In this first week, we will examine what youth social action is, what character is, and the links between the two, as well understanding what makes a quality youth social action experience.
  • Week 2:  In the second week, we will look at a young person’s journey of social action, from primary school right through to employment, and explore how both young people and their communities benefit from their involvement.

Lead academic

Tom HarrisonTom Harrison is the Director of Education at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues and also the Programme Director the MA in Character Education. Tom has spent many years working on research and development programmes mainly relating to character and citizenship education. His specialist interests are character and virtue ethics, citizenship, community development, student leadership and volunteering and he has written extensively on many of these areas, as well as 


How to apply

The next start date for this free online course is currently to be confirmed. You can register your interest now at the FutureLearn website.

Related courses

If you enjoy this course, why not take your studies further.  For those interested in extending their learning it will also provide a taster course for the new MA in Character Education which has been developed by the University of Birmingham.

Degrees and Courses in the School of Education

Last year I took ‘What is Character? Virtue Ethics in Education’. This year I also began ‘Building Character through Youth Social Action’… I [then] decided to apply for the MA in Character Education with the University of Birmingham... I think the online course was a great introduction for me as a distance learner, as I had an understanding already about how forums and online lectures work.

Carrie-Anne Taylor, British School Manila (BSM), MOOC alumna and current MA student