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Organizational Analysis (Self-Paced)

Course topic: 

In this introductory, self-paced course, you will learn multiple theories of organizational behavior and apply them to actual cases of organizational change.

It is hard to imagine living in modern society without participating in or interacting with organizations. The ubiquity and variability of organizations means there is ample room for complexity and confusion in the organizational challenges we regularly face. Through this course, students will consider cases describing various organizational struggles: school systems and politicians attempting to implement education reforms; government administrators dealing with an international crisis; technology firms trying to create a company ethos that sustains worker commitment; and even two universities trying to gain international standing by performing a merger. 

Each case is full of details and complexity. So how do we make sense of organizations and the challenges they face, let alone develop means of managing them in desired directions? While every detail can matter, some matter more than others. This is why we rely on organizational theories -- to focus our attention and draw out relevant features in a sensible way. 

Through this self-paced course you will come to see that there is nothing more practical than a good theory. In every module, you’ll learn a different organizational theory, and it will become a lens through which you can interpret concrete organizational situations. Armed with a toolset of theories, you will then be able to systematically identify important features of an organization and the events transforming it – and use the theories to predict which actions will best redirect the organization in a desired direction.

Suggested Readings

No readings are required to complete this course. However, thousands of prior students have found the course textbook to be especially useful and worth the purchase. The textbook is over 200 pages in length but written in an accessible style. An e-book version costs about $10 plus transaction fees, which will vary depending on your location (see course page for details). 

Here is the manual link:

Please note the textbook is large and will take a while to download, so please secure a good connection before commencing the download process. If you are mostly interested in single modules of the course, then you can also purchase single chapters after you register using the links listed on the syllabus. 

Additional readings will be made available in the course syllabus and through a text provider. For further information, please register and access the course page.

Course Format

This is a self-paced course that you can take at your leisure and there are no deadlines! 

Each module includes a series of short lectures, followed by interactive assessments that refer to the module readings on an organizational theory and case. In addition, there will be a forum where students post questions, respond to others, and “like” questions they want answered. Within each module, I record and post on-line the discussion of highly rated forum questions (screen-side chat). A final exam reviews all the material in the course. 

You may take the quizzes and exams as many times as you like and we will keep the last score you achieve. We will grade all registered participants every three months and send out Statements of Accomplishments at that time. If you don't finish in three months, then complete the remaining requirements as soon as you can and the Statement of Accomplishment will arrive three months later when we grade again.  


• How much work will I be expected to do in this class? 
About 2 hours a week to watch the videos, complete the quizzes, and post online. 

• Will I get a “statement of accomplishment” after completing this class? 
Yes. Participants will receive a statement of accomplishment signed by the instructor. It will designate whether the participants met the requirements that demonstrate literacy in organizational analysis. 

• Does Stanford award credentials or reports regarding my work in this course? 
Stanford University does not award certificates or other credentials for participants' work in this course. The instructor will offer a statement of accomplishment.


Daniel McFarland

Professor of Education, Sociology, and Organizational Behavior, Stanford University

Daniel A. McFarland is an Associate Professor of Education, Sociology, and Organizational Behavior at Stanford University, and is the director of Stanford’s certificate program in Computational Social Science. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago and has published widely on organizational behavior in sociology’s top journals. Dan has taught courses in organizational behavior and social network analysis at Stanford for over a decade and received a 2006 award for student advising in the Graduate School of Education.