Public Affairs Online Courses

“The online virtual class approach was innovative and fun, and encouraged a sense of community among classmates online.”
— Patricia Allen

Online Courses Available

PA 6342/ECON 6372 – Local Economic Development

This course will focus on urban economic development activities and policy. It will explore not only the policies used by local governments to attract, retain, and create a healthy municipal economic base, but also actual political, economic, and social contexts in which economic development occurs. Particular consideration will be given to issues related to economic development planning, strategies, and mechanisms. A strong local economy produces taxes allowing governments to achieve their missions in education, infrastructure, and service delivery. The success or failure of economic development activities at the local level directly impacts municipal residents and, more broadly, the welfare of the states and the nation.

Can be used to fulfill a core MPA course requirement.

PA 7318/POEC 7318 – Ethics, Culture, and Public Responsibility

Public administrators at all levels are faced daily with decisions related to ethical questions. Every day in the news, we are reminded of society's growing concern about the morality of public officials. And while it is a subject that garners a great deal of attention, it remains one of the most misunderstood concepts in government today.

Ethics is of central importance to the study of public affairs and strongly influences the quality of government and its administration. Therefore, a significant responsibility rests on public affairs professionals to conduct themselves and their organizations ethically. In order to do this, one must understand the nature of ethical dilemmas and be armed with the knowledge to address them. This applied class offers students a variety of tools, techniques, and principles aimed at preparing students for the ethically-charged situations they will face in their professional work in the public sector. This course challenges students to recognize and understand the ethical dimensions of public service and to discern value-based conflicts that government administrators typically encounter.

Can be used to fulfill a core MPA course requirement.

PA 6318 – Information Systems in Policy Environments

Public sector organizations are continually challenged to understand, use, and adapt to new information systems and communications technologies as they emerge. We continue to see ways that new information systems and technologies change how public affairs professionals interact, work, and serve the public. How can public sector organizations best harness these systems to provide better public services? What is the role of public policy to regulate issues surrounding the use of these technologies? This course will explore the relationships between information systems and government management, decision making, and public policy. During the semester, students will explore current trends and cutting-edge technologies in real-time.


PA 6300 – Quality and Productivity Improvement in Government

Public administrators at all levels are expected by both the public and elected officials to continually improve organizational performance in order to meet increasing demands. The improvement of the quality of services and the productivity of public organizations has become an important sub-field of public affairs that penetrates a variety of levels and specializations. This course will focus on a variety of tools, techniques, and principles aimed at improving the quality and productivity of government services. While the focus of this class will be on the public sector, many of the course topics are also applicable to non-profit and business organizations.


Frequently Asked Questions

How are the online courses structured?
The online courses are organized similarly to classes taught in a traditional classroom. Different subtopics are presented weekly throughout the semester. Students access the weekly lectures, readings, and class assignments throughout the course. Course assignments are due on specific dates at various intervals. Students in online classes submit work electronically via the eLearning course.

Is there more or less work in an online class?
The work load of an online class is not more or less than a traditional class - just different. Online classes are just as rigorous and demanding as courses offered on campus. Students experienced with the online format readily agree that online courses are often more challenging than a course taught in a traditional classroom because they require more self-discipline and, in some cases, more reading and writing. However, students who choose to participate in an online course enjoy the benefits of the flexibility offered by a virtual classroom and save the time travelling to and from campus to be present at a certain time and place.

Will I need to participate at a certain time each week?
The online MPA classes allow your learning to fit your schedule. The courses are organized by week. Within each week, students are allowed to work at any time and at their pace. As a result, students can complete class work at a time that works best for them given deadlines specified by the syllabus. Assignments are submitted at specific points throughout the semester. Out-of-town travel during the semester is typically not a problem as long as the student maintains internet access.

How are assignments evaluated?
The same standards apply as with any master's level course at UT Dallas.

What is the interaction like between the instructor and the students?
Similar to a traditional course, the instructor of an online course is available to talk with students about any questions that arise. The instructor is available via email or phone to assist the students to succeed.

Will I interact with the other students in the class?
In recognition that significant learning occurs through the interaction among students, online courses are designed with the aim of regular and sustained interaction among all students. In fact, online class discussion is commonly recognized as being at a higher level than spontaneous discussions common to traditional classes because students have the time to research points, refine arguments and construct a thorough argument interwoven with supplemental citations and other supportive documents/articles.

Will I be able to succeed in an online learning environment?
Before you register for an online course, give some thought to whether online learning is right for you. The following quiz will help you to see if the online learning environment fits with your preferred learning style: Self-Assessment quiz.

Contact Information

If you would like additional information about online learning, visit the UT Dallas eLearning website.

You can also contact Dr. Hassett at

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