Harvard Law School Offers First Free Online Course Via edX

January 3, 2013

A prestigious law school will soon offer its first free online course via the online education platform edX.

The National Law Journal reported that Harvard Law School will offer a free 12-week copyright course through edX. William Fisher III, director of Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, will teach the class, which begins on January 28. Unlike other edX courses, however, this one is not a MOOC, or massive open online course. Instead, the course will mimic a traditional Harvard law class. Interested individuals must apply and just 500 students will be selected to join the class. Additionally, much like a traditional law course, students will be grouped into real-time discussion sections of 25. Fisher's former and current students will facilitate discussion sections.

According to The Daily Caller, the course will examine the relationship between copyright law and creative expression in various fields; for example, music, fashion and film, to name a few. Most of the course will focus on the U.S. copyright system, but laws in other countries will also be discussed. Although the class will only accommodate 500 students, course materials will be available to anyone via Fisher's website, noted the Harvard Gazette.

While no previous legal experience is necessary and no prerequisites are required, The Daily Caller noted that applicants must be at least 13 years old, proficient in English, have an Internet connection and have the ability to devote at least eight hours a week to the class and discussions. Access to video chat is preferable, but not mandatory.

According to the Harvard Gazette, the course is somewhat experimental as it aims to explore different ways to present course materials and utilize technologies. The National Law Journal reported that, in addition to smaller discussions sections, the class will consist of a weekly 80-minute online seminar as well as pre-recorded lectures and live webcasts with guest speakers. There will also be a 3-hour final exam, which will be graded by teaching fellows. Students who pass the class will receive certificates of completion.

This new offering from Harvard Law School is further evidence that online learning is here to stay and will likely continue to challenge and transform higher education. As GigaOM pointed out, Harvard's new online law class will help expand the copyright discussion beyond the legal community and the entertainment industry, allowing individuals with very different backgrounds and perspectives to join the debate.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"EdX expansion set for spring," news.harvard.edu, December 19, 2012, Michael Patrick Rutter

"Free Harvard class teaches non-lawyers about copyright," gigaom.com, January 3, 2013, Jeff John Roberts

"Harvard Law offering first free online course," law.com, December 27, 2012, Karen Sloan

"Harvard Law to offer first free online course," dailycaller.com, January 2, 2013, Eric Owens

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