Attorney Brown Completes Harvard Law School’s First Online Copyright Course

Attorney Brown completed Harvard Law School’s first, online, course (in Copyright) offered during the Spring semester 2013. The 12 week course covered statutes, case-law, and theory about US and international copyright. The course ended with a comprehensive final exam (in law school format and taking four hours or more to complete). As Professor William (Terry) Fisher describes the exam,

“the exam was comprehensive…. [T]he exam was difficult; it was very similar to the final examination that I gave this spring to the students in my course on Copyright at Harvard Law School. “

I think most students in the online class will concur that the exam was rigorous. (I did very well in law school; I agree that this exam was challenging—in breadth, content, and time-constraints—but fair.) Students needed to both achieve a 70 out of 100 to pass the exam and meet the class participation requirements to pass the course. Attorney Brown will receive a Certificate of Completion from EdX for completing the course.

While the course was non-credit, the MOOC course required an extensive commitment on the part of students with

  • about 3 hours of lectures per week (with considerable additional time for note-taking);
  • live class meetings (with each class section) each week to discuss the week’s materials (1.5 to 2 hours per week);
  • required weekly readings (case-law or other);
  • discussion boards;
  • six optional, but interesting, live evening lectures on copyright issues (including a programs on “extra-judicial” copyright remedies, a program by Lawrence Lessig on CopyLeft and Creative Commons, and an excellent program on digital libraries); and
  • an extensive final exam (under time constraints).

(For context, I took over 120 pages of notes from the course.) The course had limited enrollment (admission by application) and included students from all over the world and from diverse professions.

MOOCs require a lot of time from the professor and teaching assistants. The format of this particular MOOC, with weekly online class meetings led by TAs, particularly required a lot of the MOOC staff commitment. I thank Professor Fisher, the TAs, staff, and the special evening program participants for the excellent course.

The MOOC format certainly will gain traction with professionals. This course, a rigorous treatment of Copyright, demonstrate that participants in MOOCs 1) want to learn and 2) are willing to invest considerable time in learning and contributing to a course. The MOOC format is viable to foster learning by these active life-learners—how else can you gather students from all over the world (some in this class admirably getting up in the middle of the night to participate) to collaborate and learn? I hope more law school’s consider this viable and necessary option.