Harvard Goes Hollywood

April 22nd, 2016 / By

Hollywood Public Relations is promoting a new program at Harvard Business School (HBS) called the Credential of Readiness (CORe). One of Hollywood PR’s account executives sent me an email, asking if I would like to blog about the program. Why not? I’ll discuss here the program’s suitability for law students. In a second post, I’ll explore what law schools themselves might learn from CORe.

And, of course, I’ll reflect on the curious marriage of the words “Hollywood” and “Harvard.”


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Triple Treat

March 5th, 2013 / By

Coursera offers a platform for high-quality university courses delivered online. The company launched its first course less than a year ago, but has already reached 2.7 million participants. The platform now includes 62 universities located across four continents. Courses span a wide range of subjects and several languages. Imagine taking a course on Early Renaissance Architecture in Italy–from a regarded “Professore” at Sapienza University of Rome. Now imagine taking that course in your own living room, in English, for free. That’s Coursera.

As an educator, I’ve been curious about Coursera–but also vaguely uneasy. What does this type of massive online course mean for the future of education? Can it reduce the cost of legal education? Or will it further diminish the demand for our product? Does the Coursera pedagogy deploy techniques that we could borrow for smaller distance-learning initiatives? What happens when you mix high-quality educators with a type of education that some of us still associate with black-and-white televisions in the corner of a third grade classroom?

Now is your chance to explore some of those questions, while pursuing two other intellectual inquiries at the same time. I just signed up for Scott E. Page’s Coursera offering on Model Thinking. The course began on Monday, so you have time to join us.

Page is the Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics at the University of Michigan. He’s a distinguished scholar in the fields of game theory, organizational behavior, and institutional design. Some of you may know his book, The Difference, which offers an intriguing account of when diversity improves decision making. Page is also, as I’ve discovered from the first few online classes, an engaging lecturer.

Participating in Page’s course is giving me some ideas about online education. I’m tracking how he integrates lectures with readings. So far, so good: each stands alone but adds to the other. (The readings, by the way, are both free and easily downloadable from the course site). I’m experiencing the impact of hypotheticals that I answer during each lecture; I think they do engage me more in the material and add to my understanding. I’m also noting, of course, that every student is answering these questions; we’re not just listening to another student respond as we might in a lower-tech law classroom. I look forward to checking out the discussion forum and taking the quizzes.

Page’s offering is designed for tens of thousands of students; it’s a massive open online course (MOOC). The techniques used in that type of course won’t translate wholesale to every type of online offering. But I’m getting a sense of the possibilities–and some ideas for any online courses I design. That’s the first benefit of taking this course, learning something about online education.

The second benefit lies in learning about a series of social science models that touch upon legal issues. If you’ve wanted to know about Schelling’s segregation model, Granovetter’s collective behavior model, and others of their ilk, this course offers an excellent overview. So far, the lectures and readings are both comprehensible and focused; you’ll learn a lot with little wasted time. Page is especially skilled at illustrating the models in commonsense ways.

That brings me to my third, over-riding reason for taking Page’s course. Legal education rests on the premise that we teach students how to think like lawyers, and that this analytic frame adds value to many professional paths. Contemporary challenges to legal education question even that premise: Do we succeed in teaching students to think? I personally have little doubt that law school teaches students to think more critically. But do we offer special value compared to other graduate (or even undergraduate) programs? What analytic models do students learn in those other fields? Are those models equally valuable to the ones we teach in law? Are they more useful in a wider array of applications? Should we be teaching more different ways to think in law school? Or acknowledging that we offer just one of many valuable paths to success as a critical thinker?

I plan to use Page’s course as a way to think about thinking–how successful thinkers approach problems, how educators teach those approaches, and how law schools stack up compared to other disciplines. I’ll post from time to time about my reflections. Meanwhile, I hope to see you in class.

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Law School Disruption

December 28th, 2012 / By

Campbell explores two disruptive forces undermining conventional legal education: new educational models (particularly online learning) and the expanding provision of legal services by non-lawyers. On the first, he asks: “What do universities sell for their tuition dollars in a world where world-class instruction is free?” On the second he notes: “Amazon has not succeeded in monopolizing book sales, but it took enough away so that Borders was no longer a profitable business.”

Law professors often scoff at these predictions of disruptive change, but the forces that Campbell describes are real: It is time to pay attention. Campbell offers a useful introduction to the major disruptions threatening legal education. He also offers a short description of his home institution, the innovative Peking University School of Transnational Law. Expect to hear more about a law school that graduates bilingual (English/Mandarin) lawyers ready to counsel clients on both U.S. and Chinese law.

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ABA Journal Blawg 100 HonoreeLaw School Cafe is a resource for anyone interested in changes in legal education and the legal profession.

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