The Berkman Center for Internet & Society

At Harvard Law School

Open Education

BCIS Online Lecture and Discussion Series

What is open education? Since its inception, one of the Berkman Center's top priorities has been to study the possibility of openness in pedagogy with and over the Net, by developing an integrated set of open code software tools for distance learning, collaborative work, and other online communications. These tools are for use by members of the Harvard Law School community, the greater Harvard community, educators, policy-makers, and others dedicated to the public interest. This project is fundamentally collaborative, facilitating contributions by non-Harvard developers via the practice of freely sharing software code with those working in the public interest. This broad and ambitious project is called H2O.

Software tools were developed by Berkman Center affiliates in the context of Jonathan Zittrain's fall 1998 Harvard Law School course, Internet & Society [ ]. These tools were used to provide a unique spur for discussion between class sessions: a class "bot" automatically prompted students to answer questions on course readings and topics, to have their answers critiqued by other students, and to respond to fellow students’ answers. This suite of tools was used this past fall in connection with cyberlaw classes at Columbia University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with interest from universities as far away as Australia.

The seeds of these innovations lie in the Berkman Center’s inaugural online lecture and discussion series. These online initiatives debuted in spring 1998, and were offered free to the public via the Internet. Professor Arthur Miller taught Privacy in Cyberspace and Professor William Fisher III taught Intellectual Property in Cyberspace. Featured in stories in Wired magazine, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times on the Web, the two projects drew over 1,500 participants from around the world. This diverse group of participants included Harvard Law School alumni, computer professionals, high school and college students, educators, and retirees. Students were able to view course materials (cases, statutes, articles, video clips) online, discuss these materials with their professors and classmates in online discussion groups, and interact during real-time sessions in which Professors Miller and Fisher attempted to replicate the type of Socratic exchange that occurs in Harvard Law School classrooms.

Each new online initiative affords the Berkman Center a further opportunity to hone H2O software tools, gather data and undertake analysis of distance learning methods on an active, first-hand basis, and contribute to the public interest through the online publishing both of structure (code) and content (intellectual property). This year, the Berkman Center built on the success of last year's experiment, expanding its online interactive lectures to four:

Regulation of Financial Systems, a lecture and discussion series taught by Professor Howell Jackson, was offered to 30 graduate law students at Beijing University Law School. The multimedia lectures in this series will follow Prof. Jackson's casebook on the subject, and the content will be tailored to suit the interests and knowledge of the Chinese participants. This pilot series, part of Professor Jackson's broader Web-based project on the Regulation of Financial Institutions, will present a series of lectures and substantial supplementary materials to Chinese participants, and also offer opportunities for online discussions moderated by the professor.

How private is your Web surfing? Your e-mail? How private should it be? In his online lecture and discussion series Privacy in Cyberspace, Professor Arthur Miller explored with participants across the Net the legal, technological, and policy questions the Internet poses for privacy on- and off-line.

Professor Miller will introduce each week's lesson with a hypothetical scenario, putting participants in such roles as a casual Web browser, a parent, an advertiser, or an employer. Through linked readings, multimedia presentations, and online experiments, participants faced the legal challenges of e-mail storage, Web logging, databases, and international rules. Harvard Law students led discussions on the Web and through e-mail, and each week's lesson concluded with a real time interactive session among participants, Professor Miller, and invited guests.

In his six-week lecture and discussion series, Intellectual Property in Cyberspace, Professor Terry Fisher and a team of Harvard Law School teaching fellows explored six areas of Intellectual Property in Cyberspace: Legal Protection for Web sites; Metatags, Linking, Framing, Caching; Whom to Sue?; ISP Liability and Jurisdiction; Domain Names; Alternatives to Intellectual Property; and Respect and Integrity. Building on their experience with last year’s Berkman Center online series on intellectual property, Professor Fisher and his team experimented with new ways to create a classroom community among hundreds of online users.

Homer's Poetic Justice focuses on one seminal work, Homer's Iliad. The online lecture and discussion series explored this work by analyzing in particular the juridical scene portrayed on the famous Shield of Achilles, and how this speaks to greater themes within the narrative of the Iliad as a whole. The project continued for four weeks and covered the entire Iliad. Online elements included weekly short video lectures given by Professor Gregory Nagy, real-time chat, weekly topics for response to and from students, and additional audio and visual materials.

The Annotation Engine [ ] is being developed for use in these offerings.

Copyright 1999