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MOOCs: Yale Debuting Free Online Constitutional Law Course

By William Peacock, Esq. on January 23, 2014 11:01 AM

Ever think, "it would be great if more people understood Constitutional Law?" After all, what good are Constitutional rights if you don't know they exist?

Or have you ever been curious whether an Ivy League legal education differs from your JD?

Maybe you just want to brush up on ConLaw basics.

This morning, Yale announced that it would offer Constitutional Law online for free through Coursera. They aren't the first law school to offer free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), but it's interesting to see more heavyweights joining the trend.

What's a MOOC?

Massive open online courses are exactly what they sound like -- online courses, typically with open enrollment, that tend to have thousands of students from all over the world. Open enrollment means anyone, from a fourth-grader in Kansas, to an engineer in Japan, can join.

What's the catch? No course credit, of course. Completing Yale's ConLaw MOOC is a valuable only for the educational experience, not a transcript. Also, MOOCs in general have issues with dropouts, though some argue that completion rates are irrelevant to the discussion of a course's value.

Who is MOOCing?

Yale may be the biggest name on the guest list, but they weren't the first fine institution at the Coursera party. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has "Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy," Wesleyan University has "Property and Liability: An Introduction to Law and Economics," Case Western Reserve has an International Criminal Law course, and if you're bilingual, Peking University has Criminal Law as well.

Northwestern offered a course last year, but alas, we missed out on "Law and the Entrepreneur," which sounds more like a course directed at laypeople entrepreneurs who need a bit of law for their small businesses.

Who Should MOOC?

Besides anyone with a general interest in the law, you know who could really use these courses? Pre-L's. Prospective law students should work through one of these courses to see if the law actually holds any appeal to them. If not, they'll save a year's worth of tuition and pain.

Plus, it can't hurt to gun a little bit before the school year starts. How helpful would it be to walk into your first day of 1L year with a Yale ConLaw course under your belt?

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