The toughest thing about the class for me was learning legal writing; it's vastly different from anything that I had done before. However, learning how to decide cases based on arcane rules is a lot like abstract algebra. You take a bunch of arbitrary rules, stir them up, and then see how they interact to produce a world that behaves in all sorts of unexpected ways. Great fun but hard mental work!
From the assessment of the 2013 course:
We received over 4100 such applications during the three-week window in which applications were being accepted. When evaluating those applications, we looked for manifestations of intelligence, facility with English, and commitment to completing the course – but we did not privilege educational attainment or legal knowledge. Instead, we strove to select a class that would be diverse on many dimensions: gender, country of residence, age, occupation, and interests. We achieved at least the last-mentioned goal. The 500 admitted students included:My section of 25 included 3 working lawyers, 4 PhDs (2-physics, EE and music) and three archivists/librarians/historians. How many times have you ever wanted to ask an archivist/librarian/historian how s/he decides what is worth preserving? Or wanted to ask legal scholars about ownership of intellectual property versus physical property? This is your chance.
- 53% men; 47% women
- 29 lawyers; 43 persons with Ph.D.s; 177 persons with Master’s Degrees (not including those with Ph.D.s)
- a spectrum of ages, from 13 to 83
- 291 residents of the United States; 203 residents of other countries
PS. About half the admitted students stuck through the class till the end. 49% attempted the final (nearly everyone who stuck it out) and about 80% of them passed the final. Interestingly, the PhDs struggled with the final more than the MA or JD students. It could be the difference in expected writing style, but the sample size and difference is probably too small to give a definitive answer.
Notes from a RCT guinea pig that we were divided into four groups along two dimensions. Half read a US-centric case law curriculum (much like the HLS students) and half read a broader global law curriculum. People expected the global reading students to be at a disadvantage. However, many students studied the readings for both groups anyway.
Half used Nota Bene, a collaborative pdf markup tool, in addition to the edX discussion forum. Although I found Nota Bene extremely useful, they found no statistically significant difference in the exam scores between the four groups. In other words, a sample size of 125/2 (initial sample times completion rate) lacked statistical power. I would like to see the completion rate by RCT exposures.