While academics and students are preparing for the new session, a particular law course has just come to an end: the Law School’s first massive open online course (MOOC) entitled Right versus Might in International Relations, led by my colleagues Robin Geiss, Antonios Tzanakopoulos and myself. Over the course of six weeks, this course assessed the role of international law in high-profile controversies – among them debates about drone warfare, counter-terrorism, etc. The idea behin it was that, while international law is regularly invoked in major international controversies, we often have only a vague idea of what it precisely says, and whether what it says matters. The purpose of the course was to illustrate how it might matter by looking at current debates. The six weeks are over, and ‘learners’ (MOOC jargon for ‘students’) receive their certificates of participation. And overall, the course seems to have been a real success. Almost 6,000 people subscribed to it. And more importantly, the various case-studies prompted engaged (and informed) debates: over the course of the six weeks, participants posted 21,594 comments. Both figures underline the potential of MOOCs: they are not meant to replace traditional modes of university teaching – but to complement them. But in terms of outreach and engagement, they have real potential. So the first MOOC is over – but it remains accessible: we have stopped moderating discussions, but the materials (video clips, short readings, maps, and the like) are still available on the course website . And there will be more: from 13 October, the Law School’s second MOOC will go live. Entitled Paris 1919: A NEW WORLD ORDER? (the question mark is important), it is produced in collaboration with the BBC. It will assess the legacy of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, which after four years of war sought to make a ‘peace to end all wars’. Another topic waiting to be debated – for a taste, watch the trailer video and see the University’s news story.
Christian J. Tams