Ian Ayres Teaches On-demand MOOC

A year after launching its Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on Coursera, Yale is offering a new set of “on-demand” MOOCs. Ian Ayres ’86, William K. Townsend Professor of Law, is teaching one of the courses, titled “A Law Student’s Toolkit.” Other courses available are “Introduction to Negotiation” by SOM Professor Barry Nalebuff and “The Global Financial Crisis” by SOM Professor Andrew Metrick and former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.

Sterling Professor of Law Akhil Amar also has MOOC courses available on “America’s Written Constitution” and “America’s Unwritten Constitution.”

Ayres’s toolkit course was inspired by his identifying a set of core concepts that would be useful for students to learn before starting law school.

“The course covers concepts from law, economics, history, psychology, philosophy—everything from slippery slopes and the Coase theorem to the veil of ignorance and standards of review,” says Ayres. He believes the course can appeal to a wide audience, from those considering law school to law students who want to brush up on a specific concept. “My organizing principal was to include the tools that I’d want my niece to know about if she were about to start law school,” he continued.

Although Ayres is unsure whether the MOOC format can substitute for the Socratic method, he believes that this topic seemed particularly suited to the modular form of the online course. “If this first foray works,” Ayres says. “I might try recording 100 lectures in the fall on Contracts.”

Ian Ayres has been a columnist for Forbes magazine, a commentator on public radio’s Marketplace, and a contributor to the New York Times' Freakonomics Blog. His research has been featured on PrimeTime Live, Oprah, and Good Morning America and in Time and Vogue magazines. Ayres has published 11 books (including the New York Times best-seller, Super Crunchers) and more than 100 articles on a wide range of topics. His latest book is Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done. In 2010, he also published Lifecycle Investing (with Barry Nalebuff).

Find more info on “A Law Student’s Toolkit” on Yale’s Coursera site.