Thinking Aloud: Upcoming Free Online Classes

Oct. 11,  2014 by Darius 

There are a number of free online courses coming up that you might find interesting:

  • “America’s Written Constitution,” taught by Professor Akhil Reed Amar of Yale University.

Class description: “‘America’s Written Constitution” is now being offered as the first of two new stand-alone courses.  The second course, ‘America’s Unwritten Constitution,’ will be offered in January 2015. These two courses were offered together in January 2014 under the name ‘Constitutional Law,’ however feedback from our students suggested the learning experience would be more valuable and effective if we split the course into to distinct offerings.

This course is designed to introduce you to one of the most important texts in human history—the United States Constitution.  Why and how did this document come into existence in the 1780s?  How and why has it been amended over the years?  Who decides what it means?  What are the ground rules for proper constitutional interpretation?

Over the next 6 weeks, this course will go through the constitution in its textual order. Starting with the Preamble, working through all 7 articles, the Bill of Rights, and ending with the 27th amendment. We will also be discussing the substantive themes of The Document, such as democracy, slavery, and national security. Our hope is that anyone who completes this course will be left with a solid enough understanding of the written text to formulate their own opinions on the ever-present constitutional debates impacting U.S. society.”

This class begins on October 20.  You can sign up at

  • “The Changing Global Order,” taught by Professor Madeleine Hosli of Universiteit Leiden.

Class description: “How are international power relations changing and how can global peace and stability be maintained? This course familiarizes you with some main theories of international relations, shows how the global order is gradually changing and discusses how selected international and regional organizations contribute to the maintenance of global peace and security.

You learn what research findings tell us in terms of the capacity of international organizations and actors to help prevent or stop violent conflict, what tools are used to negotiate agreements and how foundations for sustainable peace are best created. In the course, we also focus on the role of the European Union (EU) in terms of diplomacy and efforts to prevent conflict, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the contribution of some other regional organizations to the prevention of conflict and war.

We also look at activities of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and, in the context of a final debate, see in which ways its membership could be adapted to more accurately reflect the power relations of the current global order.

You learn about all of these topics by doing quizzes and exercises testing your knowledge of these subjects, helping you understand crucial concepts and get insights into how the academic study of international relations and international organization can contribute to the search for global stability and peace in practice.

This class starts on October 20.  You can sign up at

  • “American Capitalism: A History,” taught by Professors Edward Baptist and Lewis Hyman of Cornell University.

Class description: “Perhaps no story is as essential to get right as the history of capitalism. Nearly all of our theories about promoting progress come from how we interpret the economic changes of the last 500 years. This past decade’s crises continue to remind us just how much capitalism changes, even as its basic features—wage labor, financial markets, private property, entrepreneurs—endure. While capitalism has a global history, the United States plays a special role in that story. This course will help you to understand how the United States became the world’s leading economic power, revealing essential lessons about what has been and what will be possible in capitalism’s on-going revolution.”

This class starts on October 21.  You can sign up at

  • “Conditions for War and Peace,” taught by Professor Kiichi Fujiwara of the University of Tokyo.

Class description: “Discourse on war and peace has gone through a remarkable transition during the two decades after the end of the Cold War. We do not have to worry of major nuclear wars, and then, no longer can we anticipate stability based on nuclear deterrence. We have no immediate threat emanating from a belligerent adversary equipped with a major arsenal, but we observe a number of small to medium military powers that are more belligerent than the days of the Soviet Union. We have more democracies in the world, and yet are far from the democratic peace that has been imagined by the students of international relations.

This course aims to nail down some of the basic issues that had been argued in the current research on peace and security. The questions are all deceptively simple enough, but then the answers will all be ambiguous at best. It is my hope that you will be able to provide better answers than those given in the course by developing your own analytical capacity.”

This class starts on November 4.  You can sign up at

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