Harvard's Online and Free Class: The Future of Education?

Bill Gates just wrapped up his speech here at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre and he referenced a tremendous online site that could be the future of education. ‘Justice with Michael Sandel‘ is put together by Harvard University and WGBH. It’s essentially videos and an interactive discussion area where anyone can weigh in on the topics being discussed at a particular time. There have been some healthy discussion and a bit of buzz on campus about it. Students need to sign a waiver allowing them to be filmed in the class (which takes place in Sanders Theatre, where Bill Gates just gave a speech if you were wondering).

What’s the deal?

According to the website, the course is one of the most popular courses in Harvard’s history. Now it’s your turn to take the same journey in moral reflection that has captivated more than 14,000 students, as Harvard opens its classroom to the world.

In this twelve part series, Sandel challenges us with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do. He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios. The results are often surprising, revealing that important moral questions are never black and white.

This course also addresses the hot topics of our day—affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism and rights—and Sandel shows us that we can revisit familiar controversies with a fresh perspective.

Who is Michael Sandel?

Michael Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980.  His books include Democracy’s Discontent, Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics, The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, and, most recently, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? His writings have been translated into eleven foreign languages and have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, and the New York Times.

Sandel has lectured widely in North America, Europe, China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand, on topics including democracy, liberalism, bioethics, globalization, and justice.  He delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Oxford University, was a visiting professor at the Sorbonne, and in 2009 delivered the BBC’s Reith Lectures.  From 2002-2005, Sandel served on the President’s Council on Bioethics.  A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sandel received his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

What happens in class?

There are some very engaging topics for this class. They are obviously designed to capture the attention students (both on and offline).

01 The Moral Side of Murder / The Case for Cannibalism
02 Putting a Price Tag on Life / How to Measure Pleasure
03 Free to Choose / Who Owns Me?
04 This Land is my Land / Consenting Adults
05 Hired Guns? / For Sale: Motherhood
06 Mind Your Motive / The Supreme Principle of Morality
07 A Lesson in Lying / A Deal is a Deal
08 What’s a Fair Start? / What Do We Deserve?
09 Arguing Affirmative Action / What’s the Purpose?
10 The Good Citizen / Freedom vs. Fit
11 The Claims of Community / Where Our Loyalty Lies”
12 Debating Same-sex Marriage / The Good Life

Michael Sandel’s latest book, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, can be found here:

“Justice:  What’s the Right Thing to Do?”
Audio version of”Justice:  What’s the Right Thing to Do?”


  1. Jovanna Aguiar

    July 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I would like to study english and get the diploma!

    • Jovanna Aguiar

      July 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      I would like to study english and get the diploma.