By Prof. Randal Picker (guest-blogging)
If all goes well, my new free online course, Internet Giants: The Law and Economics of Media Platforms, will go live today.
In May 2014, in a two-hour window one Sunday evening, I wrote a four-page proposal for the University of Chicago’s online education committee, which I was serving on. I had chaired the university’s intellectual property committee when the university started down the MOOC path, and doing a good job with that project had the inevitable consequence: I was appointed to the university’s new committee on online education.
(Be warned: The first time you are asked to serve on a law school or university committee, you face an important and to-be-considered choice: Bungle the assignment and you will likely be free of administrative tasks going forward, but the natural consequence follows if you do the task well. That said, it is really important that responsible souls do this work.)
In that proposal, I set out the seven topics that I would ultimately end up doing in the online course as it is being released today. I didn’t simply take one of the courses that I teach and move it online. Instead, I created a new course from selected topics in three other courses that I teach at Chicago: Antitrust, Network Industries (the regulation of natural monopoly, starting with the railroad and the telegraph and moving forward) and Copyright.
I thought this was a sensible organization for a course centered on the idea of platforms. Platforms, or more generally two-sided or multi-sited markets, are perhaps the most important idea in the past two decades in industrial organization and related areas such as antitrust economics. The concept is important because it matches a set of behaviors and set of practices that have come to be so central to our lives.
My guess is that if I offered this course at the University of Chicago Law School, it might attract no more than 20 to 25 students, much smaller than the courses that I usually teach. That might be an acceptable size for a seminar, but I want my seminars to be focused on what the students say and much, much less about what I have to say. But a platforms course might work well across institutions, as I doubt too many law schools offer a course in platform law.
[ Full article available at The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/07/13/shooting-a-mooc/ ]