Harvard Draws a Line in the Cybersand

By Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

Harvard Draws a Line in the Cybersand


Mark Clayton writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


If the Internet pipeline gets fat enough fast enough, maybe community-college Prof. Douglas Rowlett will use it to vault into the stratosphere of faculty stardom alongside Harvard Law School Prof. Arthur Miller.

As a well-known legal scholar, Dr. Miller has a distinct lead in notoriety. But Dr. Rowlett is way ahead when it comes to putting scholarship and teaching skills online for the world to see.

The key difference is that Houston Community College-Southwest is happy for Rowlett to broadcast his class instruction over the Internet - but Harvard University is not at all eager for Miller to do the same.

In 1998, Miller recorded 11 lectures for a course on civil procedure for Concord University School of Law, a for-profit, online, degree-granting institution whose parent is Kaplan Inc., an education subsidiary of the Washington Post Co.

When it found out, Harvard put its foot down and refused to permit the arrangement.

"I happen to believe there is a universe beyond my classroom," Miller says. "I've used every medium available to me. I've used tapes, books, television. In each case, I've just tried to extend my love of the profession and my voice. That's what I started to do with distance learning on the Internet - and ran into a brick wall."

Miller was surprised, he says, because he had done similar things to popularize the law in the past. Besides his books, he was an early pioneer among scholars in putting the law on television with his show "Miller's Court," beginning in 1979. Not long after, he served as legal editor for ABC's "Good Morning America."

None of that was a problem for Harvard. But the Internet definitely is. The school's faculty manual has modified its "conflict of commitment" rule to now include Internet teaching.

"The image of communicating to thousands of people over the Internet is a wonderful image," Miller says. …

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