It’s Wednesday night in Cambridge and Thursday morning in Beijing, and their seminar rooms are some 6,700 miles apart, but for 30 students from Harvard Law School and the Renmin University of China School of Law, common interests and videoconferencing equipment easily bridge these distances.

During this spring semester, students in a reading group taught by HLS Professor William P. Alford and an advanced negotiation skills class taught by Renmin Assistant Professor Alonzo Emery ’10 have come together electronically to consider the roles of China and the U.S. in a world order in flux. “The U.S.-China relationship is often touted as the most important relationship to manage ‘properly’ if we are to have the type of peaceful world envisioned by all of us in the course,” explains Emery. They were also joined for several class sessions by Han Dayuan, dean of Renmin Law School, and Ding Xiangshun, a Renmin professor currently at HLS as a Fulbright Scholar.

Alford, HLS’s vice dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies, worked for more than a year to plan this foray into the electronic classroom—an idea that is beginning to take root at HLS through faculty initiatives, the Law School’s first EdX course (Copyright, taught this spring by HLS Professor and Berkman Center for Internet & Society Faculty Director William Fisher III), student interest, and strong advocacy by alumni, including Gus Hauser ’53.

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