PUBLISHED:September 21, 2015

Helfer reprises MOOC on international human rights, beginning Oct. 19

Laurence Helfer Prof. Laurence Helfer (Photo: Brian Mullins Photography)

Laurence Helfer, the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law, will begin teaching a massive open-access online course – a “MOOC” – on international human rights law on Oct. 19.

Several thousand students enrolled in the six-week course, titled “International Human Rights Law: Prospects and Challenges,” when Helfer first offered it in the spring of 2014 to bring high-level instruction in human rights law and policy to a global audience.

Helfer uses video lectures and discussion forums to engage students in discussion of cutting-edge human rights issues such as genocide and humanitarian intervention, the right to life and capital punishment, the right to health and HIV-AIDS, and counterterrorism and human rights. The course includes weekly quizzes and a final exam.

With humanitarian and refugee crises unfolding in various parts of the world, knowing when international law and human rights may help to provide solutions is extremely important,” said Helfer, whose expertise includes international law and institutions and international adjudication in addition to human rights. He designed the course to appeal to multiple audiences, including nongovernmental organizations, university students, and practicing attorneys.

“Human rights are universal,” said Helfer, who co-directs the Center for International and Comparative Law, is a senior fellow with Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, and a Permanent Visiting Professor at iCourts: Center of Excellence for International Courts at the University of Copenhagen. “They can be a source of empowerment and a tool for advocacy for legal, political, and social change. At the same time, human rights are often violated, sometimes on a widespread scale.

“What I’ve learned from practicing, teaching, and writing about human rights for more than 20 years is that it’s essential to understand how international law protects human rights and how international monitoring mechanisms can be used strategically and selectively to pressure governments to improve their respect for those rights – even if sometimes slowly or imperfectly. This course allowed me to share these insights with a global audience.”

No university credit is awarded for enrolling in the MOOC, which is offered through Duke University’s partnership with the Coursera. Students can, however, elect to enroll in a “signature track” which offers a verified certificate that the student has completed the course and its assignments. Click here to enroll.