5 questions with…one of CWRU’s first MOOC instructors Michael Scharf

Michael ScharfThirty years ago, just a few miles down the road, Michael Scharf served as captain of the Shaker Heights High School debate team. The topic was American foreign policy. Immediately, his interest was piqued.

That interest has remained ever since. Scharf went on to Duke University, where he was the secretary-general of the National High School Model United Nations Conference. Eight years later, he served as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations. He drafted the statute and rules for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, trained judges for the trial of Saddam Hussein, served as special assistant to the chief prosecutor on the Cambodia Genocide Tribunal and led USAID transitional justice projects in Uganda, the Ivory Coast and Libya.

Now, he’ll take all of this international experience and share it with the world, when he leads one of the university’s first massive open online course, or MOOC. His course, “Introduction to International Criminal Law,” will begin May 1.

“I immediately jumped at the chance to be the university’s trailblazer in this new educational medium because I saw this as a fantastic way to get my message about achieving world peace through justice out to a much wider audience,” said Scharf, the John Deaver Drinko – Baker & Hostetler Professor of Law and associate dean of global legal studies at the law school.

Already, more than 14,000 people have signed up to take his eight-week course, which will include classes such as:

  • History: From Nuremberg to The Hague;
  • Gaining Custody of the Accused: Extradition, Luring and Abduction; and
  • Pre-Trial Issues: Plea Bargaining and Exclusion of Torture Evidence.

“With war crimes, terrorism, and piracy cases appearing daily in the news, international criminal law has become one of the most talked about and important areas of law,” Scharf said. “The students will learn about the contours of international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, terrorism, and piracy; they’ll learn about specialized modes of international criminal liability and defenses; and they’ll learn about the challenges of obtaining custody of the accused and maintaining control of the courtroom when a tyrant is on trial.”

Scharf intends to use online simulations, role-play exercises, debates and multimedia video lectures that “look like the set of 60 Minutes” to bring the course to life.

Though Scharf believes there is no replacement for the interactive, experiential learning that takes place on campus, he sees MOOCs as an opportunity to grow the university curriculum and promote traditional university education.

For Scharf, the traditional university setting fills much of his time; in addition to teaching courses on international law and international criminal law and procedure, he also leads the Frederick K. Cox International Law Center, the International Criminal Law LLM Program, the Canada­–U.S. Law Institute and is managing director of the Nobel-nominated Public International Law and Policy Group.

But when he’s not writing, researching or teaching, Scharf enjoys playing guitar and singing in a law professor/law student rock band, which performs every Tuesday in the fall and spring from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Barking Spider Tavern. He also gets behind the mic for his quarterly National Public Radio program, “Talking Foreign Policy.”

Want to talk foreign policy with Scharf? Sign up for his MOOC at www.coursera.com/casewestern. Want to hear him talk about things other than foreign policy? Read his answers to our five questions below.

1. What was the first album you ever purchased, and what was the medium (record, cassette, CD, etc.)?
The Beatles’ White Album, as a record.

2. What do you think should have won “Best Picture” at the Oscars—whether or not it was nominated?
I was torn between Argo and Zero Dark Thirty—both of which I use in my International Law course.

3. What moment at Case Western Reserve stands out as most memorable (so far)?
The ceremony where my colleagues presented me with a chaired professorship is one of my most treasured memories.

4. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I jog three miles every morning before dawn with my Siberian husky, Reilly.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The students. They are fantastic!