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Contracts XFrom Trust to Promise to Contract

Welcome to ContractsX! This syllabus provides an overview of the course, a detailed course policy, and an outline of the assignments you’ll be completing over the eight-week course.

Scope of the Course

Contracts are an important and pervasive part of our daily lives, so it is a vital skill to understand the basic principles of contracts.  This course starts by putting contracts into their human setting, analyzing why we form contracts and what aspects of our humanity contracts depend upon and serve.  The course then moves onto the nuts and bolts of contracts—what promises do and do not form contracts, the principles of offer and acceptance, and what happens when contracts go wrong.  Along the way, Professor Fried will introduce famous cases and judges, illustrating principles of contracts with some wonderful stories.

Legal Disclaimer

We would like to stress that while this course is designed to introduce the basics of contracts, it is not an intensive review of all relevant case law, and should not be perceived as legal advice in whole or in part.  Further, this course does not reflect the views of Harvard University, Harvard Law School, HarvardX, or edX.

Teaching Staff

From time to time, Professor Fried and teaching staff will participate in discussion.  Teaching staff will also moderate all open-ended assessments and can provide feedback.  Please use the general discussion boards to introduce yourself and ask any questions about the course. If you experience a technical issue with the platform or payment for ID Verified Certificates, please contact edX through this form Another good place to get information is in our discussion form.  If you have something that cannot be posted publicly, you can e-mail us at

Academic Honesty and Course Conduct

You are expected to abide by edX’s standards of academic honesty and online conduct, which are laid out in the edX Terms of Service.  Please pay particular attention to the following points:

Submit only your own work and do not engage in any activity that would dishonestly improve your results, or improve or hurt the results of others.

Content that defames, harasses, or threatens other students, course staff, and/or professors is strictly prohibited.  This includes profane, pornographic, obscene, indecent, and unlawful content; advertising; and any intentionally inaccurate information or content that is posted with the intent to mislead others.

Expected Workload

ContractsX requires 3-5 hours per week to complete the lessons.  This includes watching the video lectures and completing the course assessments.

We will start the full course on January 10th.  Each unit represents 3-4 hours of work.  You can decide how quickly to progress through the material, but please note that the course closes April 9th.  After that time the course will be archived.  You will still have access to the course materials after the course closes.  You can put in your 3-5 hours each week at your own pace and there is time to catch up later.  Please try to keep on schedule but know that we have extra time at the end for flexibility.  You are also free to go faster or slower as your time permits.

Course Schedule

A suggested schedule for getting through the material is one to two units per week.  Of course, feel free to work at your own pace, studying whenever is best for you.  Most lecture segments are followed by short assessments and all units have larger, end-of-unit tests, as detailed below.


Assignments: Lectures 1.1 – 1.6 (approx. 32 min), Deadweight Loss Exercise

Unit 1: 4 Principles

Intro, Intent to Create Legal Relations?; Both Sides Serious?

Assignments: Lectures 2.1 – 2.5 (approx. 21 min), Checkpoint Assessment

Legal and Moral?, Gift or Bargain?, Complications – Uncle’s Promise, Brother-In-Law, Demotsis v. Batsakis

Assignments: Lectures 2.6 – 2.15 (approx. 25 min), Self Test

Complications (continued) – Post v. Jones, Car Accident, Alaska Packers, Christmas Shop Manager

Assignments: Lectures 2.16 – 2.23 (approx. 26 min), Unit Test: Enforceable Bargains

Unit 2: Empty Bag

One-Sided Promises; Empty Bags

    Assignments: Lectures 3.1 – 3.4 (approx. 32 min), Unit Test

Unit 3: Offer/Acceptance

Promises Given for Something; Acceptance

   Assignments: Lectures 4.1 – 4.4 (approx. 24 min), Unit Test 

Unit 4: Law at the Margins

Charitable Subscriptions

   Assignments: Lectures 5.1 (approx. 15 min)


   Assignments: Lectures 5.2 – 5.5 (approx. 30 min), Unit Test

Unit 5: Mistakes, Fraud, and Frustration

Part 1a: Mistakes

    Assignments: Lectures 6.1 – 6.5 (approx. 34 min)

Part 1b: Fraud

Assignments: Lectures 6.6 – 6.9 (approx. 26 min), Unit Test: Mistakes and Fraud

Part 2: Frustration

     Assignments: Lectures 6.10 – 6.17 (approx. 28 min), Unit Test: Frustration

Unit 6: Interpretation of Contracts

Part 1: Interpretation

    Assignments: Lectures 6.1 – 6.5 (approx. 60 min)

Unit 7: Remedies and Specific Performance, Third Parties

Part 1a: Remedies and Specific Performance: Two Measures of Expectation Damages

    Assignments: Lectures 7.1 – 7.5 (approx. 37 min)

Part 1b: Reliance Damages and Specific Performance

Assignments: 7.6 – 7.8 (approx. 31 min), Unit Test: Remedies and Specific Performance

Part 2: Third Parties

    Assignments: Lectures 7.9 – 7.14 (approx. 20 min), Unit Test: Third Parties

Unit 8: Agency, Partnerships, Corporations, and Regulation


   Assignments: Final Test 


To pass this course, you will need to maintain a course average of at least 60 percent.  Students reaching 60 percent who have registered for the ID Verified Certificate will get an ID Verified Certificate. Please note that there is no certificate on the Audit track.

Assessments in this course range from simple multiple choice and short answer questions to more open-ended assignments, such as polls and discussion boards.  Each unit ends with a unit test worth 7.5 percent of the final course score.  Similarly, the course ends with a comprehensive final test, worth 15 percent of the final score.  There are also a number of questions and opportunities to participate that appear after lecture segments throughout the course.  Although not every question is graded, completing each question generally counts towards your final score and is highly recommended. Peer-review essays are essential to learning to formulate your thoughts. At scale, peer-to-peer grading is our best option. We have limited the weight of these exercises so that you can pass the course without them. However, we hope that you will do the exercises and have patience with the process, because it is better than more multiple choices only in a world that is hardly multiple choice. :)  We also have the ability to over-ride a peer grade, but please do not fret too much about the grades since the final grade will not appear on your certificate.  The certificate will only say that you passed the course.  :)


There are no assigned readings or texts.  However, we of course recommend that you purchase Prof. Fried's book on Contracts.  Please note that this revised edition became available in April of 2015.

Other texts you might consider are the Restatement (Second) of Contracts, available here, and finally Chirelstein's Concepts and Case Analysis in the Law of Contracts here. Please note that used copies of these and earlier editions are available at very reasonable prices.


Although some of the images in the course videos are licensed under the CC BY 4.0 license, the other course content and materials remain subject to the EdX Terms of Service. 


This course is hosting a study on participation and learning.  There will be treatment groups and a control group.  We will also send a short, optional survey to get your feedback.  Your information would be completely confidential.  Your being included in the experiment would benefit future students through insights into encouraging learning.  If you would rather not be included in this study, you’ll have the chance to opt-out through the course update emails.  Otherwise, we greatly appreciate your willingness to improve online education by being included.