“I Thought I Knew What I Was Getting Into” -- A Paradigm Shift From Undergrad Online Learning to Online Legal Education

This session will help attendees see how online legal education fits into the context of university-wide online learning efforts, while also highlighting the differing perceptions, regulations, and approaches to online learning between undergrad and law school courses.

Led by David Rose, an instructional designer at American University in Washington, DC, this session will describe his personal experience working in online learning across multiple units at his institution. He will distill these observations into best practices for other institutions looking to increase their online legal offerings.

Over the past two years, there has been a systematic shift in how online education is supported and valued at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL). Responding to a real need at AUWCL for innovation, centralized policies, and oversight of online offerings, the school created four new positions: an Assistant Dean of Online Learning, a Director of Online Learning, a Coordinator of Online Learning, and an Instructional Designer. David and his colleagues then created processes for new online courses to be developed including mandatory training, best practices, payment structures, and teaching loads. This session will detail the process, challenges, and rethinking about online education that go into the growing of the school’s online offerings.

As of Spring 2019, AUWCL has 4 online J.D. courses, 10 online LL.M. courses, 8 online certificate courses, and a new completely online Master of Legal Studies program being developed with a partner vendor. AUWCL is actively expanding their online offerings now that the ABA has increased the number of credits that can be taken online as part of a J.D. to 30. Many schools across the country are doing the same.

The ABA’s new allowance has opened a door, but faculty aren’t bursting through it. AUWCL’s Office of Online Learning was created to help encourage faculty through that door, providing them with detailed course design schedules, aids, best practices, and financial incentives. Participants in this session will hear about AUWCL’s process to sustainable online offerings. This session will share what has been learned from dealing with oversight from the ABA, managing course overload schedules, providing proper incentives to online faculty, and simply the relative novelty of online learning at law schools relative to undergraduate education.

Before joining AUWCL, David taught the Online Instructor Training course out of AU’s campus-wide Center for Teaching, Research & Learning. This is a 5-week course all instructors were required to take before being allowed to teach online. AUWCL faculty were exempt from this course due to the use of a different LMS. When David transferred to the law school, he assumed he would be able to use the same model and apply it seamlessly to the law school environment. Unfortunately, it did not work, and he had to restructure not only his teaching style, but his course outcomes and goals as well. He experienced a personal paradigm shift in how he thought about online learning -- due to ABA regulations, law faculty perceptions of online education, and incorporating the structure of a new online partner program.

David experienced one form of online education as a student in a completely online, asynchronous master’s program in instructional design. His experience and understanding grew as he taught instructors how to create their own online courses for undergraduate students. But the law school environment was a completely different beast.

The session will end with a Q&A for participants to discuss the following questions: How should online legal education be developed? How should it fit into the larger university efforts? What are best practices -- both in terms of academics and policy -- that should be followed? What are models being used at different schools? This session will help anyone associated with online legal education learn from the experience of an instructional designer at American University Washington College of Law.

Session Track

Everybody

Experience level

Beginner