Making Early Connections In-Person and Online: Partnerships, Pipelines and Asynchronous Course Pathways To Law

Ever wonder how to think about and construct all online courses for law and pre-law students in targeted ways? In this session, an in-person and asychronous graduate-undergraduate online partnership will be discussed, as will ideas for meshing a variety of content, pedagogical approaches, and meeting the needs of a diverse range of students. 

Making Early Connections In-Person and Online: Partnerships, Pipelines and Asynchronous Course Pathways To Law

  • Professor Erin Engels, IUPUI School of Liberal Arts and Pre Law Advisor

  • Professor Carrie Hagan, IUPUI Robert H. McKinney School of Law

  • Professor Lahny Silva, IUPUI Robert H. McKinney School of Law

To connect a diverse body of undergraduate students with legal education, law schools have created “pipeline” programs, which identify, support, and guide interested students to the graduate level field of their interest (Cunningham & Steele, 2015). This session will focus on one such pipeline effort, made up of four online asynchronous courses, with specific goals to identify and support these students in getting into law school.

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law (McKinney) in collaboration with IUPUI School of Liberal Arts received grant funding from the ABA to develop and pilot a program that would establish such a pipeline from local undergraduate institutions to law school. To that end, McKinney developed the Pathways Program, designed to engage and introduce students from underrepresented backgrounds to McKinney and the legal profession. Working with students who are first generation, low income, minorities, women and other diverse backgrounds, the McKinney program seeks to assist students in meeting the program outcomes through a coordinated four-course approach. At McKinney, Pathways participants work through the four online courses in sequence, and through a combination of an in-person mentorship project and the online courses, they develop writing skills, critical thinking and analysis, as well as professionalism and basic legal knowledge.

For course development needs, McKinney partnered with Indiana University’s eLearning Design and Services (eDS) department within University Information and Technology Services (UITS) to assist with the creation of online courses that would have sufficient quality and rigor. Starting with the program and course outcomes, a backwards design approach (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) was employed with a focus on incorporating key elements of the Quality Matters framework (

The companion parallel mentorship program was designed to offer and educate Pathways students on law school preparedness. Traditional topics such as essay writing, resume drafting, the LSAT exam, professionalism, character and fitness, and networking are encouraged conversations between mentors and Pathways students. The Pathways mentor program is structured so that a Pathways student is paired with a law student and a recent alumni as well as contacts with McKinney law faculty. Law students are directly paired (1:1) with a Pathways student and serve as the anchor of the Pathway mentorship experience. Participating alumni serve as a secondary mentor that focuses on professionalism and social etiquette, among other things. Finally, law faculty provide a variety of opportunities for Pathway participants such as classroom visits and office hour invitations.  

This session will provide an overview of the partnerships created to form this pipeline program, the four online courses and their specific learning outcomes, the mentorship program and an introduction of how each course uses tools via their online learning management system, Canvas. Specific challenges of working with diverse undergraduate students, successes and recruitment efforts will also be discussed. Attendees need not have any prior knowledge of pipeline programs, asynchronous courses, or teaching online in order to enjoy this session. Attendees will learn about the basics of pipeline programs, how to envision and structure partnerships between schools and technology resources, and how to cooperatively plan and design courses that gently overlap content-wise, yet retain a clear path towards achieving each course's individual learning objectives.  



Cunningham, A. & Steele, P. (2015). Diversity pipeline programs in legal education. Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, expanded 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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