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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Distance learning programs

I've never taught in a distance learning program. I know that MBA and MPA programs frequently offer such opportunities. (I'm not talking about a semester in another country programs, but rather courses regularly offered in outlying areas). Are such programs 'money makers'? Should they be? What are the benefits and costs of offering them? Should law schools go this route?

Tony Bertelli - (USC School of Policy, Planning and Development - joint appointment with the law school) provides some insights on such programs in a recent blog post:

Starting in August, I will be teaching a distance course at the MPA (Master’s of Public Administration) level for the first time.  The School of Policy, Planning and Development is launching a new distance program this fall and my course is among the initial offerings.  The distance medium is intensely challenging for a beginner like me.  Why am I doing this?  Here is one reason.

I’ve become convinced that distance teaching in MPA programs is important.  Back in 2007, I wrote a paper about turnover intention in the federal service that launched an interest the sustainability of the public sector workforce.   Around the time I published my study, an OPM report suggested that about 18 percent of the federal workforce had become eligible to retire and that the median length service after becoming retirement eligible was four years.  In the 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, fully 42% of the more than 247,000 respondents reported being with their current agency for longer than 20 years. Statistics for my home state of California are likewise striking with fully 51% of of the service comprised of Baby Boomers and only 11% Milennials according to the Department of Personnel Administration.  That imbalance warns that pre-service MPAs are not sending graduates into public service positions, and retirements are on their way.

Check out the rest here.


Posted by Jeff Yates on June 25, 2011 at 09:43 AM in Blogging, Law and Politics, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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I would suggest that yes, law schools should think about going this route. Many law schools in the UK and Australia offer distance learning options. In the U.S., the future will see increasing pressures to cut costs to make a law degree an investment that people will be willing to make (especially as we have to face outsourcing: http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/05/lawyers-outsourcing-india-opinions-columnists-larry-ribstein.html).

If you haven't already, you should certainly check out a very interesting article published last summer in the Michigan State Law Review (2010 Mich. St. L. Rev. 249, online at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1516468), on the pressures that will force change in legal education models in the U.S. Here's a sample of what the author says about distance learning:

Outside the schools traditionally classed as the elite institutions, many law schools are entering an era in which their student bodies and faculties must shrink .... There are, however, competitive options for many law schools to pursue. They include:
• Distance Learning Options aimed at cutting faculty costs, creating alternative learning methods. This offers the ability to create significant efficiencies by such means as a law school using one faculty member to teach several sections of the same course either through a live or recorded presentation. It also creates the ability to design teaching consortia between law schools in which faculty are shared. Law schools will be able to experiment with distance-based lectures for large scale information transfer classes followed with combinations of smaller seminars, tutorials and computer exercises.

Posted by: Lael | Jun 26, 2011 8:19:52 PM

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