Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Interesting article in today's Inside Higher Ed: Legal Education at a Distance, by Scott Jaschik:
As online education has become more and more popular, law schools have largely been on the sidelines. The ABA will not accredit distance programs, and has strict limits on the use of distance education in traditional programs.
On Tuesday, however, the online only Concord School of Law — which has managed to grow without ABA recognition — announced a merger with Kaplan University. In terms of corporate ownership, this isn’t much of a change — both Concord and Kaplan are divisions of Kaplan Inc., a major player in for-profit higher education. But because Kaplan University is regionally accredited (which Concord is not), the merger will make Concord students eligible for federal student loans and to defer repaying their past student loans when enrolled. These are seen as advances for Concord — whose officials say that they believe law school’s efforts will eventually change attitudes about distance legal education.
While the ABA has not changed its rules, it has quietly approved an unusual variance from its procedures to allow the Penn State Dickinson School of Law to offer many more courses at a distance than ABA rules permit. While the effort relates in part to particular characteristics of the Penn State program (which makes use of two physical campuses), the ABA waiver represents the broadest experiment to date in the association giving its blessing to the extensive use of distance education.