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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, May 7, 2017

ABA Rejects 2U-Syracuse Initial Proposal For A Hybrid Online J.D., While Other 2U-Syracuse Graduate Programs Are Flourishing With Over 1,700 Students

2U SyracuseFollowing up on my previous post, Syracuse Law School Seeks Approval For Nation's Second Hybrid Online J.D. Program:  Daily Orange, Online Learning Platform 2U Enters the Mainstream and Expands to More Colleges at Syracuse University:

Although higher education has been generally slow to adapt to new technology, SU has formed partnerships with 2U, an online education company, in numerous schools and colleges in recent years. While early phases have been challenging and sometimes controversial, professors and administrators said they see online learning — and 2U — as a key tool in the survival of their graduate programs.

“Obviously our mission is education in large part. Three years ago we had very little online education at all at Syracuse University,” SU Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a recent interview with The Daily Orange. “So, in some sense, we as a university were not involved in a significant area where education is occurring and is going to occur more and more in the future, particularly at the graduate level.”

Syverud has a history with 2U. He helped implement an online Master’s in Legal Studies degree at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where he was dean before coming to SU.

Across campus, and around the United States, administrators and educators are concerned about the future of higher education. The dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University said in 2016 that traditional lectures were quickly becoming antiquated and that technology was pushing higher education into the online space, per The New York Times.

Leaders at Syracuse University echoed his feelings, adding that declining enrollment and increased competition for students has pushed them to think of new approaches to education. 2U provides a platform and development support for online degrees throughout the country, generating profit through shared revenue streams with their partner schools.

The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management were early adopters of 2U programming. ...

While the quality of online education programs has been widely debated, 2U’s particular model seeks to eliminate that. 2U partners with carefully chosen leaders in particular fields — such as Newhouse and Whitman — and amplifies the school’s professors and other academic capabilities, putting programs under the university’s control, according to 2U’s website. SU administrators said this is what makes 2U one of the best platforms for online learning available today. ...

Increased faculty and administrative support are also required, and both Newhouse and Whitman have had to hire adjunct faculty to lead sections, some of whom do not have significant prior teaching experience but who are SU graduates in the field. ...

An attempt by SU’s College of Law to offer a partially online law degree developed with 2U has been slightly more controversial than the other programs. The degree, which would require more on-campus visits than the Newhouse or Whitman programs, was proposed about a year ago and would be the second online degree for practicing law in the country.

It faced immediate skepticism from some people, though, who were concerned about how it would affect the reputation of the College of Law in a field that is steeped in tradition.

The American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, is unsure about it as well. Traditionally, the association limits the amount of a degree that can be earned online, so SU must seek a waiver for this program to maintain accreditation.

The first version of the program presented by the College of Law and 2U was rejected, Dean Craig Boise said. In a statement to The Daily Orange, he said he was committed to the “ongoing” process of getting it approved.

“Legal education is steeped in tradition, and changes of this magnitude rarely happen quickly,” Boise said. “Nevertheless, I believe that the College of Law must take a leadership role in advancing new formats for the delivery of legal education to meet the evolving needs of our profession and those who would join it.”

Colleen Gibbons, president of the SU Student Bar Association, said there is still much that is unknown about the program, but it has the potential to impact a lot of people who cannot abandon their current lives to study on campus. While she said she agrees that the classroom setting in a law school is particularly important to the learning process, the industry is already in flux as it is.

With a strained job market and the constantly rising cost of higher education, administrators and faculty across campus said that going online is about going where the people are.

And the people have come. Whitman already has over 1,500 students enrolled online after two years, and while Newhouse only has a little over 200, Lux said they have met or exceeded enrollment goals each term. Whitman was also ranked the sixth-best online MBA program in the country for 2017 by Financial Times.

Those who have worked with the program also agreed that recognition as innovative programs — as well as the marketing abilities of 2U — has helped extend the reach of the SU brand.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/05/aba-rejects-2u-syracuse-proposed-hybrid-online-jd-program-while-other-syracuse-grad-programs-are-flo.html

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Comments

At many U.S. medical schools, first and second year lectures are recorded and posted online. Many students do not attend lecture in person. Instead, they watch the recorded lectures online. Of course, students must attend labs in person (e.g. cadaver, histo, micro, and path lab). This arrangement has not negatively impacted student performance. Last year, the first time passage rate of U.S. medical students taking the USMLE Step 1 was 96%.

The ABA should not outright reject all hybrid online programs. If the program adequately teaches students the knowledge needed to pass the bar and succeed as a lawyer, then the program should be accredited. I’m sure that some will claim that law is different than medicine because law students need to be taught to “think like a lawyer” in the classroom using the Socratic method. But medical students need the same critical thinking skills that lawyers use to solve problems. And medical students are having no trouble succeeding on board exams and becoming successful physicians despite viewing classes online.

While I applaud Syracuse for exploring ways to reduce costs for students, I hope that they will also explore ways to reform their curriculum so that students can pass the bar and obtain legal employment.

Posted by: anon JD/MD | May 7, 2017 12:35:36 PM

Concur with Anon

Posted by: Nick Paleveda MBA JD LL.M | May 8, 2017 4:39:48 AM

Can someone please tell me the ABA's motivation for this move? Is is over concerns of educational quality or protecting the existing monopoly?

Posted by: Dale Spradling | May 8, 2017 5:42:11 AM