A couple of weeks ago, William Mitchell College of Law hosted the Working Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education (or WGDLLE, as we are currently and affectionately calling it) for its fall meeting. This is what the weather was like:
A rogue group of professors, educational technologists/instructional designers and academic law librarians, WGDLLE is an eclectic bunch, with the state of distance learning in legal education as their common thread. I should say, “you should check us out,” and, “we are an eclectic bunch,” as I am a member of the group, but I feel rather odd saying that, as I’ve only been at the last three meetings.
“Officially organized in November, 2011, the Working Group is an outgrowth of the Program for the Legal Profession’s Future Ed Series,” WGDLLE’s website informs us. Many of the members of the group work at law schools which offer online LL.M. or certificate-type programs. Others are experimenting with the limits of what the ABA allows in a J.D. program. Still others are approaching innovative partnership agreements with other schools where students from one school would take virtual classes at another.
The bi-yearly meetings represent both a chance to catch up on some of the original projects going on in legal education and distance learning, as well as a chance to update the working group’s research and documentation. We discuss copyright concerns (both in presenting materials in an online course and professor’s concerns about their own intellectual property), contractual difficulties, the labyrinth of state department of education requirements, and much more. Summaries from prior meetings are available.
The meeting this fall began with a series of Ted-type talks. A handful of members each spoke for 15 minutes or so, recounting a relevant project from their institution.1 For example, John Mayer, Director of CALI, spoke about what CALI does (and can do) to aid those of us trying to experiment with distance learning in legal education. Did you know that they created a specialized Google search which only searches law schools?
Aaron Dewald, Associate Director of the Center for Innovation in Legal Education at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, talked about the First Year Project that he and others at Utah have created – a blended classroom for first-year courses. Their goal is to “develop high-quality learning modules and assessments that can be used by any law professor wishing to blend their classroom.” Currently, at least, the modules are available to use free of charge. Dewald gave a similar talk at CALI in June.
Ashley Dymond, a student at UC Hastings, talked about LegalED, which, similar to the First Year Project, provides short videos on various legal topics, to enable professors to flip the classroom without having to create all new videos. Michele Pistone of Villanova University School of Law gave a similar presentation at the CALI conference.
After these brief talks, we got down to business — the “working” part of the group’s title. WGDLLE’s main project is the Blue Paper entitled Distance Learning in Legal Education: A Summary of Delivery Models, Regulatory Issues and Recommended Practices. If you’ve looked for documentation of online learning in law schools, as opposed to undergraduate or primary school education, you will know that there is not very much out there. The Blue Paper contains useful and provocative information on the topic; I highly recommend it.
That said, it needs updating. Although the Blue Paper is only two years old, the field has changed and is changing rapidly. That’s what we worked on for the remaining two days: breaking up the document into sub-parts and working on it in smaller groups, and then, as a whole, painstakingly going through the chapters all together. We hope to have it completely revised and available for use in the next few months. Interested in getting involved? The next meeting will be held in March at UC Hastings. There is information on how to become a member of WGDLLE on their home page. The meetings are always stimulating and often entertaining.1 I should note that WGDLLE meetings are generally governed by the “Las Vegas Rule.” In order to assure the freedom to discuss failures and let-downs as well as successes, there is an understanding that tales will, for the most part, not be repeated. The presentations I mention here, however, have already been discussed in other places.