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Traditionally, prospective law students with full-time jobs or daily family caretaker responsibilities have been limited to applying to part-time evening division law school programs. With the advent of the Internet, these “non-traditional” students have another option: Online education. For while it is true that legal education has not been as quick to adapt to the online learning environment as other disciplines, there have been continuing signs of change. Many law schools are incorporating Web-based resources and classes into their curriculums, often using them to enhance a classroom-based course, adding a new and interesting dimension to the fixed facility model. Various schools are also experimenting with selected courses that are completely online. And in October of 1998, the nation’s first fully online law school, Concord University School of Law, opened its virtual doors. Concord places all lectures, discussions, exams and information online to meet the needs of adults who want to obtain a law degree, but whose circumstances prevent them from attending a fixed facility program. Online education may also redefine the “non-traditional” student. Perhaps it is the student who wants to obtain a legal education but plans to use it in a “non-traditional” way, i.e. the student who would rather be a risk manager than a litigator, but wants to know the law nonetheless. This student may choose an online program because it more clearly fits in with her career goals. A student who prefers to set her own schedule or has a learning style not easily accommodated in the traditional classroom may also find the online environment a better fit. In these days of over-scheduled, fast-paced lives, it may be that the non-traditional student is anyone who spends his or her time primarily handling work and/or family responsibilities but still wants to achieve the goal of a law degree. Consider these examples of non-traditional students: � Joe, in the midst of a career he would rather not abandon for three years; � Martha, whose family care-taking responsibilities prevent her from moving to a new city in order to attend school to advance her career goals; � Sam, who lives in a rural area, far from a fixed facility school; or � Denise, whose travel obligations make it too difficult for her to plan to be in a classroom twice a week at 5:45 p.m. For some of our example students, a part time law program in the evenings or on weekends will do the trick, and certainly those programs should be considered. For others, it may be more important to find a program that has greater flexibility. Online learning may fulfill that need for many individuals, and many e-learning programs are gaining increasing visibility and acceptance. An online learner must be a true self-starter, highly motivated and self-disciplined. As an applicant explores various law school options, he or she needs to assess his or her own learning style to determine if it is suited to the online learning environment or if a traditional approach is more appropriate. The Concord curriculum, for example, although accessible wholly online, is no less rigorous than attending a fixed facility school, so while commuting time may be reduced, an applicant must be ready to devote the same amount of time to studying as he or she would at a fixed facility program. For a recent college graduate in his or her twenties, a fixed facility education may be more suitable than an online education, depending on his or her personal circumstances. The typical online learner is in his or her thirties or forties, and already holds a full time or part time job, as well as, in many instances, an advanced degree. Online learning is the most suitable option for people who want to continue their occupations but pursue a degree in order to advance in their careers — students at Concord, for example, range from a compliance analyst at a brokerage firm to a small business owner, a paralegal, a physician, and a pilot. These professionals have indicated a desire to use a legal education for greater knowledge within their own occupations. Just as frequent is the stay-at-home mom or dad who wants to remain intellectually stimulated while planning for the time when the children will be in school full time. How does online learning work for a law student? One example is Concord’s unique online J.D. curriculum which assigns the same casebooks and hornbooks found in brick-and-mortar law schools. It is a four-year, part-time program. Students attend lectures by watching and listening to streaming video over the Internet. Following a lecture on a given topic, students engage in discussion groups with their classmates and professors at designated times, in online chat rooms. The Concord curriculum is designed to be flexible and puts students in control of their study schedules. Even so, a Concord student is expected to keep pace with the program. If a student falls behind, he or she will be contacted by the Dean of Students, who will help identify and discuss any problems. IS E-LEARNING FOR YOU? Aspiring law students should carefully consider their options, as well as their career goals as they investigate law schools. An e-learning program such as Concord’s may be just right for a student who wants to blend a busy life with the pursuit of a legal education. Donna Skibbe is the director of development at Concord University School of Law.

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