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Nova Southeastern University’s law school uses computer technology so extensively in its classrooms and administration that it’s been named the “most wired” law school in the country twice by National Jurist magazine. Now the Shepard Broad Law Center in Davie, Fla., is taking digital education to the next level — offering a master’s degree in health law almost entirely over the Internet. The master’s in health law is the first degree other than a J.D. that the law school will offer. The school is awaiting American Bar Association “acquiescence” for the degree program, which it expects to receive shortly because an ABA committee has recommended the program. The degree program is aimed at nonlawyers, particularly professionals in health care and related industries, according to Paul R. Joseph, associate dean for international and external programs. The school is considering adding a similar program for attorneys. The health care industry is so heavily regulated, Joseph says, that those who work in it need to understand health care laws and rules. And because their workloads are so demanding, Joseph says, cyberschooling is the ideal vehicle for the scheduling flexibility they require. “It’s education on demand,” he says. With the exception of three on-campus orientation seminars, all of the courses will be taught via the Internet. The two-year program consists of three 20-week terms followed by six months in which students must complete an in-depth research paper. Reading assignments, course materials, sample problems, lecture notes and video clips of lectures will be posted online, where students access them with passwords. All students will take a core group of classes on topics like legal research, administrative law, health care ethics, tort and contract law, patients’ rights, and accreditation and licensing. After that point, students can continue to the basic master’s degree or specialize in legal regulatory compliance or risk management law. Part of the online program will take place in real time, like regularly scheduled chat-room discussions among students, and the “office hours” of course professors. But most student gatherings will be asynchronous, through discussion threads that students enter and leave at their convenience. Joseph expects that feature, unique to cyberspace, will be a key element of the program. “We’re not looking to reproduce the classroom experience,” he says. The faculty for the program will consist primarily of Nova law professors. Other instructors are from law schools across the country. Professors will interact with students individually via e-mail and through discussion board postings. Tests will be administered online, though essay final exams may be held at locations convenient to students. A first class of 20 is scheduled to begin at the end of June. Joseph says the school is only planning for a limited group at first because “we want to do this carefully and get it right.”

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