As the Program Director of Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Online Graduate Programs I am constantly looking for ways to improve information delivery to students. The LMS to choose or the live session system to use are cosmetic, the organization of information delivery is the heart of how students learn.
The debate will eternally continue on what delivery method of learning is better, in person or online. Naturally, the answer will always be “it depends.” However, I believe I have found one instance where online learning is without question superior. Of course, my twisted brain thinks in this manner, realistically it may be the craziest/most ridiculous idea ever! That is part of the fun isn’t it? I don’t know, as I have not tested it yet (test run starting fall). For now, you can decide!
Our Program is a Master’s level program where students enter with a fluctuation of a base level of knowledge. For example: some students enter our tax concentration with 20 years of tax experience and are looking to add an expertise in a different type of taxation. Other students come in with no tax experience at all. Yet, we need to filter them through the same courses. We have five different concentrations, and all face the similar problem. A way I am going to combat this is with the first-term course for everyone to take. The challenge is that those with tax experience will be frustrated taking an entire course on basic taxation principle, but there are certain pieces of information they will absolutely need about various types of tax systems before entering more advanced courses.
The first-term course will be what I call a “dynamic learning environment.” It will essentially be five courses in one (one course per concentration), before you put me in a straight jacket and carry me off let me explain. The student will enter the course and see five tabs in the LMS that will indicate the different concentrations and will have a syllabus posted up front to start at. The syllabus will have a flow chart in it. Our courses are broken up into two-week “learning units,” so each student will be able to choose based on the flow chart which learning units to complete based on the individual’s needs. A student in our US Tax concentration with no tax experience will take all 10 weeks of US Tax introduction. A student with 20 years of tax experience can jump in and out of the US tax learning units (to maybe say the International Taxation concentration material) if material is deemed too basic. The course will be set up asynchronously utilizing recorded lectures, but will have access to one professor for each concentration, and the students will be told when a professor from each concentration is holding online office hours if there is any questions on the material.
I hope that this idea is a seed in which our Program can grow to something unique and meaningful. But maybe the seed will die, time will tell!