Capital University Law School is creating innovative curriculum

4/12/2013  -  Capital University Law School is creating several innovative additions to its curriculum as part of its response to the changing educational needs of its students.

The Law School’s faculty has recently approved changes that include an cutting-edge online adoption law course, a new course in oil and gas law, a new concentration in energy law and a new core bar studies course.

“Each of these changes represent the law school’s commitment to offering relevant, distinct and practical approaches to legal education,” said Dean Rich Simpson. “They are part of our efforts to offer a distinct approach to our curriculum that is highly relevant to the job market for law school graduates.”

Exploring online synchronous courses: Starting this fall, Professor Angela Upchurch will begin teaching the law school’s existing course on adoption law to currently enrolled students in a highly interactive, synchronous online format.

Unlike many existing online college classes, Upchurch’s course will allow students to experience the class at the same time as students physically in the classroom. The technology allows these distance learners to interact in real time with the professor and other students.

“This is an innovative approach for innovative learners,” Upchurch said.

If Upchurch’s first synchronous course is successful, it will open the door for other courses to be offered online – and for students at other law schools across the country to take CapLaw classes without traveling to Columbus.

Many colleges and universities allow distance learning. Because of requirements from the American Bar Association and other state bar associations, online courses have made only limited inroads in legal education, Upchurch said. Synchronous classes eliminate these challenges by allowing students to interact with the professor and other students in real time, creating an online classroom experience that is as close as possible to being physically in the classroom.

“There is no hiding in the back row with this kind of class,” Upchurch said. “Everyone is in the front row.”

Upchurch will use a variety of technologies to facilitate the course, including live video conferencing, taped video lectures, and the ability to poll students with questions to see how many of them are grasping the covered material.

“In many ways I think it’s a much better way to learn,” Upchurch said. “It eliminates variables associated with traveling to class. It makes it much easier to incorporate the knowledge and expertise of real-world practitioners into the classroom. And it makes it much more practical for students to get externships outside of Central Ohio while still attending law school.”

New energy law program: Capital University Law School has initiated a new energy law program as a response to the boom in natural gas exploration in Ohio and many other parts of America.

Many of the changes within energy industries are coming about thanks to technological advances in exploration and production, which have made it viable to commercially unlock the oil and gas deposits contained in shale and tight sands. In Ohio alone, the economic benefit of shale oil and gas deposits is predicted to add $5 billion annually to the state economy. Shale development, particularly in Ohio and Pennsylvania, will require trained oil and gas attorneys, as well as retaining real estate practitioners, regulatory attorneys, and compliance professionals.

“The energy sector has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past decade,” said Professor Fenner Stewart, co-director of the Midwest Center for Energy Law and Policy at Capital University. “Governments, community groups, and industry continue to search for workable solutions to issues associated with satisfying an increasing demand for energy while ensuring responsible environmental stewardship. There are no easy answers.”

Capital University Law School’s new energy law program will be modeled off similar programs found in traditional energy states like Texas and Oklahoma. What will make Capital’s program distinctive is that it will be tailored to meet the unique legal challenges of new energy states like Ohio, Stewart said.

“No other law school in the Midwest is taking on such an ambitious project,” Stewart said. “We are assembling a steering committee of leading experts from the legal practice, industry, and the academy to help guide the development of this project so that Capital’s energy law program will be unlike any energy law program north of Oklahoma.”