Mount St. Joseph Goes Online
Virtual learning programs increasingly gain
attention of paralegal educators.
By Steve Gust
It’s a brave new world for
paralegal education online. Paving the way as one of the pioneers for cyberspace learning,
the College of Mount St. Joseph will soon offer one of the first American Bar
Association-approved online education programs geared toward providing continued education
outside of the traditional classroom.
The Cincinnati college’s paralegal studies online
class gets underway in January 2001. That month was selected because dorm space will be
needed in the first week and the regular student population will be on break.
“We’re looking to have about 15 to 20 students
initially,” said Georgana Taggart, director of paralegal studies at the college and a
The total cost is about $13,000, Taggart said. In 15
months, a student can earn a Paralegal Studies Certificate. Participants will be brought
in for five days before the instruction gets under way.
“This gives us a chance to meet them [students] and
have them meet each other,” Taggart said.
Online Education Isn’t Completely New
Taggart has used Web access with other classes. Students, some of whom aren’t
normally outgoing in a typical class, are active in computer discussion, some of that
coming in the form of the bulletin board page.
“There’s been lots of interesting discussions
on the bulletin board that I’m not sure would have come up in the classroom,”
One of those dealt with a special Ohio statute on manslaughter. Someone involved in a
fatal accident involving a pregnant woman may face up to two charges of manslaughter under
“One of the students asked what would happen if the
woman had been driving to an abortion clinic,” Taggart said. “That’s the
kind of interaction you get on a bulletin board.”
Distance Education is Bound to Redefine Higher
There could be hurdles for this and other such programs, but the stark reality is that
online education is probably here to stay.
Educational professionals are also dealing with the
trend. The National Education Association and Blackboard Inc., commissioned the Institute
for Higher Education Policy to examine benchmarks or standards for online education. The
survey, “Quality On the Line,” estimated 1.6 million students were enrolled in
distance education courses in 1997 to 1998.
Robert Griggs is the associate academic dean for distance
learning with National American University in Rapid City, S.D. He sees potential for
online education and has been involved with programs that teach students from South
Dakota, as well as armed forces all over Europe.
“It’s a very interactive way of learning,”
he said. He anticipates that an online program with the Seattle-based Pacific Institute
will have an enrollment of 6,000 in the fall.
He’s familiar with benchmarks for online education
and has his programs in business law and employment law accredited.
Griggs suggested a couple of basic standards as musts,
although the Institute for Higher Education Policy report lists 24. The educator said that
information access is a must with electronic libraries accessible to students as well as
“Tutors should also be available to the online
students,” Griggs said.
He also said of online coursework that “The
potential is there for top education.”
“In the traditional classroom if you miss the information, you’ve missed
it,” Taggart said, not so in an online class. “Still, not all the material is
spoon fed to students. You have to have the self discipline to complete the various
classes on time.”
Making sure students have that attitude and the equipment
to complete online learning is one of the benchmarks of the Institute for Higher Education
Online education will continue to pose new challenges for
the college campus, Griggs said.
“I’ve had some people tell me that online
schools may be a threat because we need to make sure there are students in the
dorms,” Griggs said. “There’s no doubt though that online education will
probably be the primary source of continuing education.”