Speaker: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that and once again, welcome everybody. I will go over those course in more detail in a moment. But for the time being, let’s focus on a course that I’ve designed and I teach regularly in the program, Introduction to the American Legal System.
As Mr. Richmond pointed out, this is a course that is required for the MA students and not required for the LLM students. And that’s being it’s understood that after 3 years of law school, you should know something about the American Legal System. The MA students though, don’t have the benefit of 3 years of a legal education.
And so again, as Mr. Richmond pointed out, it’s essential to bring those students up to speed because they will be in law school courses taught by law school professors alongside practicing lawyers. And we want to give you everything we have, we want to give you so that you can keep up and excel and thrive in those courses.
So you could think of this as sort of a crash course in law school. And it’s going to cover the fundamental aspects of what’s it like to be a lawyer, the types of things lawyers learn, the types of lawyers do. How the American Legal System works. So it’s going to start off with the three branches of government, how a bill becomes a law. But it goes into depth and detail that you’ve never probably ever even thought-too afraid to ask let’s say, that type of thing.
And then it’s going to go into and give you a very high level review of different content areas of law. Give you a little something to know what is American contract law like? What is American tort law like? What is American civil procedure look like and discovery? Just a little glimpse into each of these. So it has to acclimate you and so you can contextual what you will be learning throughout the semesters ahead.
Very importantly, the course will also focus on critical legal skills, legal reasoning and legal writing. That’s what lawyers do, that’s the types of work products that lawyers produce. We want you to be comfortable with that type of work product and to be able to produce some of it on your own. So that’s sort of how the course-that’s its objective and those are the high points of the course and that’s its purpose.
Now let me talk a little bit about how the course is structured because it’s typical of most courses in the program. And by going through this particular course, you’ll get a sense of what most courses are like. again, with the caveat that some professors do things a little bit differently, but for the most part, this is a pretty mainstream approach.
First off, every course in the program is a 7-week course. It’s 7 weeks and then you get a week off and then the semester finishes up with another 7-week course. So in the fall semester, you take one course for 7 weeks. You have a week off and take a second course that semester from 7 weeks as well. Then there’s a break between semesters and then spring would start and you do that all over again. A break between the semesters and then there’s a summer session as well, 7 weeks, week off, then weeks, break and then starts over. So that’s how it works.
So this is a 7-week course. Every course in the program is 7 weeks except for the Capstone, which is 14. Now some courses are two credits, some are three. This happens to be a 2-credit course. The difference is because they’re all 7 weeks is the amount of workload that you should expect within the course. A 3-credit course will have a little bit more work, a little bit more reading than a 2-credit course.
So how does the course work? Well, every week, we use a [Moodle] based platform. So the way it would work is you’d log into your course and when you log in, you’ll see all the weeks laid out. Week 1 through 7, certain assignments would be open for you, the week you’re on, certain assignments won’t yet be available for you to assess. But in your current week, you’ll have a list of readings. Some will be PDF links, some will be just a listing of pages to read and an assigned textbook for the course.
My course is a combination, there’s an assigned textbook and there’s supplemental readings that are posted on the website. Again, I think that’s fairly typical of courses in this program. So you do the readings and then the readings are supplemented with a PowerPoint voiced over presentation. This presentation can run I think 10-20 minutes or so depending on the week.
And the point of the presentation is to pull together the readings and materials that you are introduced to that week. To help, again, explain it, bring it together and address it and maybe address current issues that are arising under it. It’s the type of thing you’d get in a classroom lecture. So it’s not just the reading on your own, but you’re having an instructor then help explain the material to you.
So there’s that video to watch, that’s every week. Now on top of that, every week will usually feature a quiz or assignment of some sort. And that’s to test your knowledge. Making sure you’re keeping up with the material. So the quizzes will test content, the assignments will usually test your mastery of certain skills.
So in my course, there’s a legal interpretation, a statutory interpretation assignment. There’s also a legal memo writing assignment to make sure you’ve mastered or at least starting to practice those skills or legal writing and legal research. The quizzes are commonly multiple choice, sometimes they’re short answer and they’re typically timed. We can’t do closed book exams because you’re at your laptop or wherever you are at your home but we can time the exams, which is what we do to give you an incentive to know the material before you open up the exam or the quiz.
Finally, and very importantly, each week usually features a discussion board. And this is a really important facet of each course. The discussion board allows the students to interact with each other as they respond to a question or two posed by the instructor. And again, so you get to share opinions with one another. And these are not unlike some of what we see in the modern media, cable news, all that stuff. These are informal-we expect informed high level discussion of issues based on your readings and your life experiences.
And I think you’ll be very happy with the level and the quality of the conversation and discourse that goes on in these discussion rooms. It’s astounding, it’s really, really good and it’s one of the high points of the program. You will learn a lot from each other in the discussion boards. And of course, the instructor participates as well and moderates as need be.
Now some courses have special projects on top of this where they have students interact in teams and do projects together as teams. My course doesn’t but other courses do. I should mention a couple of other things. We have Zoom video live chat sessions. My course has it three times over the 7-weeks. Some courses have it more frequently. I don’t think any have it less frequently as far as I know.
These are voluntarily because the entire course is asynchronous, we want it to be as flexible as possible. So you do not have to commit to being at a certain place at a certain time. That defeats the flexibility of the course. That said, for those who wish to have that sort of live experience, I schedule again about two weeks apart, three times throughout the semester a 7PM-8PM live Zoom chat session.
It’s a really good technology where students log on, you get to see each other on the screen together and we go over a topic or an issue or maybe an assignment depending on what’s going on that week. And it’s an opportunity to put a face with a name to actually hear a voice and to ask questions live as you would in a classroom or in an office hours setting.
So those are also an amazing opportunity to interact with one another and with the instructor. And I would highly recommend that if your course does have that, you take full advantage of it. So it’s not to disadvantage those students who are unable to make these sessions. Each and everyone will be recorded and they will be available for you to view at a later time within the course website.
Last, of course, but not least, most courses including mine have a final exam. The final exam, the formats vary. A lot of times there are essays that need to be written. And they’re typically submitted through Turn It In. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that software. But basically, it’s an application whereby you just have to upload your Microsoft Word document into the system and it makes its way securely to the instructor.
My final exam is a combination of short answer and essay questions, other professors may vary. And again, typically the way that would work for a final exam, it’d be timed as well but my timing is like you have a couple of days. Think of it as a take home exam. The quizzes I typically give students 30 minutes to complete, 10 questions in 30 minutes. The final exam you usually have two to three days to do it from the day you read the exam.