Online Learning How Drive Washington State


Though her professors think that she’s “too much into the social media thing” in college and will have to stop, she’s found a way. Natalie has been to China and comes home to South Carolina to finish school. Her coursework is expected to be her lifeline in the year before she goes to law school. Having burned out on community college, Natalie is dismayed when she discovers her classes haven’t been massive open online courses (MOOCs). Two months later, she goes home for Christmas and has a vision to learn online law. She plans to study in any way she can get away with.

Diane Burrington, a professor of Law and Technology at Seattle University, is teaching a class on applying technology to civic life called SCOTUSroom Law & Technology. The course is part of the university’s Early Love Law & Technology program, and gets a lot of media attention. Often, Burrington takes the class online. Students come to Seattle University from all over the country, and Burrington says her students always give her credit, even if it means they have to take a credit-bearing class.

Another professor at Seattle University, Rajendara Thadhani, is teaching a class on criminal law. Since most of his students come from India, he calls it International American Justice Online—Or IJO. He takes the course online and at the same time, hosts a popular podcast about U.S. and Asian justice, called Inside Justice. Students go to the University as a matter of habit and because the law school was nice to them. They all know what to expect: a lecture hall with sound and light, in which there are no distractions from television, newspapers, or electronic devices. “I think the approach of students is, ‘Yeah, I know this. This is what we get,’” Thadhani says.

Ultimately, online courses have became the no-brainer option for those who can’t afford to take, say, a half dozen advanced courses at $30,000 a year. Not only do the courses offer a seamless platform for interactivity, they help make college less like, well, college. Perhaps only undergrads can appreciate the convenience. “My 22-year-old has no experience and doesn’t really want to engage in a faculty lecture,” Thadhani says. “So this is the bridge that they come to the university with.”

Chicago is perhaps the most advanced city in the country in pursuing online learning. Since graduating from high school in Chicago, 16-year-old Shyra Hoffman has been able to register for classes at the University of Chicago online, take readings from the classics, and participate in discussion groups all from her iPhone or iPad, just like anyone else. She works full-time as a tour guide on Michigan Avenue, a long-held dream of hers.

Online education is becoming more and more affordable by the month. Many schools are rolling out new “open education” strategies, which allow any student with a high school diploma to register for a specific course and take it online at no additional cost. Some schools even have “share classes” agreements to help their struggling students. The lure is clear: Students who would have otherwise dropped out of college can begin studying again with ease and confidence.

Through an online course on sports law, Richard Sepe works to become a sports law expert. Getting the edge is possible through mentorship from experienced lawyers who are certified to practice professional sports law. Just last week, Sepe read in the New York Times, “Eli Manning is not the last of the great quarterbacks, but his departure at age 37 to the Giants is a sign of how expensive such status is these days.”

Through online learning, successful students can find wisdom from the experts. And, one day, other students may be able to study in K-12 classrooms, free from the stress of heavy workloads, while teachers teach what they love. If education were all about money and outcomes, online learning would be a dreadful option. In just a few short years, online courses have become the most affordable way for students to learn and a way for struggling students to be taught by teachers who love their craft.

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