Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s reputation for online classes has expanded all the way to China, where one law school is seeking to learn how to teach students remotely due to government restrictions over the coronavirus outbreak.
Professors from Peking University School of Transnational Law will log in Tuesday to receive training from experts at Mitchell Hamline in St. Paul, which was the first law school in the nation to provide online classes that met accreditation standards of the American Bar Association (ABA).
Training professors so they can teach students in China, where in-person classes have been suspended this spring amid the outbreak, will be rewarding, said Kelly Von Ruden, Mitchell Hamline’s director of blended learning, which is a term for coursework completed in person and online.
“To be able to assist with that is meaningful for us,” she said, “and part of our mission.”
A Peking assistant dean, Christian Pangilinan, reached out after seeing an invitation by Mitchell Hamline for speakers to participate in a seminar on online law school teaching. Due to the 14-hour time difference, the instruction will start at 8 a.m. locally but 10 p.m. in Beijing.
College classes have been suspended indefinitely in China, where a new coronavirus emerged in December in a fish market in Wuhan, and has since caused more than 76,000 illnesses and 2,200 deaths. Many U.S. colleges suspended study abroad programs in China as well, forcing students to fly home early while commercial flights were still available.
While online learning has expanded rapidly among colleges and universities, its emergence in laws schools was slowed by ABA requirements for in-person learning.
Mitchell Hamline received the first variance to these requirements, and its success in the use of online training prompted the bar association to change its standards and allow up to one-third of law school classes to take place online, Von Ruden said.
Training in online teaching is important because professors need to learn how to keep online students engaged and how to convey skills that are necessary for practicing attorneys, she added.
“Putting a class with trial skills online, and having students doing oral arguments, or an open and closing statement, through video … is very different,” she said.
More than half of Mitchell Hamline’s 1,083 law school students registered for blended online and in-person classes.
The Peking law school is unique in providing students in Beijing with a four-year program that combines American and Chinese law school approaches and traditions.