Skip to main content

A Look at the New Online JD Program

by Katie Vincer Sears, CSU Law Student

It’s a privilege and honor to not only be a student at Cleveland State University’s College of Law, but to be enrolled in their inaugural, fully-online ABA accredited JD program. We’re now several weeks into the program and I’m falling into the program’s cadence. Since the program is part-time, my forty online classmates and I are currently enrolled in three required courses. For our first fall semester, we are all taking Criminal Law, Legislation and Regulatory State, and Legal Writing. For our program, we utilize the software of Blackboard. Within Blackboard, each course has its own ‘home’ section. Within each respective course’s home section, we are able to access announcements from the professor, assignments with due dates, grades, and most importantly, course content. 

Course content is divided into modules. Each module is congruent with each week. For example, for Week 2 of this semester, we were expected to complete the content in Module 2. The content in the module is organized and divided into multiple subparts identified as 2.1, 2.2, and so on. The amount of material fluctuates between professor and topic. I’ve quickly learned that it doesn’t matter how many subparts are in a module because every module is condensed with a plethora of information I have been impressed with the information and activities within each of these modules and I enjoy working through them. These modules feel like interactive PowerPoint slides. Of course, there is a heavy information dump within each module, but each professor explicitly highlights concepts and organizes the material in a way that it easily flows.

JD interactive course example

I appreciate the continuous opportunities to ‘check your understanding.’ For example, once you answer practice questions, the module will reveal both your instructor's and classmates’ responses to the same question. There are short quizzes that walk you through the answer and provide further explanations. There are links to read or watch additional materials, which complement the module’s topics. These modules allow you to learn at your own pace. I value the ability to return to past modules and walk through them again if needed because this is impossible with a traditional lecture. Most importantly, I can work through these modules at times which are most conducive to my personal schedule and obligations. It’s this freedom that makes law school plausible for me.

Our class is divided into two different cohorts, 501 and 502. These cohorts are only significant during online discussions since the discussion is within your cohort. For Crim Law and LegReg, there are activity boards where we are asked to write a short essay, which usually contains an opinion piece. Then, we are required to comment on our classmates’ posts and virtually interact with each other. Because of my classmates’ array of professional and personal experiences, our discussions are robust, hearty, and thoughtful. Once a week, currently on Tuesday evenings, we have a live (synchronous) class via Zoom. During our synchronous class, all students are expected to attend, log in on time, and have their cameras on with working audio. Our synchronous class alternates between Crim Law and Leg/Reg each week. The class is ninety minutes, running from 7:00pm to 8:30pm EST. These classes, just like a traditional classroom, allow for lecture as well as interaction. While Legal Writing does not have a synchronous lecture aspect, Prof Mika has skillfully created a fully asynchronous course.

CSU Students laughing in class

Also, once a week, currently on Thursday evenings, we have our AEP session. These sessions are led by our Crim Law and Reg/Leg teaching assistants. These sessions are also ninety minutes and not required, but strongly encouraged. Special shoutout to our TA’s, Rachel and Nick, for patiently assisting us while we navigate these uncharted waters. A particularly powerful moment of the program was our orientation weekend. All of my classmates and I convened on campus and spent three days together. This face-to-face interaction has helped create a more personal experience overall. There are no longer a bunch of random names on a computer screen. Rather, these are my classmates and new friends. 

I greatly appreciate CSU for recognizing and prioritizing this aspect of community. It has taken more time than I anticipated to establish my bearings with the technology and software. Admittedly, I’ve been out of the classroom for over fifteen years now. Still, I gain more confidence with each week. All of our professors, the staff at CSU (especially Patricia Riley), and our TA’s have been supportive and understanding. Sure, there have been some kinks to work out. Nonetheless, I’ve been impressed with how smoothly everything has been. So far, so good!  I appreciate the opportunity to provide my first-hand experience of this new program to the CSU Law Community.

Student Katie Vincer Sears headshot

Katie Vincer Sears is an IL of Cleveland State’s part-time Online JD Program. She is also a general dentist with three dental practices. She resides in Pickerington, a suburb of Columbus, OH, with her husband & their three young children.