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  • From MOOT to MOOC: Taking Legal Education to a Whole New Level

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    From MOOT to MOOC: Taking Legal Education to a Whole New Level

    March 25, 2014


    Most of us would chuckle at the thought of cardiac surgeons perfecting complicated heart procedures by simply reading a textbook or listening to a lecture. In truth, they learn by practicing their skills over and over as an integral part of their medical education, under the expert eye of seasoned surgeons, who provide plenty of professional feedback along the way. The same goes for trial lawyers, who have long mastered the art of litigation by taking part in moot courts and mock trials in the course of their legal training.  

    So doesn’t it make sense to offer something similar for emerging transactional lawyers to use in developing sophisticated deal-making skills? Drexel University’s Karl Okamoto certainly thinks it does.    

    For years now, educators have understood the power of active and authentic learning, which is why we greatly value apprenticeships and internships for the practical, hands-on experiences they provide. And interactive technology is now making those experiences even more accessible, by giving ingenious professors like Okamoto an extraordinary virtual sandbox for cultivating career-essential skills.  

    As a well-known expert in corporate, venture capital, private equity, and securities law, this Drexel law professor became a pioneer in legal education, as well, when he launched his groundbreaking LawMeets competition, which has since become the leading “moot court” experience for students interested in transactional practice. The idea is to provide mock deals for students to negotiate over a period of time just as they would in the real world, with veteran attorneys on hand to judge their performance. At the end of the competition, students then get to watch the pros in action, using the same scenarios to demonstrate their own deal-making expertise.      


    After a successful launch that spawned six regional competitions in just three short years, Okamoto decided it was high time to move LawMeets into the online environment. Calling on his considerable entrepreneurial skills, Okamoto founded ApprenNet, an independently owned e-learning company with an innovative mission:  to provide law students with real-world experience through virtual apprenticeships. He also received considerable grant funding from the National Science Foundation to build a virtual platform for his engaging instructional program.  

    Rather than running hypothetical negotiation scenarios in person, law students are now using digital technology to post videos of themselves counseling “clients,” while also receiving valuable feedback from their peers through an online voting device. Top-rated performances are then reviewed by seasoned experts, who furnish a demonstration video of their own, as well. Of course, given the extensive national press coverage Okamoto has received, it didn’t take long for law professors in other parts of the country to see the value in his concept. Consequently, a growing number of them have incorporated these online exercises into their own classroom activities, with excellent results. 

    In a similar vein, Okamoto is using ApprenNet to build interactive learning communities, by offering Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) that combine LawMeets simulations with video lectures from some of the best legal minds in the country. In fact, his first such course (Basics of Acquisition Agreements) met with rave reviews from students, who overwhelmingly agreed that the challenges were realistic, and the experience, worthwhile, citing the unique opportunity to interact with recognized experts in their field. He has since added a few more options to his course roster, including a low-cost version for earning continuing legal education credits.

    Okamoto has also expanded his brainchild’s reach beyond legal education, with professors in a variety of disciplines – including nursing, education, business, and occupational therapy – employing the ApprenNet platform to create online enhancements for their courses. To be sure, our faculty here at Drexel continues to harness this inventive platform for building essential career skills through active and authentic learning that is both highly effective and easily scalable – a winning combination by any academic standard.     


    Dr. Susan Aldridge is President of Drexel University Online and Senior Vice President of Online Learning at Drexel University. For more information on Dr. Aldridge, please visit: www.drsusanaldridge.com   

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