Starting with the fall 2023 semester, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law will offer its part-time J.D. program in a hybrid format with both in-person instruction and an online component.
The Indianapolis institution is the first Indiana law school to offer the J.D. degree in a hybrid format.
“For many of our students, a law degree is only possible if they are able to pursue that dream while working and supporting families,” IU McKinney Dean Karen Bravo said in a news release. “… The new hybrid program builds on that long tradition of meeting students where they are while providing a top-notch legal education, allowing graduates to flourish in new careers and make important contributions to their communities and the state of Indiana.”
The hybrid program has been designed so that two-thirds of each of the first- and second-year courses are taught in-person while the remaining third is taught online. Consequently, rather than having to come to campus five nights each week, part time students enrolling in the fall of 2023 will only have to be in class on Monday and Thursday evenings for the first two years of the J.D. program.
After completing the initial two years part-time, students will have the option of taking up to 30 credit hours of their electives online.
IU McKinney Vice Dean Max Huffman said the online components are being developed by educational experts to be more than a video of a professor lecturing. The virtual modules will create an interactive experience for students by including videos, discussion boards and quizzing.
The law school had considered offering a fully online J.D. program, according to Huffman, but in talking to students, IU McKinney learned they value flexibility.
“What we found maybe shouldn’t surprise anybody,” Huffman said. “Students want live experiences, and they also want online experiences, which is to say, ‘I want greater flexibility without giving up the ability to go to the building and be with my classmates and meet people face-to-face.’”
Other law schools around the country that offer hybrid programs have had to seek a variance from the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. The ABA only allows a maximum of 30 credit hours to be offered online.
However, IU McKinney did not have to get permission from the ABA. Huffman explained the first- and second-year courses are not counted toward the 30-hour cap, because even though one-third will be taught online, the classes are still considered in-person instruction.
“The ABA does not actually define a hybrid course at all,” Huffman said. “It is considered to be a face-to-face live course so long as no more than one-third of it is shifted online.”
Individuals considering the part-time program were notified Monday of the change to a hybrid format. The price of the part-time program will not be impacted.
Echoing Bravo, Huffman said the new format will be more accommodating to part-time students, who often have careers and families and sometimes drive long distances to get to class each night.
“Fundamentally, the evening program has always been about flexibility,” Huffman said. “And this is an effort to do more flexibility.”