At this summer’s annual meeting, the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS)
http://www.nsulaw.nova.edu/seals/ discussed the possibility of creating a distance
learning/course sharing network.
This network offers us, as institutions, the opportunity to significantly expand our course
offerings. We all have courses that we would like to offer to our students, but cannot offer
because of resource limitations. Either we lack the expertise to teach these courses, or we have
the expertise but cannot devote it to these subjects. For example, my law school does not have
anyone who teaches international criminal law, and Georgia State University needs someone to
teach First Amendment this semester (they have someone, but he/she cannot teach it during the
day this semester). As a result, during the current semester, Ellen Podgor of GSU is teaching her
International Criminal Law course to Louisville students by distance, and I am teaching my First
Amendment course by distance to GSU students.
In recent years, more and more of our member schools have engaged in distance learning.
I’m sure that my list is incomplete, but I am aware of distance learning courses being offered at
(either to or from) the following member schools: Louisville; Georgia State; Tennessee; Florida
State; South Carolina; Nova; and Cumberland. I’m sure that there are numerous schools not on
this list that have engaged in distance learning.
Not only does a distance learning/course sharing network allow us to expand our
curricular offerings, it allows us to offer courses across national boundaries. For example,
suppose that a small law school wants to offer a more sophisticated business transactions
curriculum to its students, but does not have the expertise to do so. By distance, it might be
possible to beam in professors from various countries to teach courses such as “Doing Business
in the Pacific Rim,” “Doing Business in the European Union,” and “Doing Business in Asia.”
Likewise, if a Canadian law school wants to learn more about U.S. constitutional law, and a U.S.
law school wants to learn more about Canadian constitutional law, that could be accomplished by
distance. The possibilities are endless and could extend to such courses as intellectual property,
domestic relations, criminal law, etc.
In many instances, law schools can engage in distance learning with very little financial
commitment. When Louisville and GSU decided to trade courses this Fall, we were pleasantly
surprised to learn that our universities already had distance learning rooms available for use. At
Louisville, the cost is $200 per credit hour per semester. So, for a two hour course, the cost is
$400 for the semester. Since the courses are beamed over the web, there are no satellite linkage
For schools that wish to purchase distance technology, the cost of distance learning
technology has decreased dramatically in recent years. Ten years ago, it might have cost a law
school $50,000 to $75,000 to outfit a distance learning course. Today, a distance learning room
can be outfitted for as little as $5,000. Since the courses are beamed over the internet, once the
technology is purchased, the cost to engage in distance learning is de minimis.
At this point, I am interested in learning whether your school is interested in participating
in a proposed distance learning/course sharing network. Although I will need to obtain final
approval from SEALS Board of Trustees, my hope is that network participation would be free to
SEALS members (and affiliate members) and at minimal cost to non-members. However, those
decisions will be up to SEALS’ board. At the moment, I’m simply trying to ascertain whether
there is sufficient interest to move forward. If there is interest, and the Board approves, I
contemplate that we will create a list of courses to be offered and would place them on a website.
Schools could then agree to “trade courses” with each other (as Louisville and GSU are doing
this semester) or to pay for a course to be transmitted.
Russell L. Weaver
SEALS’ Executive Director
Professor of Law & Distinguished University
University of Louisville
Louis D. Brandeis School of Law
Louisville, KY 40292