Distance Learning in the COVID-19 Era: A Reflection From Governor Swift

Today I am hosting a guest blog post from Governor Jane Swift, who is currently the Rappaport Center for Law & Public Policy Distinguished Visiting Professor.


The ironies abound. First, the course I am teaching at Boston College Law School is titled, “Governing in the Era of Facebook: Privacy, Propaganda & the Public Good.” The entire course is premised on the speed of innovation and how it is rapidly changing the nature of work and learning and challenging the legal and regulatory sectors. Second, I have been an executive in the Education Technology industry for nearly two decades. I have run online learning companies and sold and delivered online courses to schools and colleges. So, if anyone should have been ready to quickly pivot their face-to-face teaching as a Rappaport visiting professor from traditional delivery to online, that guest professor should have been me. If I could play a guitar or sing, however, I would have written and tried to get this video to trend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCe5PaeAeew&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1jsCv4x-qVlKUGzmzGvJRH3DnXkKCI0EvKIkBHvFFh6K8UGvPlGxi1w8g 

One thing is really important to put in perspective from the get-go. What is happening this spring semester, where schools are continuing to deliver coursework to college and university students, is decidedly NOT online learning. True online courses, like the ones my colleagues and I built at Middlebury Interactive Languages, take months and sometimes years to build. They depend on professionals with specific expertise in course design to translate pedagogy from in-person to online. Even in online learning, there is huge variation in the degree of features and functionality, the use of video and audio, whether assessments are embedded in the course, and how those are proctored. None of that can happen at scale, securely in a three day or two week period. Instead, what you see now would more fairly be categorized as distance learning or – and even this is a stretch – as blended learning.

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Impact Update: BC Campus Shutdown

The coronavirus has impacted life around the globe, and it’s now hit Boston College where we live: the University has moved to online learning for all classes and students are required to leave campus (unless you file for an exemption due to travel restrictions, serious personal reasons, or university obligations). Here’s the official BC announcement.

We’re not alone in this: as most of our readers already know, universities are shutting their doors around the country for weeks, or in some cases (as with BC) for the rest of the semester. It’s the right thing to do to try to limit the spread of the virus and keep people safe, but we’re going to miss our daily BC Law routines, professors, and friends!

That said, the Impact blog isn’t shutting down. So keep checking back for more posts from us on all sorts of subjects, including our recent spring break service trip experiences. We’re all still here (at least on a virtual basis), and ready to bring more content your way. Stay safe everyone!

 

Why I Went to Law School

Growing up, I always said I wanted to be a lawyer. Both my dad and my stepmom were lawyers and I always loved to write. When it came time to take the LSAT and write a personal statement, however, I began to rethink this career choice and decided to wait to apply.

In April 2015, right before my college graduation, I received one of the worst phone calls of my life. I learned that someone close to me had been sexually assaulted. Although the details were fuzzy, she decided to take all the available steps she could. She went to the hospital where a rape kit was performed, she reported the rape, and decided to move forward with pressing charges.

When this case was unfolding before my eyes, I constantly had more questions than I did answers. I could not understand what additional evidence the prosecutor “needed” before pursuing the case, the standard of proof—guilty beyond a reasonable doubt—meant very little to me, and the perpetrator’s ability to walk away with a misdemeanor charge seemed unjust.

Simply put, this was the most difficult time in my life. My emotions were everywhere and I felt stuck in a position where I was unable to help. But finally, I discovered the true reason why I wanted to be a lawyer.

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Moving Beyond 1L Grades: Words of Wisdom

I think we can all relate to the feeling you get when you walk out of a final thinking you nailed it, only to find out a few weeks later that your grade was not nearly what you expected. When this happens as a 1L, however, I think the stress is even worse. All you have heard about for the months leading up to finals is that only your first-year grades matter and if you fall outside of a firm’s cutoff, you have a very big uphill battle ahead of you.

Well, even if this happened to you, your fellow 2Ls and 3Ls are here to tell you that you don’t need to beat yourself up, it will all work out, and it’s now time to move on with your second semester. Below are their words of wisdom:

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My Unconventional Spring Semester: Four Classes That Inspire Me

One of the things I was most looking forward to as a 2L was being able to select my own classes. Unlike my undergraduate experience where it felt like the list of required courses was never-ending and took up most of my schedule, BC Law gives students a ton of flexibility when it comes to deciding their courses of study.

My strategy to picking classes falls into three categories: classes that will prepare me for the bar, classes that I think will be helpful in practice, and classes that I simply find interesting. Last semester I tended to focus on bar classes (including Evidence and Corporations), but my spring course load is filled with classes that I thought sounded interesting.

Below I provide a brief overview of my spring semester, including why I chose to take the classes I did:

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Is It Strange to Miss School?

The travels are over, the holiday decorations are packed up, and Valentine’s Day candy is already on the grocery store shelves. So, is it weird that I feel ready to be back on campus?

If you are anything like me, winter break tends to fly by at some points but at other times feels never-ending. At the beginning of break, I knew I needed to take a few days to do nothing. These “few days” quickly turned into “a lot of days.” I found myself waking up unnecessarily late, last-minute scheduling doctor appointments before heading up to Boston, and realizing I had many more people on my list that I wanted to see while home in DC.

So, it’s safe to say I am ready to get back into some sort of routine. Although I’d be lying if I said I was excited about class readings, I have found that the structure of law school drastically helps me with time-management. Not only am I able to stay on top of my classwork and readings, but I am able to schedule time to do a lot more outside of school, including visiting friends in far-away places.

If you don’t believe me, try writing a paper over a break. It’s amazing how many more times you’ll refresh Instragram, offer to help your parents with grocery shopping, or rewatch a Netflix series you thought you hated. But, as I quickly realized, the paper is not going anywhere.

With that being said, (almost) welcome back to campus BC Law! I’m excited to catch up with classmates, meet new professors, and jump right into the second half of this year, and hope you are, too.


Courtney Ruggeri is a second-year BC Law student who loves to hear from readers. Email her at ruggeric@bc.edu.

 

 

Can Stealing a Phone Lose You Your Education?: A Reflection on My Clinic Experience

I am pleased to host a guest post today from 2L Sarah Nyaeme, who reflects on her clinic experience this past semester.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was in New York for my pro bono spring break trip. It was only my second time in the City, and in addition to looking forward to working at the
International Legal Foundation for the week, I was also excited to explore all that New York had to offer.

The trip took an unexpected turn when I realized my phone was missing from my purse
on my first day there. After searching my pockets, the surrounding area, and using the “Find My iPhone” app on my friend’s phone, it was clear that my phone had been stolen. Unsure of what to do, I called the non-emergency line of the local police department, assuming that a call to 911 was an improper use of the emergency number. I mean, it was just a phone.

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BC Law’s Lauren Koster ’19 Awarded Skadden Fellowship

Congratulations to Lauren Koster ’19 who was recently selected to receive a 2020 Skadden Fellowship to pursue her career in public interest work! Lauren will begin her fellowship with the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, where she will advocate for children in foster care to ensure their educational stability and academic achievement.

Lauren came to BC Law as a Public Service Scholar with a deep passion for advancing education policy. Building on her experience as a public school teacher and political organizer, she expanded her focus to include issues of child welfare, mental health, delinquency, and the rights of incarcerated juveniles. She led our Public Interest Law Foundation and was also one of BC Law’s first Leaders Entering and Advancing Public Service (LEAPS) scholars and completed her LEAPS capstone project last year.

Launched in 1988, the Skadden Fellowship Foundation program provides young lawyers with the opportunity to pursue the practice of public interest law on a full-time basis. Lauren is one of only 28 students to receive the award this year, and is the fourth graduate from BC Law to receive this prestigious honor.

You can read more about Lauren and her selection on BC Law Magazine’s website. If you want to learn more about BC Law’s LEAPS program, you can find that on the School’s website.

 

Is Thanksgiving Break Really a Break? Words of Wisdom from BC 2Ls

Thanksgiving break is quickly approaching, which means exam season is just around the corner. For our prospective students who are interested and for all of those 1Ls getting ready for your first round of exams, we thought it would be helpful for you to hear some words of wisdom from 2Ls who were in your shoes just one year ago.

The common theme: take some time to relax and come back to school ready to grind. Here’s what these 2Ls had to say:

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