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Inside Higher Ed Podcast Highlights Professor Karl Okamoto’s MOOC

October 11, 2012

Pulse, a podcast sponsored by Inside Higher Ed, features an interview with Professor Karl Okamoto and Class of 2010 alumna Emily Foote concerning a massive open online course (or MOOC), “The Basics of Acquisition Agreements.”

Okamoto and Foote discussed the new course, which will be offered Oct. 23 to Nov. 7 through the LawMeets online education and apprenticeship platform developed through the company they co-founded, Apprenet.

Much of the course content is interactive, which Okamoto noted distinguishes it from most MOOCs, which typically rely on “talking head” professors delivering lectures.

The course begins with video lectures by Okamoto and faculty from DLA Piper and law schools at UC-Davis, UCLA and Cornell University and then requires students to watch a video of a hypothetical client asking questions about an acquisition agreement. Next, the students post videos of themselves in the role of a lawyer answering the “client’s” specific questions.

The students then review and vote on videos posted by their peers. Those that receive the most votes are then screened by seasoned transactional lawyers, who provide written comments and then post a video of themselves responding to the same hypothetical questions. All students can read the written comments and watch the professionals’ video.

Because the students will all have grappled with the issues at stake, Foote said, they’re receptive to watching carefully and learning from the example the professionals offer.

Okamoto described how the MOOC evolved from transactional lawyering simulations he incorporated in his classes, which gave rise to the LawMeets competition he launched in 2010 to give students a forum for demonstrating their deal-making skills the same way mock trial and moot court competitions allow students to show off their oral advocacy abilities.

Interest in the competition was intense, yet relatively few students were able to take part in or benefit from the rich learning experience. Through funding from the National Science Foundation, Okamoto expanded the availability of the LawMeets experience by creating the online platform, which dozens of law professors have utilized in their classes over the last year.

To date, Foote said, some 1,500 students around the country have taken part in exercises offered through the LawMeets platform.

The platform’s competitive and interactive components greatly enrich the learning experience, Okamoto said.

“You need a reason for people to work hard, and the competition provides that,” Okamoto said. “We see an extraordinary amount of effort on the part of students.”