UH Law Center expands digital class presence for students on the go 

University of Houston Law Center Professor of Law Jacqueline Lipton is one of several instructors to incorporate digital features to her courses.

Dec. 9, 2016 - The University of Houston Law Center recently began providing more online capabilities for students juggling a hectic schedule.

Professor Jacqueline Lipton is one of several Law Center professors participating in virtual instruction, teaching Trademarks and Unfair Competition Law and Digital Transactions Law via Internet. Lipton said the class will occasionally meet in person, but is mostly done remotely from outside a classroom. Students have the option of attending the class in person, or from anywhere else via Zoom, a teleconferencing software.

"Most students have tried attending at least one class remotely and over half of them attend most sessions remotely," Lipton said. "The advantage for them is that they can tune in from anywhere in Houston or anywhere else. It helps students who have family commitments, jobs, or difficult commutes."

Lipton said to accommodate a lack of in-person, face-to-face interaction, she has experimented with virtual office hours via Zoom and will meet with students one-on-one to touch base.

"Overall, the experience has been a very positive one for me and many of the students. While we've obviously traded off some of the advantages of everyone being in the same room, we've added benefits, including more time for students to work on material outside of class and the ability for students who might not otherwise be able to take the class to now be involved. Overall, feedback has been good from students I've spoken with one-on-one."

Teleconferencing also has enabled Lipton to share documents with students and highlight points of interest on a shared screen feature of Zoom. The function allows everyone to view the same document and analyze it without using handouts or overhead projections. She can also use PowerPoint slides on Zoom.

"While online teaching is not for everyone, and is unlikely to be the future of all legal education, it certainly opens up doors to teach legal courses, and certain groups of students in a very user-friendly and interactive way that overcomes some of the difficulties people may face in having to be in a particular place at a particular time each week for class," Lipton said.

The Law Center's online upgrades are the result of a $100,000 technology grant approved by Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. 

"The grant from the provost allowed us to purchase the equipment and software needed to begin offering classes online," said Scott Smith, assistant dean for information technology. "The grant provided a great foundation for a transition into online learning, and with additional support from the dean we have been able to leverage this investment and have all of our large classrooms equipped for online classes and automated lecture capture."

Professor Tony Chase also uses Zoom for his joint Communications Law class with Santa Clara University School of Law.

Other professors who use Zoom include Professors Seth Chandler and Greg Vetter, and previously Paul Janicke. Professors David Fagundes, Tracy Hester, Lonny Hoffman, Peter Linzer and Bret Wells also have incorporated digital instruction through the use of Mediasite, another video conferencing tool.

The Law Center will look to expand its digital capacities in the future, with the potential for some classes that are exclusively online.

"It is important to do more classes wholly online which will give students a different way of learning and more flexibility with their schedules," said Dean Leonard M. Baynes.

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