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Monterey College of Law Pilots iPad Programs for Students and Faculty

As the centerpiece of a new mobile computing initiative, Monterey College of Law (MCL) in California is distributing Apple iPads to all students enrolled in a supplemental curriculum program that helps them prepare for the state's bar exam. According to information released by the college, all entering first-year students signed up for the program within the first week, as did 70 percent of the remainder of the student body.

The college said the impetus for the program, which launched last week, was a perceived need to create studying opportunities outside of the classroom for its students, who, with a median age of 38, are typically full-time workers attending school in the evening. MCL has 36 incoming first-year students and a total of 105 students this year in its doctor of jurisprudence program.

"Many of our law students work the equivalent of three jobs. Between law school, work, and family, it is a constant challenge for them to set aside enough time during the week to study," said Wendy LaRiviere, dean of admissions, in a written statement issued today. "...[T]he iPad will provide time-challenged students an easy way to add 30 to 45 minutes of studying each day ... during a lunch break, waiting in the car-pool line, or even getting their oil changed. The result will be an additional three to five hours per week of valuable study time. If our students use this 'found' time to do additional reading and incorporate a more extensive use of their class notes, study guides, and practice exams, we expect to see a positive result in law school performance and continued improvement in the bar pass rates of our graduates."

The pilot program was developed in conjunction with BARBRI, the bar exam review/prep provider. BARBRI is providing MCL's supplemental curriculum program and has worked with the college to ensure that the students won't be absorbing the price of the iPads, according to Mitchel Winick, MCL president and dean.

"BARBRI provided a group pricing arrangement to the law school that allowed the cost of the iPad to be included without raising the total course cost to the student," he said. "The law school also paid part of the iPad cost to keep the total cost of the program, inclusive of the iPad, below the $3,800 published price of the BARBRI program."

The traditional BARBRI course, he explained, is a nine-week immersion program taken post-graduation to prepare for the bar exam. But for the pilot program, "We are working with BARBRI to divide the course materials into a supplemental curriculum that tracks our regular courses over the entire three- to four-year JD program," Winick said.

The iPads themselves, in addition to allowing students to take their studying with them, will be used for practice assessments and for participating in study groups.

"We are particularly interested in using iPad-based, multiple-choice practice exams during regular semesters to help students gauge their progress through bar-tested subjects," Winick told Campus Technology in an e-mail. "These online exams provide instant feedback and are linked to the substantive study guide so that students are directed back to the review materials on any questions they answer incorrectly. We also intend to use the iPads to develop virtual study groups, using programs such as WebEx, Skype, and Moodle to expand the group learning environment beyond the classroom."

As another part of the pilot, some MCL faculty members are being outfitted with iPads as well, specifically those who want to experiment with incorporating the iPad into classroom instruction. That will happen this academic year with a 10 to 12 instructors, according to Winick. The faculty pilot is expected to be expanded the following year.

According to law professor and faculty senate president Stephen Wagner, the idea isn't just to shake up old teaching methods. "The objective of the MCL faculty pilot program will be to develop examples of using iPad technology to enhance and expand traditional legal education without diminishing any of the core academic values," he said.

And, ultimately, Winick explained, the goal is to improve student outcomes.

"Law school challenges students to master an overwhelming body of information. If the iPad provides a more convenient, accessible ... and even entertaining way to learn ... students will spend more time with the course materials and be better prepared for class, the bar exam, and ultimately as practicing lawyers," he told us. "The objective indicators of success will be grades and bar pass rates. I believe that we will be able to review course grades at the end of this academic year and the results of the July 2011 California Bar Exam and have a good idea whether this program is having a positive impact."

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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