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Friday, August 31, 2012

Q&A with CIO Jake Hornsby

UC Hastings new CIO Jake Hornsby on augmenting the student experience and leveraging capacity with online learning.

Q: Why is online learning and collaboration important?

A: Online learning is important since it brings opportunities to develop additional or larger programs. This means additional revenue streams for UC Hastings. It also provides flexibility to students, especially those who commute. Thus, online learning, as a consequence of the tools required, will improve the delivery of traditional J.D. courses.

Q: Where we will see this first?

A: This will first be seen in the spring semester when Professor Rob Schwartz and Professor Jaime King launch two modules from the Health Law courses – Bioethics and Basic Medical Malpractice and Informed Consent. Professor Reuel Schiller will also be offering his Labor Law course. We will then move on to the graduate programs. Graduate programs are an easier target, as ABA rules do not allow for a large number of credits to be offered in an online environment. Rather, for the J.D. students, the tools developed for online education will simply be used to augment the current course offerings by providing multiple ways to deliver content and to facilitate in- and out-of-class teamwork.

We are focusing first on our masters of law program, because those students are often already in the work world, and are using the latest collaboration tools. Executive education is a leader in this effort. Eventually, technology and on-line learning will give us the ability to expand programs beyond our physical capacity and available full-time lecturers. Then, we will take what we learn there and apply it to other areas, including our LL.M and J.D. programs.

Q: How will this benefit J.D. students?

A: Having some courses online allows us to use adjunct faculty to expand our offerings, offer more specialized courses and lower class size. Adjunct faculty thus will become an important part this process

However, this is not just for J.D. students. Rather, it can be for anyone who wants to learn a specialized subject, such as a lawyer looking to enhance or update his or her knowledge. We have to build a system whereby learners can find courses and we work to match faculty with courses as demand requires. Think of this as a UC Hastings run "match-making site" where physical walls are not important, and we become a nexus for legal course offerings.

Q: How will you pick what courses to offer online?

A: I won’t. This is an academic-driven program and I am just a part of a great team working to deliver better teaching and learning tools and opportunities to expand our portfolio. Namely, these individuals include, but are not limited to Professors Beth Hillman, Jaime King, Richard Boswell, Rob Schwartz, and Reuel Schiller, and Acting Assistant Dean for Graduate Division, Jennifer Dunn. In my opinion, all of our projects should be run this way, i.e., academically focused.

As part of this roll-out, administrative problems will be addressed along the way. For example, if we are to fully offer online classes then we must fix the matriculation process, enrollment, records, and payment systems. We want to establish a lifecycle approach to our work with students, from matriculation to well beyond graduation. Thus, the approach to determine which processes get addressed first will be roughly linear to this lifecycle process, so the first focus area is admissions and financial aid.

Q: What are other benefits of distance learning?

A: I don’t like the term “distance learning.” We want to find methods to remove the "distance" experienced by online learners. Done right, online learning creates community, it creates better communication, facilitates conversations and enhances collaboration—and the learning outcomes can be improved over traditional courses when combined with at least some face-to-face time, i.e. hybrid courses.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I see myself as an educator more so than a techie. Don’t get me wrong--I am still a nerd with a Ph.D who can write software and build systems. I have, however, facilitated many traditional and on-line courses in computer science, math, education, and business at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Therefore I understand the plight of the faculty and I am thus aligned to their needs. My focus is always education first.

Q: What are your other goals as CIO?

A: Just to make things better for students, faculty, and staff. This should be a fun place to study and work. I mean, why can’t students use the network for their XBOX? It just doesn’t make sense. I will start with what I consider the basic essentials that, in the past, used to be differentiators, but which are now just common expectations. These things include a common learning management system, single sign-on, a much faster internet connection, better administrative workflows, allowing student email for life, etc. Once we get past this, we can use the skills and creativity of the faculty and staff to build the clever systems that can differentiate us from the competition—all of which trickles down to improving the student experience in the end.

Questions by Susan Kostal

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