The JDi Class of 2022—the inaugural cohort of Syracuse’ online law degree program—spent the week of Jan. 7-11, 2019, in Syracuse for its matriculation, orientation, and first residency. During the week, the students attended a Convocation ceremony; took foundational courses; attended faculty, student, and alumni panels; visited the local federal courthouse; and even watched Syracuse Orange beat Clemson in a basketball game at the Carrier Dome. Welcome to Syracuse, students. We’re so glad you have chosen to join our family and pioneer our new program!
On Jan. 7, 2019, Syracuse University College of Law matriculated 32 students into the inaugural JDinteractive (JDi) class in a ceremony in the Melanie Gray Ceremonial Courtroom, Dineen Hall. JDinteractive is the nation’s first fully interactive online law degree. The ABA-accredited program combines live, online classes with self-paced classes and short residencies. JDi is designed to deliver the College of Law’s J.D. program to well-qualified students who cannot relocate for a residential program but who desire a high-caliber legal education.
The diverse and academically accomplished JDi Class of 2022 will spend the week of January 7-11 on the Syracuse University campus as part of its first residency. During the residency, students will take an intensive and immersive course designed to introduce them to the American legal system. JDi students also will meet with members of the College and University community, including Chancellor and President Kent Syverud, and enjoy a traditional Orange Nation tailgate party before watching Syracuse Orange play Clemson Tigers in an ACC basketball game.
In welcoming the JDi Class of 2022 to the College of Law and to the University, Convocation speaker Adam J. Katz L’04, Assistant US Attorney for the Northern District of New York, said, “You are pioneers. You are students who embody the College of Law’s long-held dream of expanding its legal education beyond Syracuse, and we landed one heck of an inaugural class!”
Members of the JDi Class of 2022 are illustrative of the experienced, talented, and service-oriented students JDi has been designed to attract.
- Among the cohort are 15 military and military-affiliated students, including senior and non-commissioned officers and military spouses.
- JDi students come to the program with substantial professional accomplishments in a broad range of fields—from health care to finance to social justice. The program welcomes medical professionals; paralegals; business owners and executives; real estate professionals; an environmental engineer; a border patrol guard; a social worker; and leaders of not-for-profit organizations.
- JDi students also exemplify a commitment to community service. In addition to military servicemembers, the cohort includes caregivers, community advocates and mentors, a choir director, and a volunteer football coach.
- Additionally, a number of students start the JDi program holding other advanced degrees in science, business, and social work.
JDinteractive aims to increase diversity within the legal profession by making a high-quality legal education accessible for students for whom one might otherwise be out of reach. The inaugural class demonstrates this diversity:
- 41% are first-generation College students.
- The average age of JDi students is 35.
- Students arrive in Syracuse from 20 states, as well as from Germany, Tanzania, and Japan.
“Congratulations to the inaugural JDinteractive Class of 2022. This professionally accomplished, service-minded group of students joins a truly groundbreaking program that raises the bar for online legal education and expands access to legal education in general,” says Syracuse University Chancellor and President Kent Syverud. “I commend College of Law Dean Craig Boise and University College Dean Mike Frasciello for forming a partnership that harnesses the online learning expertise developed by University College to translate the J.D. program into a format for working adults and others who seek a high-quality online law degree program. I am particularly pleased that service members and military spouses are represented in this cohort. I wish all the students and the program well, and I look forward to tracking their progress.”
“The matriculation of the JDi Class of 2022 marks a banner day for the College of Law. Designed with 21st-century practice in mind—like our residential J.D. program—JDinteractive will provide our online law students the knowledge and skills to thrive in the modern legal community,” says College of Law Dean Craig M. Boise. “I could not be happier that these academically impressive students have chosen to be the pioneers of our program, and I am excited to see what they, as the newest members of the College of Law family, will achieve.”
Delivering the College of Law’s outstanding legal education beyond its Central New York campus, JDinteractive incorporates both an interactive learning platform and technology-enabled services. JDi is a year-round, 10-semester course of study designed to be completed over three years and three months, with students taking an average of nine credits per semester. Online students take the same required courses as residential students, select among elective courses, and are provided with hands-on experiential learning and skills-building classes. To accommodate the schedules of students with work or other commitments, evening and weekend classes are offered.
A hallmark of JDinteractive is that more than half of class time takes place in “real-time,” with online students and professors interacting live in a virtual classroom. Self-paced class sessions with interactive exercises complement these live sessions. Students also attend in-person, short-residency courses on campus and at satellite locations. In addition, JDi students have the opportunity to participate in student organizations and to complete a legal externship—gaining critical practical legal experience—before graduation.
“Over the past four years, College of Law faculty and staff have worked to develop a program that we believe will set the standard for online legal education,” says Associate Dean for Online Education Nina Kohn. “We’ve designed JDinteractive to combine the best of what happens in Dineen Hall’s classrooms with the power of technology to create an even more personalized and flexible approach to teaching and learning.”
In February 2018, the American Bar Association granted the College of Law a variance from ABA rules that limit online legal education to offer JDinteractive. As part of the variance process, the program’s design was closely reviewed by legal education experts.
Thirty-four thousand electronic titles. Forty-seven licensed database systems. An interactive classroom for research training. Cameras and microphones at the ready. Marshaling these substantial academic and research resources, the librarians at the College of Law Library are preparing to welcome the inaugural class of JDinteractive online law degree program students when they arrive on campus for their first residency session in January 2019.
While they’re in Syracuse, JDi students will meet the librarians and library staff, get registered for online databases, and learn and practice the search techniques that they will use throughout their degree program.
One of the features that distinguishes legal reference is that it’s almost never “short answer.” When a librarian meets with a student in Dineen Hall, they are sure to say, “Please, sit, so we can talk about the research problem you’re trying to solve.” Because JDinteractive emulates the first-class academic experience students receive in Syracuse’s residential J.D. program, that’s also the reference experience JDi students will have remotely—using interactive video and split screen technology so librarians and students can see both each other and the online research tools they’re learning to use.
What about traditional legal research tools for the online students? With 103,000 print titles and more than 1 million legal documents in microform, the College of Law Library has a wealth of resources to offer students through its Digitization on Demand and Document Delivery programs. In addition, specialized treatises will be sent to JDi students in upper level courses, the same way that libraries use Interlibrary Loan to share books with users.
“The services provided by the Law Library mirror the research environment that law students will find in law practice,” says Library Director Jan Fleckenstein. “Because all of our students—residential and online—have access to a wide range of online research tools, as well as librarians skilled in helping them navigate the legal information environment, they will be well prepared to do effective legal research throughout their careers.”