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Syracuse University College of Law has won approval from the American Bar Association's accreditation division to offer a J.D. program in which roughly two-thirds of the course work will be completed online -- although about half of the credits completed at a distance will be conducted live, in real time, school officials note. The ABA has been cautious in permitting law schools to educate students via the internet, and before Syracuse, the bar association had approved two institutions to offer more than 15 of their credits online, its current limit (though an increase is under review).

Last fall the ABA panel rejected Syracuse's bid to create a virtual J.D. in conjunction with 2U, the online program management company, but the law college said it was staying the course alone. Under the newly announced program, students will take only 21 of 87 credits in either residential courses or physical externships. Of the remaining 66 credits, about half of class time will be conducted in live, synchronous sessions with professors (in smaller cohorts than students typically have in Syracuse's traditional J.D. program), and the other half will be done in an asynchronous and self-paced format, said Nina A. Kohn, associate dean for research and online education and the David M. Levy Professor of Law at Syracuse.

"If you combine the face-to-face online course work with the residential, almost two-thirds of instruction will be face-to-face," Kohn said. "We think that that ability to interact in real time, to go back and forth, see where the students are, press them -- especially in the law school curriculum -- is critical," Kohn said. Because section sizes are likely to be smaller online than in person, she added, "Just mathematically, I expect students to be called on more often in the online J.D. program" than they are in the traditional program.