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Straus Faculty Lead Colleagues on Transitioning to Teach ADR Online

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed higher education across the world. In mid-March nearly all universities and graduate schools in the United States worked tirelessly to move their existing courses online, spurring students and faculty to adapt to their new normal of classes over Zoom and other virtual platforms. Students had to learn to focus in new ways, as well as figure out strategies to discuss ideas and collaborate over a computer screen with their classmates.

Faculty, on the other hand, faced an entirely different set of challenges. Many had to start from the very beginning, by learning about online conferencing platforms and understanding the flow of a virtual classroom. Then, there was the challenge of transforming the remainder of their curriculum to suit the online environment, all at rapid speed.

The Straus Institute has been at the forefront of teaching ADR online, having successfully implemented three online degree programs, including a Master of Legal Studies, a Master of Dispute Resolution, and its newest LL.M. in Dispute Resolution. Straus' Associate Dean, Professor Tom Stipanowich, was instrumental in the launch of the online program in April 2017, and both designed and taught foundational courses in negotiation and arbitration for an online audience.

Since mid-March, along with Professor Stipanowich, Professors Sukhsimranjit Singh and Stephanie Blondell have been using their experience and facility with teaching ADR online to inform and educate fellow faculty members across the country. Beyond shifting his current course online, Professor Stipanowich has been tirelessly working with several faculty colleagues to acclimatize them to online instruction, giving them an understanding of student expectations, and sharing tips and strategies specific to their courses.

Professor Blondell has been leading a weekly working group for ADR clinicians who teach mediation, providing Zoom primers to her clinical colleagues and discussing key challenges like client confidentiality and student supervision given the nature of distance learning. Faculty colleagues from across the country have joined her weekly sessions and Professor Blondell has been an invaluable resource to this group.

Professor Singh has managed the overall transition of Straus faculty online, checking in regularly with his colleagues to ensure that they have successfully made the transition. In addition, he compiled a digest of teleworking best practices, as students and practitioners began learning and working from home. He has generously shared this digest with faculty colleagues across the country, as well as with the Pepperdine staff community.