UNT Dallas law professor uses innovation for online learning

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UNT Dallas Virtual Tort Class Exercise

Tony Kolenc, UNT Dallas College of Law visiting professor, instills innovation to maximize online learning for students. 

During the spring semester, Professor Kolenc brought creativity to his virtual classroom.  He taught Torts II, the second half of the part-time evening Torts course for first year students.

His online exercise was intended to provide the students the opportunity to deliver a closing argument on a torts case and to experience jury deliberations about that argument.

The exercise was designed to help students better understand key aspects of a torts case, such as burden of proof, affirmative defenses, comparative negligence, and assumption of risk.

Students participated in both trials: a comparative negligence trial and an assumption-of-risk trial.  They were advocates in one of the trials and jurors in the other. 

The exercise gave students an opportunity to get hands-on experience delivering an argument and also emphasized two major torts affirmative defenses.

UNT Dallas College of Law Communications interviewed Professor Kolenc after students raved about the inventive class project. 

Kolenc explained what specific changes to the class had to be made and why.  “We moved to an online environment but kept all other aspects of the exercise intact.  The only real modification was in the delivery forum online instead of in person,” he said.

High expectations of keeping students engaged were met with rousing results. 

“The exercise worked as well or better than expected.  I was thrilled with the preparation of the students and the seriousness with which they undertook the exercise,” Kolenc noted.  

“I was even more pleasantly surprised by the superior quality of the demonstrative exhibits. Because this was an entirely digital environment, the students were more active in preparing their exhibits, and the exhibits were better handled than I’ve seen done in person.”

The digital environment provided a value add to the exercise.  Also, watching the jurors deliberate on camera face-on was perhaps even more beneficial than watching them deliberate live across the room. 

Students seemed to enjoy the digital debates as much as their facilitator.

Professor Kolenc offered robust encouragement to other law faculty adapting to the online environment.

“Don’t be afraid to try it out.  You might be surprised with how well the exercise goes, and you may find that there are some unforeseen advantages that come from this exercise that can be used in future semesters under better circumstances.”