TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — When Ken Randall retired in June after 20 years as dean of the University of Alabama's law school, he said he planned to work in the private sector. But he did not join a law firm. Instead, he went to work for a company that is partnering with universities to develop and deliver interactive online classes to students around the world.
It is cutting-edge, Randall said of his work with iLawVentures LLC. "Through technology, we are helping programs at bricks-and-mortar schools to reach people across the country and even around the world."
As a dean, Randall helped develop an online program that allowed attorneys to earn master's degrees in taxation and business transactions from UA.
That caught the attention of iLawVentures' parent company, iLawVentures Management Solutions of Naples, Fla.
Randall joined the company this summer as president and CEO of its new Tuscaloosa-based iLawVentures LLC, which has an office at The Merchant's Walk. The Tuscaloosa company has a staff of four, including Randall, who spends much of the time traveling.
The for-profit company's goal is to form partnerships with accredited colleges and universities that want to deliver their courses to students beyond their campuses, he said.
The initial focus is on law schools, but Randall said there already is interest from other schools and disciplines.
The potential for growth is unlimited, he said. Improved technology and the recent economic downturn are driving the change in higher education.
State legislatures faced with reduced revenues in recent years have cut appropriations to state universities. Universities in turn are seeking new sources of revenues, and one way to do that is by reaching out to more off-campus students through cyber-education, he said.
Online courses and programs such as iLawVentures can bring in extra revenues that universities need, Randall said. The goal is to partner with interested universities to develop and deliver their courses across the state, across the country and even around the world, he said. If the partnership fails to generate revenue for the university, iLawVentures will earn nothing.
"For the university, (the iLawVentures partnership) reduces the physical plant costs and provides new innovative approach to education," he said.
"We are able to use the best technology so that you no longer are limited to teaching or learning by being on campus."
The iLawVenture plan is aimed not only at non-traditional students but also at traditional on-campus students who might return to their hometowns for the summer or might be deployed to an activated military Reserve unit to places like Afghanistan. Such students still might want and need to take courses while away.
The cyber classes also could reach international students who cannot afford to come to the United States for a college education, he said.
Technology will allow students with a laptop to communicate with instructors much as they would if they were sitting in a classroom, he said.
In a public email he shared with his former UA colleagues when he retired from UA, Randall wrote of his new career:
"We all are still working on the margins of traditional education with distance ed: It is high time to create economies of scale industry-wide; to bring law to non-lawyers; to create hybrid models of brick-and-mortar and technology-based programs; to train lawyers to deliver legal services in the new technology-based ways clients demand; and to train law students for jobs that don't require a bar license. We need inclusive education, that breaks down geographical and other boundaries."
Randall declined to identify the universities that he is working with, citing the clients' confidentiality.
Randall was a member of UA's law school faculty for 28 years. During his two decades as dean, he saw the school achieve a top 25 ranking among the nation's law schools — both public and private.