Professor's Premonition Shepherds Examinees through Pandemic
By Csaba Sukosd | April 2, 2001
In life, there are untimely events that cause strife and chaos, and sometimes someone unexpectedly appears to provide peace and guidance.
That was the case at one Ohio law school at the start of the pandemic.
Michelle Hunt, interim director of academic success at Ohio Northern University's Pettit College of Law (ONU), has helped law school students and graduates navigate unchartered waters over the past year as they prepped for the bar exam under the most unusual circumstances.
"It felt like everything I had done my entire life led up to that moment," Hunt said.
Originally a fifth-grade teacher, Hunt always has been in tune with technology.
Going back to her elementary school days, when computers were being introduced into the education system, she already was instructing others how to use the innovation.
"As part of my gifted program, because they had no idea what to do with me, they put me down in the secretary's office because she did not know how to use the computer," Hunt said, explaining that she taught the secretary how to use the modern machinery.
Ingenuity as an adolescent morphed into a career path that paired schooling with new-wave methods.
In the '90s, she utilized computers to expand learning objectives when many teachers still relied only on books. The elevated test scores from her approach led to being recruited by Ohio State University at the forefront of online learning being used for students and teachers.
An interest in the law eventually took her down a different path. After getting her law degree, she practiced as an attorney for a decade before being hired by ONU five weeks before COVID-19 hit Ohio.
"It was definitely a different experience when we had to switch to online learning," said Sara Adkins, an ONU graduate and bar exam applicant.
With the Ohio Bar Examination only months away, and all kinds of unknowns about how the tests would be conducted, schools and professors went into scramble mode.
ONU's situation was even more challenging. The law school's bar prep professor at the time, the late Nancy Sabol, was battling cancer before passing away in April 2020.
Bearing much of the responsibility, and sensing the severity of the health crisis with "no end in sight," Hunt immediately started formulating a program built for an online exam.
Within two days of COVID cutting off in-person lectures, she set up the bar prep course online with the accompanying exercises and resources.
"I thought, 'How would the tests be administered? How would I administer an online exam?' I structured the Multistate Performance Tests and the Multistate Essay Examinations as they ended up being done."
Some of those materials included apps that were tailored to look just the like anticipated exam.
"She was leading the blind and she had two eyes," said Akendita Amoro, another ONU graduate and bar exam applicant. "I knew what to expect and how to navigate the exam without feeling out of my comfort zone."
The seamless pivot from preparing for an in-person examination to a remote one contributed to the law school's success on the October 2020 exam.
Among ONU's first-time test takers, 86% passed, which was higher than the state average. That group was part of a prolific performance that achieved the highest overall passing rate by a class of applicants since July 2013.
With another four months to acclimate to the new normal, there could be even higher marks from the most recent exam in late February.
"I just wanted them to realize that you can do this. Yes, it's different, but you can do it," said Hunt. "Whatever it is that's thrown at us, that's what makes us grow."