University offers new online class on state Open Meetings Act

To say that learning in today’s environment is unconventional would be an understatement at best. No matter the profession, the age or the purpose, an individual can always find ways to absorb himself in a studious setting. This idea is embodied in the university’s online class, “Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.”

Offered in conjunction by the state’s attorney general’s office and the university’s Institute for Governmental Service and Research since May 23, the course offers a detailed analysis of the Open Meetings Act. The OMA, enacted in 1977 to foster clarity in government, aims to educate citizens on the need for public bodies to keep certain information confidential.

“We recognized the need for citizens to be aware of their rights, and such a course seemed to do just that,” said David Paulson, communications director of the state’s attorney general’s office.

There are no restrictions as to who may take the course, although the university recommends a basic understanding of government functions prior to enrollment.

“One of our goals with this course is to see fewer and better-quality complaints about public meetings and how they connect to the law,” Paulson said, “In that sense, I believe the course will be very helpful.”

The course is composed of six lessons along with quizzes included at certain intervals to test understanding. Attorney General Doug Gansler makes periodic appearances in videos to elaborate on topics covered. Although the course is open to all, it specifically targets government officials that may encounter the OMA in their line of work. The rather elementary contents of the course serve as a refresher of the law’s tenets and stipulations.

Estimated course completion time is approximately 2.5 hours, and a certificate is awarded to those displaying mastery of the concepts. Although the course’s recent introduction makes opinions hard to gauge, Paulson mentioned that the focus group going through the material reported a positive experience.

“Hopefully, this course will have a positive impact on the public’s knowledge of the OMA and increase the transparency of local government,” Paulson said.

David Oganesyan is a freshman finance major and contributing blogger for The Diamondback

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