“The question is no longer not whether but how well we will teach and learn law online. The time is now.”
The 2020 worldwide Corona virus pandemic caused an overnight migration of law school teaching and learning to the online environment. These are trying times; lives are at stake. What just a month ago was a fascinating pedagogical choice (to flip or not to flip, that was the question!), overnight became a necessity.
This is not the way most educators would have chosen to be thrown into new frontiers, but one way of coping with any crisis is to consider if any lemonade can be made out of the lemons, and there are immense opportunities for rich learning in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Our challenge now is to move from the emergency remote teaching of the moment to the thoughtful, well-designed, and sound practices that make up cutting edge online teaching and learning.
And, we have so much to draw on, in and outside of legal education. Distance learning is not a new frontier. Below are just a few of the many resources I have come across recently and in the decades that I have been active in online and hybrid education in law school and bar exam preparation. I hope they will help you as you navigate your way through new and exciting teaching and learning challenges.
** A distance learning pioneer, Sara Berman began online law teaching more than 20 years ago; she served on the faculty of the nation’s first fully online law school, and as an ABA fact finder for law schools seeking hybrid JD variances. She also led, “Creating Student Engagement in the Online Law Classroom” at the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting, and co-chaired the 2019 conference, “Online & Hybrid Learning Pedagogy: Toward Defining Best Practices in Legal Education.”
Berman is a pioneer in distance education in law schools, having served on the faculty and in the senior administration of the nation’s first fully online law school, and teaching bar review on line, for decades –and now serving as an ABA Fact Finder on distance learning in law schools. Berman, as quoted in the California Bar Journal, December 2008: “The curriculum includes live classes, assigned reading, video lectures, essays and tests in 11-day modules. “Other than eye contact and body language, the discussion is, in many ways, quite similar to that of a traditional law school classroom,” said Concord professor Sara Berman. And Berman, a UCLA School of Law graduate herself, sees advantages to a virtual classroom: The interaction is based solely on the discussion’s content, not on the student’s gender, race or looks, for example. Students don’t have to commute. They can review archived classes. And they gain extra experience in written communication.”
Resources on Online Teaching and Learning
Online & Hybrid Learning Pedagogy: Toward Defining Best Practices in Legal Education Videos embedded in conference schedule
An article for the NY Bar Journal that outlines the online program at Syracuse University, and its goals for expanding access to education and justice