“The question is no longer not whether but how well we will teach and learn law online. The time is now,” said Sara J. Berman* in September 2019, during the Online & Hybrid Learning Pedagogy: Toward Defining Best Practices in Legal Education conference she co-chaired at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. (Conference session videos embedded in links on conference schedule.) Berman, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law, was quoted more than ten years ago in the California Bar Journal, December 2008 describing some elements of the online JD program where she served as both a professor and senior administrator: “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.
*Sara Berman, a distance learning pioneer, began online law teaching more than 20 years ago. Berman served for some fifteen years on the faculty of the nation’s first fully online law school, and has been appointed three times as an ABA fact finder for law schools seeking hybrid JD variances. Berman 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.”
The 2020 worldwide Corona virus pandemic caused an overnight migration of teaching and learning to the online environment. These are trying times; lives are at stake. What in 2019 was still a fascinating pedagogical choice (to flip or not to flip, that was the question), became an overnight necessity in 2020. This is not the way any of us would have chosen to be embrace new frontiers, but one way of coping with any crisis is to view it as an opportunity. The great educational challenge/opportunity of our day is to move from the emergency remote teaching we were forced to adopt into a new era of thoughtful, well-designed, and sound practices that make up cutting edge online teaching and learning. The time is now to study the way we educate and license lawyers and provide legal services. There has never been a moment more ripe for change.
Fifteen Simple Ways (“low hanging fruit”) for Law Professors to Integrate Professional Formation and Development into Online Classrooms, Best Practices for Legal Education, co-authored with Neil Hamilton, (April 20, 2020)
The Future is Here: Legal Education in a Hybrid World, plenary session at Online & Hybrid Learning Pedagogy: Toward Defining Best Practices in Legal Education moderated by Sara Berman (Saturday, September 28, 2019), with panelists, Deans:
- Syracuse, Nina Kohn
- Denver, Bruce Smith
- Dayton, Andrew Strauss
- Loyola Chicago, Kirk Walter
- Mitchell Hamline, Eric Janus
- The Colleges of Law, Andrea Funk
- Touro, Jack Graves
- New Hampshire, Megan Carpenter