Berman’s 15 years of Online Teaching:
Berman 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.”
Guest Speakers without the inconvenience, another of the many advantages to distance learning:
One of the many things I have been able to do with the online platform is to “bring the courtroom to the classroom.” Busy judges may not have time to drive to your law school and sit with your students, but in an online classroom you can invite them in to discuss ethics, preparation for courtroom work, the adversarial system, and more. Students see “the real world” and engage.
First Person Reflections about Successful Online Learning:
In 2000, I joined the faculty of Concord Law School, the first wholly online law school. For 15 years, I taught students the world over ever since –via synchronous live streaming audio broadcasts and asynchronous interactive and independent learning.
After fifteen years on the virtual podium, with more than two thousand students and graduates, and hundreds of alumni who have passed the bar and are practicing law, the evidence is overwhelming that online legal education works and works well.
There are extraordinary opportunities in this new electronic frontier, not the least of which include unprecedented access to education for working professionals who don’t have time to attend a part-time program at a fixed facility, students in rural areas, stay-at-home parents, disabled students, those on active duty in the military and many others.
There is also a largely unexplored but truly unparalleled opportunity to teach traditional students in a manner that is truly color blind, gender blind, and age blind. (I don’t see my online students so can only judge them on the content of their communications and work product.)
Online learning also can be a tremendously valuable tool in supplementing fixed facility learning. Hybrid programs and flipped classrooms are particularly helpful in reaching at-risk students, and busy students who need to spend time gaining practical skills in externships, clinical programs, and volunteer work.
Distance Learning does not have to be, nor in my opinion should it be, “distant.” The critical connection between professor and student, and the professor’s role in cultivating a sense of community among the students, are part of what successful online learning must involve. Over the years, I have gotten to know many of my students so well that we keep in touch a decade later. Their success in law school and in law practice was facilitated in great part by their deep connections to students and faculty.
Professor Berman is available for consultation on distance learning and online teaching.