Flipped Out, Plugged in, and Wired Up: Fostering Success for Students with ADHD in the New Digital Law School

46 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2016 Last revised: 15 May 2018

See all articles by Dyane O'Leary

Dyane O'Leary

Suffolk University Law School

Date Written: 2017


Complete a Blackboard module. Edit the class Wiki. Upload a final exam answer. Farewell to the law school of the past; online learning in legal education is here to stay. But a perfect storm is brewing.

As enthusiasm for an online J.D. degree swells, so too does the number of law students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Online options may appeal to students with a cognitive disability such as ADHD, but challenges lurk behind the screens. Why? Because the skills required to succeed online are often the very ones these students lack. The conversation and literature regarding online learning in legal education is robust, but this paradox has been unexplored - until now.

This is the first research study of law students with ADHD in online learning environments. My study examined students’ experiences in courses not conducted exclusively in a physical classroom, and the results will inform educators who seek to increase the breadth of online programs. Courses that are web-facilitated, hybrid or fully online offer some advantages for students with ADHD; however, the predominant theme from students was one of concern and uncertainty regarding their ability to navigate demanding law school courses, miles away from their classmates and professors.

Law school administrators, professors and disability service professionals cannot ignore students with cognitive disabilities when designing the online curriculum of the future. This article offers concrete suggestions at the institutional and individual faculty level to support students with ADHD. Design of online programs is occurring at a remarkable pace, and this guidance for legal educators will improve the learning experience of all future digital law students.

Suggested Citation

O'Leary, Dyane, Flipped Out, Plugged in, and Wired Up: Fostering Success for Students with ADHD in the New Digital Law School (2017). Capital University Law Review, Vol. 45, p. 289, 2017, Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 16-9, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2820738 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2820738

Dyane O'Leary (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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