Five Recommendations to Law Schools Offering Legal Instruction Over the Internet
26 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2006
Date Written: 2006
"Five Recommendations to Law Schools Offering Legal Instruction over the Internet," addresses the emerging market for legal distance education. The market is being driven by recent changes in ABA regulations, as well as specialization in the curriculum, and expanding costs of traditional education. We are seeing the emergence of legal distance education consortiums, which offer a platform for the trading or selling of courses and programs.
However, much skepticism remains about the ability of distance education technology to offer law schools and law students a sufficiently interactive pedagogy. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg legal education is a "shared enterprise, a genuine interactive endeavor" that ". . . inevitably looses something vital when students learn in isolation, even if they can engage in virtual interaction with peers and teachers." This paper uses my experience as the Director of the University of Alabama's successful LL.M in Taxation Program to advise law schools how to expand into distance education, while avoiding common pedagogical limitations and administrative problems. The first of five recommendations addresses what to offer and the remaining four offer advice on how to offer distance learning:
1) Offer programs more generously than courses.
2) Collaborate with other schools in offering courses but not when offering programs.
3) Use synchronous delivery of information, like videoconferencing, for the primary mode of instruction.
4) Use asynchronous forms of delivery to increase the level of interaction and support the primary, synchronous form.
5) Use relational marketing to retain and recruit distance education students.
In addressing the issue of whether the internet is appropriate for law school instruction, this article contributes to that debate by presenting a model of the right way to offer legal distance education. Until the technology catches up with the traditional classroom, asynchronous forms like web-based discussion boards and streaming video should only be used to supplement a more interactive and synchronous primary mode of instruction like videoconferencing. This article also explains how resolve the potential difficulties that may arise when offering a videoconferencing course or program. The University of Alabama's LL.M. in Tax is a good model for these propositions because it is the only program that I know of which uses over 10 remote classrooms and videoconferencing and asynchronous technologies to create face to face interactions with law students and professors from four different Southeastern states.
Keywords: technology, distance education, distance learning
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