May 20, 2024


Future Depends on What You Do

Online class options gaining popularity among law students, ABA says

  • The survey results will inform an upcoming review of the ABA’s distance education rules, which limit online classes
  • Among respondents, 76% said the ABA should not differentiate between in-person and online classes

(Reuters) – A new survey from the American Bar Association indicates that law students don’t find online class to be so bad after all, and may even at times prefer this approach.

Slightly more than half of law students who participated in the survey—52%—said they would choose a Zoom class where everyone is remote over one that is held in-person. And nearly 69% said they want the ability to earn more credits through distance education than is currently allowed.

The Strategic Review Committee of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar in February surveyed nearly 1,400 third-year law students about their views of online classes and released the results this week.

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The student responses will help guide upcoming discussions about whether the ABA’s rules regarding distance education should change, said William Adams, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education. But he cautioned that the survey was not scientific.

Currently, the ABA’s rules say law students may take no more than a third of their classes online in order to graduate, and no more than 10 distance education credits during their first year. The law school accrediting body, however, has relaxed those limits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We definitely will be looking at and deciding, ‘Should we expand what we currently permit? Should we just remove the limits completely? Should we think about other regulations to ensure it’s being done well?’” Adams said.

Law schools have largely returned to in-person learning but are offering more latitude for remote classes than before the pandemic, in part to accommodate professors and students with health risks.

Among the survey respondents, 76% said the ABA should not differentiate between credits earned from in-person classes, and those earned through distance learning ones.

But not all distance education formats are created equal, according to the survey. While a slight majority said they would prefer “Zoom”-type classes where all students are online together over in-person classes, 58% said they would opt for an in-person class over the type of online class completed on a student’s own schedule without real-time lessons.

Other studies have also shown that law students are warming up to online classes since the pandemic began. AccessLex Institute and Gallup found that students felt more positively about online learning this year than they did initially in 2021—an indication that law schools and faculty are getting better at the format.

Read more:

Law students report online learning gains, but in-person still wins out

For most law students, remote classes didn’t make the grade – report

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