Why Law Schools Are Adopting Online Learning
Across the country, law schools are slowly adopting online coursework.
Law.com recently reported how US law schools are embracing online flexibility and why the online law education landscape is inevitable.
“Law schools are going to have to move into this space because students have had the expectation at the undergraduate level that this is going to be an opportunity that is available to them,” Carla Pratt, dean of the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas, tells Law.com.
Threat of Declining Enrollment
Law schools have struggled in recent years to enroll enough students. And that may be part of the reason why many are looking to adopt online learning.
JD enrollment fell 13% from 2013 to 2018, according to ABA numbers.
“As enrollments in the regular J.D. programs decline, law schools have some excess capacity and need to look for other revenue,” Barry Currier, managing director at the ABA, tells Education Dive.
Reaching More Applicants
With online education, law schools can also reach a wider-applicant base. “Law school is not always located near where people who want this kind of training are,” he tells Education Dive. “It’s typically not 22-year-old law students who just graduated college. They’re people who are out there in the workforce looking for training … and don’t have the ability to move to where the programs are.”
At the University of New Hampshire School of Law, online learning is helping bring more diversity into the law program.
“So far we have applications from people in the financial services industry, the tech industry and applications from doctors. So it’s sort of interesting, what an incredible classroom this is for people to bring a perspective to,” Megan Carpenter, dean of the UNH School of Law, tells Law.com.
Adding To The Traditional Learning Experience
Online learning has brought a number of benefits to law school education. For one, it has helped to bring more focus into the actual learning experience. “So whereas if you’re sitting in a classroom, you’re kind of listening but you’re checking out a little bit, online education really sort of requires students to be engaged and engages them with discussion questions and group work with their peers,” Carpenter tells Law.com.
While online learning has its own benefits, law schools are cognizant that it can’t fully replace areas such as in-person networking.
“Employers tell us that having a reference from someone in a local legal market means more to them than having a faculty reference,” Pratt, of Washburn University, tells Law.com.