New York Times: Law Schools Are Going Online to Reach New Students, by Elizabeth Olson:
Law schools, in the face of marked declines in enrollment, revenue and jobs for graduates, are beginning to adopt innovative new ways of delivering legal education.
Some law schools are moving away from relying solely on classic settings and instead are blending classroom learning with online instruction, said Michael B. Horn, a founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, a research institution in San Mateo, Calif., that explores disruptive innovation in education.
“Legal education is confronting the most imminent threat in higher education,” Mr. Horn said. “Law schools are increasingly out of step with shifts in the legal services market.”
Law schools that “are able to pioneer online, competency-based programs that focus outside of the traditional J.D. will have a leg up in the struggle to survive,” said Mr. Horn, an author of the newly released report, Disrupting Law School: How Disruptive Innovation Will Revolutionize the Legal World.
Mitchell Hamline School of Law, in St. Paul; Washington University School of Law, in St. Louis; and Syracuse University College of Law [more here] in New York, all offer programs that fuse some elements of traditional legal education with technology in new educational vehicles. Harvard Law School also offers an online class on copyright law to its on-campus students and to students who can enroll for the free, not-for-credit course from anywhere in the world.
Opportunities to earn a full-fledged law degree online are few, so far. The William Mitchell College of Law began offering a hybrid law degree in January 2015. The school has since merged with Hamline University School of Law. ...
Another way of delivering legal education is through online certificates in specific legal areas. Widener University Delaware Law School, for example, offers a certificate in education compliance, said Rodney A. Smolla, the school’s dean. The school is exploring more distance learning, relying on its own resources for technology and instruction.
“Law schools are about to make that turn,” he said of online offerings. “It’s a blend of being hipper and of economic necessity.” But Mr. Smolla acknowledged that law schools have been slow to try new approaches. “We are a conservative profession,” he said. “We tend to want to teach law in the way we learned it.”