Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

COVID-19 And Law Teaching: Developing Asynchronous Online Courses For Law Students

Yvonne Dutton (Indiana-Indianapolis) & Seema Mohapatra (Indiana-Indianapolis), COVID-19 and Law Teaching: Guidance on Developing an Asynchronous Online Course for Law Students, 65 St. Louis U. L.J. ___ (2020):

CoronavirusMost law schools suspended their live classroom teaching in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly transitioned to online programming. Although professors can be commended for rapidly adapting to an emergency situation, some commentators have nevertheless suggested that the emergency online product delivered to students was substandard. Based on our own experiences in designing and delivering online courses, we caution against embracing a broad-reaching, negative conclusion about the efficacy of online education. Indeed, much of this emergency online programming would be more properly defined as “emergency remote teaching,” as opposed to “online education.” Delivering online education to students involves more than giving the same classroom lecture on Zoom. Online education requires professors to design their courses to be delivered at a distance, with the goal being to create a course driven by pedagogy using technological tools to inform and enhance the learning experience. COVID-19 is going to be with us for the foreseeable future, and because some schools might be unable to bring all of their students back into the classroom in the fall, we urge faculty to prepare to deliver their courses online. Law schools and faculty should not wait for another emergency and should prepare to deliver at least some of their courses online in the fall. To aid with this transition, this Article offers some guidance on how to develop and implement an effective asynchronous distance-learning course for law students.

We hope this Article gives some measure of assurance and confidence to professors who may be preparing to teach an online law school course for the first time. As doctrinal law professors who have taught primarily in the classroom, we empathize with the unease or stress associated with delving into the uncharted territory of asynchronous online course creation. We overcame that unease and stress, and others can as well. And we have found that our online courses can deliver an engaging learning experience that enables students to master course content and practice and perfect lawyerly skills while doing so. The emergency transition to Zoom education in March and April 2020 was a stop-gap measure, and the teaching delivered during that period may not represent the best of online education. To the extent that law schools are going to offer some amount of online programming in response to COVID-19, we encourage them to consider moving beyond emergency remote teaching. With a few months planning, law professors can design a high-quality online course for delivery to students, especially with the support of their administration and institution.

(Hat Tip: Naomi Goodno)

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