June 30, 2020

Distance Learning Questionnaire Findings

Academic and Bar Success

AccessLex is undertaking a comprehensive, multi-phase study of distance learning in law schools. This brief captures just a snapshot of the first phase, which consists of gathering and publishing information about distance learning J.D. programs that were in existence prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Introduction

Distance learning is now a central component of the law school curriculum. The COVID-19 pandemic forced law schools to engage in emergency remote teaching after in-person instruction became too dangerous. As a result, nearly every law school is now engaging in some form of distance learning, at least temporarily. Fortunately, sophisticated models exist for both synchronous and asynchronous online learning. And online delivery of the J.D. curriculum is not brand new to legal education. There are hundreds of practicing lawyers today who earned their law degrees through programs that were delivered in significant part online. Just prior to the sudden, temporary shift from in-person instruction in the spring of 2020, there were four law schools that were operating under variances from ABA rules restricting the number of J.D. credit-hours that could be delivered online, and other non-ABA law schools have had online J.D. programs for some time.

AccessLex Institute® is committed to supporting evidencebased studies of distance learning in legal education. AccessLex funded the first assessment of Mitchell-Hamline’s Hybrid J.D., the first such program of its kind among ABA law schools. Since then, the organization has supported many efforts to explore and develop best practices relating to distance learning in legal education.

As part of that commitment, AccessLex is undertaking a comprehensive, multi-phase study of distance learning in law schools. This brief captures just a snapshot of the first phase, which consists of gathering and publishing information about distance learning J.D. programs that were in existence prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Here, six law schools describe the scope, form and function of the distance and hybrid learning components of their J.D. programs. The goal of this document in its current form, and as it grows with the addition of information from other law schools, is to help contribute to broad awareness of good practices for distance J.D. education, especially as many law schools are making first attempts to navigate this space.

If you have any questions or if you would like your school included in future stages of the study, please email Fletcher Hiigel, AccessLex Librarian, at fhiigel@accesslex.org.