As the Fall 2020 semester for universities across the country inches closer and closer, there are several questions that remain as educators and administrators attempt to determine the most effective, and safe manner in which to conduct classes for students in light of the COVID 19 pandemic. One group of individuals who will be impacted by the change in the way classes are conducted are law students. Law schools amongst other professional schools will be uniquely impacted by the change in the way classes are conducted as these courses are predominately taught in person. The uniqueness of law school courses is that many center on discussions amongst the students and arguments being set forth by one another with respect to certain laws or principles set forth in cases. While zoom and other technology allows for “remote interaction” amongst individuals, it is clear that there are pros and cons to remote legal learning.
For example, some law professors have reported that their students appear more comfortable and willing to set forth their opinions and arguments when participating in class via zoom as opposed to the in-person classroom setting. Another pro to “remote learning” is that students have more time to focus on their reading and other assignments at home because they are not spending the time commuting to and from class. A third benefit of “remote learning” is that professors are able to employ new methods and techniques of teaching rather than the typical “Socratic method” used in law school classrooms.
While there are several benefits to “remote learning,” there are cons to this type of environment as well. For example, students do not have the physical in-person interaction that comes from seeing one another in the hallways or meeting for coffee after class to discuss what was learned that day. These in person interactions not only impact law students ability to learn how to interact and deal with colleagues, a task they will need after graduation, but these in person interactions also negatively impact students’ learning abilities as law students often turn to one another for assistance with respect to a legal principle they are having a hard time understanding or to simply bounce ideas off one another for a project they have been given. Without having these casual, yet important interactions, many students will simply keep to themselves while learning remotely.
In sum, there are pros and cons to remote or virtual learning for law students. It will be interesting to see how law schools across the country plan to address the same.