Professor Nina Kohn Discusses Law Schools' Shift to Online Classes During COVID-19 on Law.com
Law Schools Shift Classes Online Amid COVID-19, But Can They Do It Successfully?
(Law.com | March 10, 2020) Law schools in four states so far are canceling in-person classes and moving courses online amid the spread of the coronavirus. But legal education as a whole is less prepared for that shift than many other graduate programs due to its relatively slow adoption of online learning.
The American Bar Association in recent years has increased the number of credit hours schools are allowed to deliver online, but fewer than 10 law schools have J.D. programs that are mostly online and many law faculty have never taught a distance education class.
Syracuse University College of Law’s JDInteractive program—launched in January 2019—was the second online program to be offered in the U.S., following Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s hybrid program in 2015.
Professor Nina Kohn spearheaded the creation of JDInteractive and has taught many of its courses. Law.com talked with Kohn Tuesday to discuss how law schools can quickly move to an online format, the mistakes law professors often make online, and whether the coronavirus will usher in a new era of online law teaching. Her answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Are you getting a lot of calls from professors and schools looking for advice on how to make the move online right now?
I was beginning to get inquiries about that before coronavirus, and certainly now with coronavirus knocking on their doors, schools are scrambling to figure out: “What would it look like to move classes online?”
How do you think law schools, on the whole, are prepared to make this switch? Do they have the technology in place to make it happen?
I think an important thing to remember in thinking about how to make the pivot from bricks and mortar to online is that online education isn’t just one thing. There are two flavors of online class. There is the self-paced, asynchronous class. Then there is the live, real-time class. To move to the self-paced, asynchronous style in a way that is high quality takes a real investment of time, energy, and rethinking how you break down what is normally a live experience into self-paced components. It’s easy to do self-paced badly. It’s hard to do self-paced well in a manner that’s interactive. That would be a difficult pivot for schools to make. But if we look at live online classes, that’s a much easier pivot to make because you don’t have to change how you’re teaching. You just have to recognize that your classroom can be a virtual classroom. Readily accessible video conference software can be employed by law schools very rapidly to bring existing courses with existing faculty and existing students online quickly ...