Legal Education

Law students want more distance education classes, according to ABA findings

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A recent survey of 1,394 students in their third year of law school found that 68.65% wanted the ability to earn more distance education credits than what their schools offered.

The survey, which was compiled in February, is from the strategic review committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Questions were shared on a group email list for associate deans and voluntarily distributed to students. Sixty law schools participated, according to an ABA news release.

The results are consistent with other surveys, according to Bill Adams, ABA managing director of accreditation and legal education.

“There is a desire amongst a significant group of law students to have distance learning options available to them,” Adams told the ABA Journal in an email.

Standard 311 of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools states that distance education should not exceed 20% of required credit hours for graduation. Schools can make substantive change requests with the council, and a resolution, which seeks to clarify distance education definitions and requirements, has been submitted for review to the ABA House of Delegates, ahead of the ABA Annual Meeting in August.

Among the survey respondents, 73.54% reported that the 2020-2021 academic year was the first time that their schools offered distance education courses. They were also asked whether they would take in-person or web broadcast classes, such as Zoom. If given a choice, 47.71% said they would choose in-person classes, while 52.29% indicated that they would select a web broadcast course.

Additionally, the survey asked questions comparing in-person classes and asynchronous online courses, which are prerecorded and self-paced. Among respondents, 41.59% said they would prefer asynchronous courses, while 58.41% preferred in-person classes.

Also, 76.02% of respondents did not think that the accreditation standards should differ between prerecorded asynchronous courses and synchronous courses, which are virtual and attended by students at the same time.

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