September 10, 2012
Law Schools and MOOCs
I’ve been reading a few articles lately on Massive Open, Online Courses, or MOOCs. These are vehicles for universities and other institutions to give away the knowledge from the classroom, albeit without any credit for taking the class. Credits are possible for a fee, apparently. That’s the impression from this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Inside Higher Ed reports on a slightly different twist to that model. The article, written by Dean Dad, a pseudonym for a community college dean, wonders whether the model of taking the class and paying for the test at an accredited institution will impact classroom instruction. My reaction is sure it will, especially if MOOCs get organized and sophisticated.
Let’s think about how these developments can impact law schools. A third article describes two classes at the University of Dayton School of Law that include distance learning and the integration of social media in law practice. One class is called Technology in Law and it’s designed to immerse students in digital lawyering. This kind of instruction has been the basis for many a CLE class in the past. It’s interesting that a school is picking up on topics such as this to prepare students for contemporary practice. I would assume that other schools are thinking about teaching this kind of subject for credit. Some of this may even show up online.
One other impact that MOOCs might have on law schools is the presentation of extensive law course content on Internet in a way described at the undergraduate level. I don’t think such a development would get to the point of take a law course online and pay for the exam. The certifications and requirements that schools have to meet to prepare graduates for the bar would preclude this. There would be several benefits, however, to putting up an entire semester of, say, contracts lectures online.
One would be the very point of MOOCs: to impart knowledge. The second would be to inform potential law students exactly how these classes are taught. No one could say "had I known how tedious 14 weeks of this stuff was I never would have spent the money." The third possibility is something I’ll call PreLE. Potential students may learn something by studying the content before they get to law school, making the actual class work that much easier as they might acquire basic knowledge of the subject before taking it. The text book may become less essential given that the subject case law is available free on the web from multiple sources. A law related MOOC isn’t law school, but the information would be useful at a lot of levels.Many law schools put up material on YouTube. Most of it is either promotional or one-off events such as symposiums or annual lectures. There are the occasional instructional videos that impart ten minutes or so of administrative law. There are even a few complete lectures on legal topics. There are no full courses, at least none that I can find. If MOOCs are starting to affect undergraduate education, well, there will be a time sooner or later when they will affect graduate level classes as well. If law schools won’t dive in, somebody will. And why not? [MG]
Topics in Digital Law Practice was help last spring and all the videos and homework assignments (including the student work) are still available at http://tdlp.classcaster.net .
Posted by: John Mayer | Sep 10, 2012 3:12:18 PM