Thursday, August 16, 2018

Michael Simkovic on Online Learning

Michael Simkovic (USC), Should Online Education Come with an Asterisk on Transcripts?


"The ABA recently voted to permit a dramatic expansion of online legal education.

Online education is controversial in higher education.  It is even more controversial in legal education, which relies more on classroom interaction and less on lectures than most forms of higher education. 

Widespread perceptions that online education is lower quality than live instruction in general—and may be particularly disadvantageous in legal education—are backed by numerous peer-reviewed empirical studies."

"Critics of online education argue that it is lower quality, that most students learn and absorb less, and that the social dynamic of the classroom and learning from one’s peers and interacting with alumni is a critical part of education."  "And they point to a rash of cheating and distracted learning, which anecdotally seem to be more prevalent online than in person."

From a study,

"'We find that the students in the virtual classes, while having better characteristics, performed significantly worse on the examinations than the live students. This difference was most pronounced for exam questions that tapped the students' ability to apply basic concepts in more sophisticated ways, and least pronounced for basic learning tasks such as knowing definitions or recognizing important concepts . . .'"

I agree with Professor Simkovic.  A plethora of research has demonstrated that law students need active learning.  This cannot be done in an asynchronous course.  It could be done in a synchronous course, but the course would have to be carefully designed to make certain that all students can actively participate.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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