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ABA Proposes Easing Limits on Online Education

https://goo.gl/XAzSpQ Law School Accreditor Proposes Easi kaneloa02/13/18
Why would law schools prohibit online law classes? Unless l trijocker02/13/18
The schools don't want the prohibition, the ABA does, to pro onehell02/13/18
This is a good point. The entire 1L curriculum in particular flharfh02/19/18
kaneloa (Feb 13, 2018 - 10:06 am)


Law School Accreditor Proposes Easing Limits on Online Education
By Doug Lederman
February 13, 2018

The American Bar Association panel that accredits law schools has proposed loosening its restrictions on online education.

Currently, the rules of the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar say that no more than 15 of an ABA-accredited law school's required credits can be completed in distance learning courses, defined as those in which at least a third of the course work is done online. Most law school programs include between 83 and 90 credits over all. The ABA has in recent years granted (and rejected) several law schools' requests for variances from the restriction on online courses.

Under the proposal initially approved by the ABA council last week, students could earn up to a third of their credits (between 28 and 30) in distance courses. The ABA proposal would also allow first-year law students to take up to 10 credits online; law schools are now barred from offering distance education to first-year students.

The proposal and other possible changes to the ABA's accreditation standards will be discussed at a public hearing in April, possibly finalized by the ABA council in May and then ratified by the full ABA House of Delegates in August.

At its meeting last week, the ABA council also approved Syracuse University College of Law's request that it be granted an exception to the ABA limit on online courses -- an earlier request had been denied.

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trijocker (Feb 13, 2018 - 10:19 am)

Why would law schools prohibit online law classes?
Unless law profs opposed the changes, afraid they would be laid off.
Online coursework is a great way to take classes not offered at your law school, or to free up your daily hours for work or studying. I think this is a great idea. Schools can use Proctoru for testing.

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onehell (Feb 13, 2018 - 11:12 am)

The schools don't want the prohibition, the ABA does, to protect faculty jobs. Without the physical constraint imposed by the number of seats you can fit in a classroom, a single professor can teach a much larger number of students, with class size theoretically limited only by the number of papers he or she can grade which, given the fact that your entire grade is determined by a single test at the end of the semester, could be a very high number.

But the ABA is also beholden to the law schools, many of which are increasingly having trouble filling classes due to the disastrous career prospects and crippling debt that are becoming common knowledge. Lowering admission standards only gets you so far; eventually you end up admitting too many students with no chance of passing the bar.

I imagine the hope is that there is an untapped market of students who can pass the bar and who would be willing to pay the huge tuition, but who don't have a law school within commuting distance and whose life circumstances preclude picking up and moving.

And from a practical standpoint, there is no graduate education that should be MORE conducive to online delivery: There are no labs, no required field placements or internships, nothing. Just earn the requisite number of classroom credits and you get the JD. Everything that would require in-person attendance, like moot court or clinic, is an optional elective. Hell, the entire curriculum after 1L is pretty much all electives. It is the only professional degree I know of where you can get a full, independent license without a single hour of experience. Given that fact, there's no real reason you can't just do it via skype or whatever and like you said, use online services and/or those contracted physical testing centers for proctoring and cheating prevention like they use for the GRE.

Of course, the ABA isn't stupid. They're still limiting the number of online credits you can take so that cut-rate online-only institutions don't pop up. They're trying to find the right balance between making it easier for schools to fill seats and cash tuition checks, without enabling new schools to pop up in numbers so great that they begin to drive price down.

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flharfh (Feb 19, 2018 - 3:38 pm)

This is a good point. The entire 1L curriculum in particular could be done via video lecture and there would be essentially no difference in the experience or knowledge conveyed.

And there is no reason that exams could not be multiple choice and thus mass-graded by a machine. I think multiple choice exams are just as effective at testing knowledge while being less subjective than essays. Leave the writing to the Legal Writing course.

Done that way, there is no reason a doctrinal course couldn't contain hundreds of students at a time. If there was a way to have non-professor staff answer student questions, there is no reason that the 1L curriculum couldn't be taught like Barbri or Kaplan bar review courses, with thousands of students learning from the same video lectures.

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