From the National Law Journal:
Massive open online courses—or MOOCs—are all the rage in higher education. But law schools are only starting to test the waters with these free, Internet-based classes that can reach thousands of students around the globe.
Three law schools and universities will offer law-related MOOCs this fall for the first time, and Harvard Law School plans to again offer an online copyright course it debuted last year. Northwestern University, The John Marshall Law School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among those joining the MOOC movement, although participants won’t earn credits for the classes just yet.
Legal educators have good reason to begin experimenting with online teaching formats. The American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is contemplating increasing the number of credits that law students can take via distance education, in a bid to spur innovation and help lower costs.
It is difficult for law schools in New York State to offer credit-bearing distance learning courses in light of the new NYS Bar Requirements (effective since April 1, 2012):
No credit shall be allowed for distance education courses offered principally by asynchronous means, where students and the instructor are separated in time as well as in place, including pre-recorded, non-interactive technologies, such as on-line courses, internet videos, videocassettes or discs.
The study must be offered in a primarily synchronous manner, such that students and the instructor simultaneously interact in a regularly scheduled class, albeit from separate locations, by means of on-line web-conferencing, video-conferencing, or other means, so as to provide students opportunities to interact with instructors and other students that are comparable to opportunities for such interaction in non-distance learning settings.
Through the one Distance Learning class (Government Ethics) that Albany Law School used to offer, we found that students preferred asynchronous learning because it fit better into their busy work or life schedule. They could participate in discussion groups when they had enough time and not at a specific time of day or night. Students could also work at their own pace.
However, free and/or noncredit law MOOCs are definitely a possibility. It will be interesting to hear about Northwestern University, The John Marshall Law School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill experiences with their first MOOCs.