Law students report online learning gains, but in-person still wins out

In-person instruction still takes the prize: Among surveyed students who took most or all of their classes remotely this year, 72% rated their program as either good or excellent, compared to 78% of those who took classes in person.

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

A new survey of law students shows that more of them are coming around to online classes.

Students surveyed this spring by AccessLex Institute and Gallup had better things to say about their remote or hybrid classes than they did a year ago, indicating that law schools improved their online offerings during the two-year pandemic and that students are more open to learning remotely.

In-person instruction still takes the prize: Among surveyed students who took most or all of their classes remotely this year, 72% rated their program as either good or excellent, compared to 78% of those who took classes in person. But that’s a much smaller gap than in 2021 when 57% of online J.D. students and 76% of in-person students gave their program high marks.

More 2022 respondents also said they would highly recommend an online J.D. program to family and friends — from 11% a year ago to 16% in the latest survey.

“The results suggest modest improvement both in how students perceive distance learning, as well as how they rate the quality of their J.D. programs, whether online or in-person,” the Wednesday report said.

Universities and colleges have faced more than 250 lawsuits from students seeking tuition refunds stemming from the switch to remote learning in the spring of 2020, many of which have been dismissed.

Among the cases still making their way through federal court is a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by Harvard Law School student Abraham Barkhordar, who called online classes "subpar in every aspect." Harvard persuaded a judge to dismiss the case last year, but an amended complaint is still pending.

AccessLex and Gallup first surveyed more than 1,700 law students at 147 schools in the spring of 2021 to gauge their perceptions of online classes, after the pandemic-induced shift the previous year to remote learning. This spring they again surveyed 820 law students who participated in the initial study to find out whether their feelings about online learning had changed after faculty and schools had more time to adapt to the new format.

Most survey respondents had returned to mostly in-person classes by the fall of 2021. But about one in seven continued to take a mix of in-person and online classes or took all their classes online. Fully remote survey respondents tended to be clustered at lower-ranked law schools, the study found.

Those remote students reported shifts in how their online classes were taught between 2021 and 2022. Faculty relied less on the Socratic Method — or cold calling on students — and employed more online group discussions and quizzes, they reported. And 53% of them said their J.D. programs were “worth the cost,” up from 33% the previous year.

The findings suggest that online classes can be an effective way to deliver legal education to many students, particularly those with family care or work responsibilities if done properly, the study concluded.