Law Schools Adapt to Online Teaching During Coronavirus Outbreak

Berkeley Law LL.M. Program featured in LLM Guide, April 29, 2020:

Some law schools are racing to create digital learning environments that, in many ways, can mimic a physical classroom.

At Berkeley Law in California, for example, all teaching is being conducted via Zoom, which can host up to 300 students in a class. The system includes live visual images of participants, breakout discussion groups, and a written chat that runs parallel to the audio conversation.

“I have received many messages from students praising their professors and expressing how much learning has continued uninterrupted,” says Berkeley Law’s dean, Erwin Chemerinsky.

“This new format is able to approximate the hallmark pedagogical experience of the traditional law school classroom, including group-based interactive problem-solving.”

For students, the challenge is maintaining a sense of connection with classmates who may be in different time zones and countries. Virtual meetups are now commonplace in a discipline that is inherently collaborative.

The specter of recession and unemployment is also a major concern for those graduating this summer. Law firm offices remain shut across the world; many courts have been suspended.

“One has to wonder if students accepted for the fall semester will decide to defer enrolment until conditions fundamentally improve,” says Rice from Kaplan Bar Review. “Given the impact on the economy, some may delay for financial reasons.”

She adds that many law firms have postponed the in-person recruiting season that typically occurs over the summer, reflecting concerns over safety but also the lack of hard data on which to judge students since many schools are now using a pass-fail grading system.

Berkeley Law has adopted such a system, so as to protect students who may have been thrust into an unfamiliar online environment and are grappling with more tangible challenges caused by Covid-19.

“Many in our community have been – or I fear will be – dislocated, or have unexpected family care responsibilities, or have health issues to deal with,” says Chemerinsky.

“Also, the shift to distance learning has, understandably, caused anxiety. Changing all classes to Credit/No Credit will, hopefully, lessen stress at this difficult time, especially for those who are experiencing hardship.”

Read full article here: