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Sunday, September 09, 2018

Since 1892

The University of Chicago pioneered distance education back in 1892, almost a century before the internet became publicly available, which involved mailing course materials and traveling lecturers.  The same reasons for UChicago’s distance learning, such as increasing access to education, have fueled modern-day distance education, which is also facilitated by technological advances. 

This summer, the ABA passed a proposal to expand the amount of online instruction permitted in law schools from 15 credits to 30 credits.  A review of law school websites as of July 2018 reveals that 30 of the top 100 US News law schools are offering online courses.  Some law schools even offer fully-online law degrees, while others offer hybrid programs where some coursework is completed online and some in the classroom. 

My law school, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, is among those wading into online teaching and learning.  As we have introduced online classes at McKinney, we have been careful to follow the literature on best practices as well as to engage with each other and experts in the field.  We even had an IU symposium on online teaching last summer, which resulted in contributions published in the Indiana Law Review, available here.

My own contribution to this symposium is relevant not only to online teaching pedagogy, but also to assessing students, which both the ABA and Carnegie Report have emphasized.  Specifically, after receiving IRB approval, I conducted an empirical study of student attitudes in 3 semesters of my online Trusts & Estates course—spanning approximately 280 students—to formative assessments, with the results consistent with prior studies of online course design.  I did so through a mid-semester course evaluation asking about their favorite and least favorite ungraded assessments in the course, which consisted of discussion boards, quizzes (mostly multiple choice), polls, or sample essays & answers.  These mid-semester surveys were later coded and analyzed.  

The results were consistent.  Each semester, most students reported that their favorite assessment was quizzes, and their least favorite was discussion boards.  In their comments, students elaborated that they liked that quizzes provided immediate feedback on their progress on the material, while they didn’t like the redundancy of the discussion board and the lack of immediate feedback. 

As assessments increasingly take center stage in the law school classroom, both online and live, I hope these results are useful to fellow colleagues.

Posted by Margaret Ryznar on September 9, 2018 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

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