Richard Susskind of the Times Online has a piece this week on how the College of Law's Legal Practice Course is delivered with video, slides, and audio – which can all be paused and started at a student's leisure in their own home.
He also mentions the online initiatives at the BPP Law School and the University of Strathclyde. The latter actually has students role-playing as solicitors dealing with a real problem in a virtual law firm.
Susskind closes saying,
Sceptics protest. They say that a law lecture should be a communal event at which students are professionally socialised. It would be regrettable, of course, if law students were never to experience the thrill of assembling with peers in a fine hall and listening to an outstanding live performance. But we should not preserve the old ways in the delusion that such performances are commonplace. Unless the lecture is genuinely outstanding (a rarity, students say), the convenience and flexibility of e-learning will trump the benefits of the communal learning experience.
I've been fortunate to have some outstanding lecturers, who I would only reluctantly replace with an online video. The upside would be the ability to easily invoke an encore. But some of the best law lecturers I've seen are interactive, responding directly to visual stimuli from the audience – not just verbal questions. There is something to be said about connecting directly with academics with whom you have some affinity to.
That being said, I know several of my peers that do quite well academically and never attend a single class. They get everything they need for the exam from lecture notes, summaries and texts. For them, lectures are the reason why their law tuition fees are so needlessly high.
To meet all of these different needs, I'm pretty sure we'll eventually see some schools coming out with more emphasis on online delivery. For remote and rural communities, it might actually be a preferable strategy in looking to meet replacement lawyers in smaller towns.