Online legal education endures as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. And, according to the 2022 Law School Survey for Student Engagement (LSSSE), it is here to stay.
The LSSSE surveyed more than 13,000 law students at 70 law schools in 2022. The goal of the survey, which was administered by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, is to “improve legal education and inform decision-making and compliance efforts, enhance student success, facilitate internal assessment and analysis, and support research on legal education.”
LSSSE found that, over the past year, at least half of law students were enrolled in at least one course that was mostly or entirely online. Moreover, law students are comfortable learning online and say it has led to excellent learning outcomes.
“The pandemic was a test of our institutional resiliency, and the new LSSSE data show that the legal academy has risen to the challenge,” said Rachel Moran, Distinguished and Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California Irvine School of Law, in the survey report. Moran served on the LSSSE Advisory Board.
“Law students surveyed this year report high levels of satisfaction with online learning, and this is especially true for part-time students,” Moran continued. “Students who take courses online say that they are developing the critical thinking and skills necessary to succeed in the profession, just as students who learn in person do.”
Online learning promotes diverse voices
LSSSE found that the majority of law students are “mostly comfortable” or “very comfortable” with nearly all aspects of attending online classes, including taking online exams (80%), interacting with instructors (80%) and other students (77%), and participating in live online course discussions (75%).
Importantly, women and those who do not identify as a man or a woman may feel more comfortable participating in courses that are online, LSSSE reported. Thirty percent of women with most of their classes online said they participated “very often,” compared to 23% who attended classes in person “very often.”
For respondents who did not identify as a man or a woman, 32% of those who attended classes mostly online reported they participated very often, compared to 21% of those with mostly in-person classes.
Overall, 25% of students taking in-person classes and 31% who mostly had online courses said they participated very often.
A positive learning experience, online and in person
Of all respondents, 70% took mostly in-person classes, 10% mostly online, and 20% a mix of online and in-person.
Seventy-seven percent of all respondents, regardless of in-person or online instruction, had a positive overall law school experience. This can be compared to 76% of respondents who said they had a positive online learning experience.
Nearly 90% of online and in-person students said they are learning to think critically and analytically, 83% say they are acquiring a broad legal education, and 82% say they are developing legal research skills.
Interestingly, first-year students who attend mostly online are more likely to say they would attend law school again if given the choice to start over (88% for mostly online compared to 81% for mostly in-person) and more likely to attend the same law school, the report says.
Areas for improvement
While students reported strong relationships with faculty regardless of online or in-person delivery, only 68% of online students said they had strong relationships with their peers compared to 74% of in-person students.
Moreover, online students were less likely to feel that their school provides the support they need to succeed in their employment search (46% compared to 53% of in-person students).
To improve law students’ overall learning experience, law schools can continue to create opportunities for diverse participation and peer-to-peer interaction, such as in small groups.
Moreover, law schools should plan to extend or enhance academic and career support services online to increase the visibility and accessibility of such services, the report says.
To learn more, read the survey report Success With Online Education.
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