• Caregivers and older law students also rated online classes more highly
  • Bolstering online class offerings could make legal education more accessible, researchers found

June 20 (Reuters) - Students who attend less-prestigious law schools are more receptive to online classes than their counterparts at elite schools, as are older students and those with caregiver responsibilities, a new study found.

Thirty-five percent of surveyed students attending law schools ranked 150th or below by U.S. News & World Report said they prefer attending classes online. Only 24% of surveyed students from schools ranked in the top 50 said they prefer online courses, according to a report released Tuesday by AccessLex Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for accessibility and affordability in legal education.

Those findings suggest that broadening access to remote classes could make legal education more accessible to older students and those with caregiving responsibilities, the authors said.

"If you are thinking about expanding distance education at your institution, consider the fact that not every student is going be attracted to online courses for the same reasons," said study co-author Tiffane Cochran, vice president of research at AccessLex.

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 shifted classes online the previous year. They repeated the survey to 820 of the same law students in the spring of 2022 to learn whether their feelings about online learning had changed after faculty and schools had more time to adapt to the new format.

The second survey showed that satisfaction with remote classes improved over time, with 78% rating their program as either good or excellent, up from 57% in the 2021 survey. Survey respondents in both years still rated in-person classes higher.

The third and final AccessLex remote class study used the earlier data to examine how the online experience differed across student groups. It found that 63% of students taking online courses reported feeling emotionally drained by those classes, compared to 48% of students taking in-person classes.

Lower percentages of students in racially underrepresented groups, caregivers, students over 30, and those at lower-ranked law schools each reported being emotionally drained by online classes. Students from underrepresented groups and lower-ranked law schools who took at least one online class reported more difficulty accessing career services compared with white law students and those at top-ranked law schools, however.

Read more:

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

For most law students, remote classes didn't make the grade - report

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Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com

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