By: Kathy Steele
Then Versus Now
Many people question the use of technology in students' education. Older generations can never seem to stop telling stories about how difficult research was "back in the day"––from poring over books, taking everything down by hand, and not simply having the means to search a query on Google. Legal students of this millennium probably cannot even imagine doing it that way, given the wealth of resources they now have at hand. The concept of eLearning uses these electronic resources to extend education outside the walls of a typical classroom. Courses, programs, and even degrees taught online are considered eLearning. It is not a one-sided approach, as these programs are interactive, enabling the students to communicate with professors and facilitate discussions with fellow classmates. eLearning allows students to work at their own pace and time, compared to traditional methods that confine students to a fixed schedule.
Transitioning to Online Spaces
This, then, is a logical learning strategy for law students who tediously work on memorizing cases and retaining information. eLearning allows them to review the material as many times as needed. The American Bar Association has even decided to allow universities to offer online courses on law that are up to 30 credit hours, with the approval of the Department of Education. Distance learning or eLearning courses can even be taken by students as early as their freshman year. The California bar, which has separate accreditation standards, has even considered allowing accredited law schools in the state to offer programs that are 100% online.
In response to the demand of eLearning in higher education, universities are also developing digital areas of study that will help prepare students in different industries for when then they graduate. Maryville University created a Cyber Fusion Center to enhance students' online learning experiences. This Cyber Fusion Center is eLearning in action, as the virtual lab offers the opportunity to work on actual cybersecurity challenges that the legal industry is having to rapidly adapt to. In the same light, platforms like WizIQ have been created for teachers to be trained in this pursuit as well. The option for eLearning is present through programs like these for users' convenience and benefit. Students interested in eLearning have also expressed their interest in more specialized courses that can be found online.
Our piece on Law Firm Technology 101 illustrates technology’s adoption in the legal industry has become extremely beneficial in processing data, reviewing digital contracts, automating responses, and serving clients more efficiently. Lawyers need to learn constantly, and eLearning helps reinforce them with the tools they need to succeed. Many programs are compatible with a number of web interfaces and devices, from laptops, to tablets, to smartphones, and can be accessed any time to avoid interrupting your busy schedule or ongoing cases. It’s also cost-effective, and just as valuable as traditional learning methods.
The Future of eLearning
While eLearning still appears to be in its infancy in the legal sector, it’s already proven its effectivity. Given that technology will only continue to flourish, we can expect that industries will utilize their tools and follow suit. eLearning does not forgo traditional learning methods completely, but encourages maximizing the innovations technology has provided. It would be a waste for the legal sector to not make use of these developments, especially since they appear to address law students and lawyers’ needs precisely.
Author Bio: Kathy Steele is a paralegal who writes about education, technology, and the law in her free time. She is planning on pursuing a law degree in the growing field of e-Discovery.