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Prof. Byrnes to Deliver Paper on Pioneering Distance Learning for Legal Education

August 28, 2014

Professor William Byrnes, Associate Dean for Graduate and Distance Education Programs at Thomas Jefferson School of Law released his observations, drawn over 20 years of experience, for alternative methods for delivery of legal education, in the form of a white paper Alternative Methods of Teaching and The Effectiveness of Distance Learning For Legal Education. He will present his observations at the upcoming Work Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education September 18-20.

William Byrnes shared, “Over the past couple years, interest in distance learning at law schools has surged. Over 20 law schools now offer online graduate degrees. George Town and USC have most recently joined the mix, with a Tax and an American Legal Studies degree respectively. The first hybrid online JD will be offered by an ABA school from January 2015.”

“For the past four years, the Work Group for Distance Learning in Legal Education has met to discuss and develop recommended best practices to assist in the discussion among faculty members and the faculty with the administration.” Byrnes said. “The Work Group is a collaboration effort of faculty members, deans, and other stakeholders from at least fifty ABA member law schools, that has met thrice annually.  Thomas Jefferson School of Law hosted the meeting in 2012.” 

William Byrnes continued, “Our next event of ‘state of industry’ presentations, pedagogical, administrative, and policy discussions, before finalizing for publication our recommendations of best practices is September 18 – 20 in St. Paul. We hold an annual AALS breakfast and the Spring meeting will be hosted by Hastings in San Francisco.”

“We are discussing with CALI merging into its long standing organization,” disclosed Professor Byrnes. “John Mayer and CALI have been working to blend technology with legal education since the 1980s. With the recent ABA liberalization of distance education opportunities for JD students, I foresee a large expansion of interest in CALI past the 300 who already attend.”

In his white paper, Professor Byrnes contends, “Distance education technologies present opportunities for professors to enhance student learning, such as through a ‘flipping the classroom’ model, especially when combined with the in-classroom environment,” said Professor Byrnes. “Not without its controversy, but I think that learning may be optimized by using multiple forms of media to match the wide range of students’ personal learning styles.”