The pros and cons of on-demand learning setups for law students and lawyers
Among the biggest struggles of the law profession gearing towards the future is the fact that most law schools today tend to remain traditional and generate “20th-century lawyers” when the world logically requires “21st-century lawyers.” This is according to Richard Susskind, who is among the most cited authors in the world when it comes to the future of legal services.
Mr. Susskind asserts that modern lawyers must be able to meet demands for lower-cost legal services that are conveniently available and that can be delivered electronically. He predicts that in the next decade, significant changes can be observed in the legal sector along with the potential transformation of the court system globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been expediting the process as virtual lawyering becomes more common (sending of documents via email, consultations and meetings are facilitated through video conferencing sites/apps, and bail reviews and hearings at times are held on virtual settings). Moreover, virtual learning has emerged as the new pedagogy in legal practice and education. This is true in the case of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education or MCLE.
In a non-traditional and online MCLE setup, the most convenient mode is the asynchronous or ‘out of sync’ approach. The learner is given the greatest flexibility — the recorded material can be accessed on-demand or any time of the day, wherever the learner could be. Knowledge assimilation is facilitated at the learner’s own pace and convenience.
Busy professionals like lawyers could easily and logically find the asynchronous learning setup advantageous. It is also best for those who are often in distant or remote areas. Unlike the synchronous or online classroom-type setup, on-demand or asynchronous learning could also be designed to best suit learners in areas with weak connectivity and those using convenient devices (like smartphone or tablet instead of a PC or laptop).
Pros of on-demand learning setup for lawyers and law students
1. Highly esteemed law experts and practitioners moderate, produce, or facilitate the online courses and materials. For instance, in Access MCLE, all the lecturers come from the most reputable law universities. These experts of various legal subject matters are providing updated knowledge and principles amid the changing times in a way that is most convenient for the learners— to be accessed at times and in places most conducive for remote learning.
2. Asynchronous learning setup gives the learner a greater sense of responsibility, which is important in maintaining personal discipline. While the approach allows learners to attend to other obligations (professional or personal), he/she keeps the upper hand in time management.
3. The setup is more practical. Aside from allowing the learner to keep his/her job while taking courses, asynchronous learning programs are less costly because the learner will not incur travel expenses, especially if the learner comes from the Visayas or Mindanao region. Moreover, time spent in Metro Manila traffic is also gold.
Cons of on-demand learning setup for lawyers and law students
1. Instilling discipline to learners can be more challenging for instructors/ lecturers. For instance, Judge Ma. Rowena Alejandria (currently teaching Criminal Law at the PUP College of Law and San Sebastian College-Recoletos) thinks that virtual teaching has altered the conventional way making it harder to train law students to be more responsible and disciplined especially when conducting their selves in actual courts. However, she also believes that the more determined learners could prevail despite the unconventional setup.
2. Asynchronous learning setup could be challenging for learners who have been used to or enjoy learning alongside peers. This approach may take a bit for such learners to get comfortable with being ‘isolated’ from other learners.
Asynchronous or on-demand learning setup is becoming an important component of education not just in the new normal but in the digital age. The disadvantages, which are usually behavioral or social, could easily be addressed but those are instantly outweighed by its beneficial impact to learning and to the learner. For some, it may not be a single-size-fits-all type of solution, but to most, it could be a hand tool that is important to have available.