Online law courses succeed, survey finds

  • Students taking online courses are nearly as satisfied with law school as their in-person peers
  • Part-time students and older students are particularly satisfied

(Reuters) – Online courses have received high marks from law students in a new survey, suggesting distance learning has improved over the past two years and can be just as effective than in-person teaching when done well.

Among survey respondents who took online courses last year, 76% rated those courses as good or excellent, according to the law school’s latest survey of student engagement – a research project annual hosted at Indiana University’s Center for Post-Secondary Research. This closely follows the 77% of 13,000 students surveyed who said their overall law school experience was good or excellent.

Although this is the first time the survey has focused on online learning, previous research found that law students were largely dissatisfied with online courses. A 2021 survey by AccessLex Institute found that only 43% of second- and third-year law students rated their online courses as good or excellent.

The new survey notes that far fewer students completed most of their courses remotely last year compared to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when nearly all classes abruptly moved online. Of survey respondents, 70% said their courses were mostly in-person last year, while 10% said they were mostly online and 20% said they were a mix of both formats. But half of the 13,000 people surveyed said they had taken at least one online course in the past year.

“While the law school experience is unlikely to be primarily online again, the accelerated transition to online course delivery that has occurred due to COVID-19 shows that the The online law school experience can be as successful, rewarding and satisfying as the traditional program,” reads the report.

The vast majority of students taking online courses reported being very comfortable with key aspects of distance learning. When asked to take exams remotely and interact with their instructor, 80% of respondents said they were comfortable, while 77% said they were comfortable interact with other people online.

Part-time students and older students tend to report the highest satisfaction with online courses, while women tend to report higher participation in online class discussions. Students who took most or all of their courses online were slightly more likely to say their law school helped them cope with non-academic responsibilities, including work and family.

A dozen law schools now offer hybrid JD programs in which part-time students take most of their classes online but come to campus several times a year for in-person instruction. And St. Mary’s University School of Law launched the first American Bar Association-accredited JD program in which all credits are earned online. And most schools without such programs still offer online courses.

But the new survey found several areas where online courses fell short. Online students were less likely than their peers to feel supported by career services, and fewer reported having positive relationships with classmates compared to their in-person peers.

Read more:

The first online law school of its kind attracts a large number of applicants

Online course options are growing in popularity among law students, ABA says

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Karen Sloane

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools and legal affairs. Contact her at

Nancy I. Romero