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Asynchronous Instruction in this Year of Living Dangerously

Probably every student and instructor has had difficult challenges this year accommodating to the routines needed because of the pandemic.

Many faculty have been teaching fully or partially online and will continue to do so next semester because the virus is still way out of control in the US.

Although using video has some advantages, it also presents some problems.

Internet connections aren’t completely reliable, which can be nerve-wracking for faculty trying to teach synchronously.  I have been having maddening intermittent internet outages during the past weeks and some of my colleagues have as well. And it’s a challenge for students who may miss some classes because of flaky internet connections.

I experienced the challenge of making synchronous presentations when planning to give my They Should Call it Negotiation School talk in Becky Jacobs’s class and ended up pre-recording it to avoid the risk of blacking out during class.

I did posts collecting videos about the LIRA book and other dispute resolution topics to help colleagues manage courses during this extremely challenging year.

I wondered if having students watch videos asynchronously would “count” toward the number of minutes that the ABA requires.  Standard 306, on distance education, was deleted in August.  I emailed the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar and got a response that “199 schools were granted variances due to the pandemic concern distance education.  We suggest you reach out to the law school with any further questions or explanations to policies adopted at your law school.”

I emailed the chair of the curriculum committee in my school who provided the following information.  In the course design, students need to be able to interact with each other as well as with the faculty member.  There does not need to be direct interaction regarding every topic.  Interaction with faculty may be via submitted assignments that are then graded.  This may also be done by holding office hours or being available to discuss questions.  Interaction with students might be via discussion boards and/or group projects.

You might contact a dean at your school to check on your school’s policies.

For the remainder of this semester, your plans probably are locked in, though you might consider asynchronous instruction to make up some classes.  I found that it was surprisingly easy to record presentations using zoom, so you might record some presentations and make other arrangements for interaction with students.

You might especially keep all this in mind as you plan your courses for next semester.


John Lande

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus at the University of Missouri School of Law and former director of its LLM Program in Dispute Resolution.  He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He began mediating professionally in 1982 in California.… MORE >

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