With today’s trend toward online education, it would seem a time saving, cost effective way to achieving your goal of a career in law. In fact, many fine schools offer online degrees.
Cost of Online Education
The virtual classroom is much more affordable than the traditional brick and mortar institutions of higher learning. Please consult resources for a link to costs for specific types of degrees. Nationwide, law students in particular groan over the soaring cost of education: housing, cost per credit hour, essentials such as books and materials, and even the comparatively low cost of transportation to and from school. The credit hour cost and the price of books will not necessarily be lower for classes held online, but housing and transportation become non-issues if you can attend class in the privacy of your room at home. Whereas many resources required for standard classes, such as: extra manuals, charts, diagrams and reference materials have been digitally reproduced and are sometimes only available to the virtual environment, students physically attending school must purchase them, often from a certified outlet at exorbitant prices.
For the student seeking a lecture hall environment, he/she is limited to a specific class size and schedule. Favored professors’ classes and those classes addressing enticing topics tend to fill up quickly. If you are not quick in registering, you may miss the opportunity to partake of a particular class, thereby becoming relegated to the dreaded waiting list – if your school maintains such lists.
Usually, waiting for a class is not necessary online. The format tends to be more relaxed, therefore professors can address more students, thus making the classroom size larger. And, because managing a class online is (in some ways) easier and less demanding than lecturing on campus, many teachers find more room in their schedule for additional classes.
Of course, it would be misleading to construe this as saying that online classes provide students with unlimited opportunity to partake of any class they wish. There are limits on the number of students any one professor can manage while still disseminating subject material effectively.
Rigors of Online Classes
Online courses force the student to be in charge of his/her own learning. The professor imposes criteria, assignments and deadlines, and the student must manage his/her schedule in such a manner that those requirements are met. Often this gives students the illusion of time, laxness and freedom, which could result in last minute, panicked efforts to meet assignment closing dates.
Exams in particular call forth this phenomenon. Many online students, aware that a window of time is allowed for exams, tend to wait until the last minute, cramming and possibly cursing their tendency to procrastinate.
Online Study Ethics
As long as there has been organized learning, there have been learners who seek to beat the system. As law students, we should ideally be some of the most ethical scholars and yet the truth is, if no one is looking, cheating is certainly tempting. In a traditional setting there might be proctors patrolling the aisles as well as the professor down front, watchful for illicit activity. Who will perform that function if you are taking an examination in your room?
Something to bear in mind should you be tempted to consult your notes or books while taking an online exam: you are only cheating yourself. You might score well on this paper but, come time for The Bar, your retention capabilities are tested in a formal environment. You can surely imagine the consequences of earlier deceit. Best to do it right the first time.
‘Networking’ as an Online Student
One of the most important considerations in opting for online classes is networking. As a future barrister, social and academic connections represent a large portion of your marketability. Professional networks such as Linked In are no substitute for a letter of recommendation from a professor who has met you face to face, witnessed your enthusiasm and dedication, who and can provide firsthand testimony as to your passion for law.
Online Classes, or not?
You could consider completing the bulk of your undergraduate work online, reserving your cash for the more intensive graduate studies. It would seem a mix of methods, virtual and physical would present the best of both worlds, giving you opportunity to study under venerated professors while partaking of cutting edge educational methods.