There is a lot of talk these days about flipped learning, blended learning, online learning and lots of other ways to integrate online content into law school courses. There are a lot of advantages to blending online and in-class instruction. For one, it frees up class time for law students to begin to gain exposure to essential lawyering competencies during each course while still covering the doctrinal material that professors hope to assign during a typical semester. 

Top Five Things to Consider When Flipping a Law School Course

1.    What topics do you want to flip?

Before you begin, identify the topics that you typically cover for which the flipped classroom model would make the most sense in the course.  

2.  You don’t have to produce all of the videos.

Don’t be reluctant to assign video content produced by other professors. Like other teaching and scholarly activities, such as writing an effective article, practice guide or even blog post, the production of effective and engaging video content takes time.  As a result, I often assign my students to read law review articles and casebooks prepared by other professors.  Assigning videos prepared by other professors is analogous. Indeed, by assigning material prepared by others, our time is freed up to spend on more active teaching activities.

3.  Begin with planning what will be “flipped in” rather than what will be flipped out.

Plan what you want to do with the additional face-to-face time with students that blended learning will afford.  This is the point of having a flipped classroom.  For example, consider adding new activities into the classroom (such as interviewing, negotiation or drafting exercises) that hone practical lawyering skills and competencies.  

4.  Produce chunked, short video content.

Research shows that effective videos do not exceed 8 minutes in length, and some are even shorter. Break up a longer subject matter into a few chunked segments, making sure that each video addresses a discreet legal topic. Remember to make the video engaging and to speak clearly and concisely.

5.  Hold the students responsible for watching the videos.

Start each class with an assumption that the students watched the video. That will create an expectation for the group. Start the class by expanding on the videos lessons and assigning activities/discussions that ask students to use the theories learned from the videos actively through role plays, simulations, small group work or Socratic dialogue.

Best of luck innovating legal education.  Let us know, in the comment section below, how it goes for you.  What works?  What could be improved?  What insights can you share with the community?

And if you want to learn more about blended learning and other innovations in teaching pedagogy, consider attending LegalED's first conference, Igniting Law Teaching, on April 4th at American University, Washington College of Law, in Washington D.C.