David Thomson, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law: “Move 1L Online”

David Thomson is LP Professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, and at the 2014 Igniting Law Teaching Conference, spoke in the Flipping Law School Course Pod. Many believe that the answer to reducing the high cost of legal education is to the remove the third year of learning, but Professor Thomson has a different idea. If we have to reduce the length of law school, we should remove the first year, and rather than get rid of it, significantly reengineer it by putting most of it online. Online learning environments are now well designed and achieve outcomes equivalent to or better than “ground” classes. This is because there are effective methods currently available to teach much of the first year material primarily online. Adding back some forms of hybrid instruction could alleviate concerns that the “formation” part of the first year would be lost. In addition, moving most of the first year online would open up law school to a larger cohort of potential students, some of whom might only want the first year of instruction.

Professor Thomson serves on his University’s Distance Learning Council, the Board of Trustees’ Technology Futures Committee, and the Strategic Issues Panel on the Future of Higher Education and received the 2011-12 University of Denver Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the author of Law School 2.0: Legal Education for a Digital Age (LexisNeix/Matthew Bender 2009). He has also published two books in a series of hybrid law school textbooks as well, Skills & Values: Discovery Practice (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender 2009) and Skills & Values: Lawyering Process (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender 2013).

LegalED aims to harness the power of the internet for legal educations. It facilitates blended or flipped learning – by migrating lectures to the web, LegalED frees up classtime for active learning that challenges students to learn the essential lawyering competencies while they are in law school. Professors may assign the videos in any combination for students to view outside of the classroom for active learning that challenges students to learn the essential lawyering competencies while they are in law school. LegalED seeks to develop and maintain a vibrant online community of teachers and students of the law, creating a central hub for the community. Through the video collection, teachers can be inspired to borrow, adapt, and bring great teaching moments into their own courses. With an internet platform, LegalED opens up formerly isolated classrooms by sharing showcasing, celebrating and inspiring innovative teaching. Simply put, the vision of LegalED is to inspire innovation in legal education. Join the movement!

The LegalED 2015 Igniting Law Teaching conference will take place on Friday, March 20th, from 9am to 6pm. Register to attend in person or live stream the event.