One of the hats I’ve worn in my career is that of an educator. Whether it was training new attorneys and paralegals, teaching academic classes, or just coaching someone in a current or future role, I’ve been teaching for decades.

And I’ve spent the better part of the past 10 years working to convince law school and paralegal school leaders -– frankly, anyone who’d listen — that online education (aka distance learning) is the future. It’s the big disrupter that the education business needs. Now, with the unprecedented COVID-19 virus, it seems that all of the schools in the world, from K-12 to undergrad and graduate ones, have transitioned online inside the course of a few weeks. Amazing!

But a viral outbreak should not be the reason we finally and fully embrace online education. Sure, it’s convenient right now. In fact, it’s downright safe. But what happens when the virus fades? Will educational institutions return to the status quo?

For the uninformed, distance learning has been around forever. It originated hundreds of years ago with correspondence courses in which instructors sent assignments and received student submissions by mail. Fast-forward to the 1920s and Penn State was offering content on the radio. In the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, we saw a lot of fairly crude intranets pop up in academia that enabled professors and students to collaborate using phone lines. Then, in the late 1980s and ’90s, AOL and CompuServe provided portals to online learning. Since then, the internet has really become a rich source for online learning. Why then have we not embraced it more fully?

The truth is that we have, and it has been growing, but it has been a slow growth. Today, over 95% of schools use some form of online learning, even if it’s a single course. And obviously, the big online schools offer elaborate degree programs. But not everyone is onboard.

While it’s possible not every college course can be taught online (I can’t think of one), what is clear is that there are distinct advantages to learning online. First, for those who are truly looking to learn something, […]

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