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Could co-learning offer a rescue line for offline (live) CLE

Earlier this week, Scott Greenfield asked whether live CLE can survive in a largely online, virtual world? After all, live CLE costs more to produce (room rental and potential travel costs for a speaker) and may attract fewer attendees because a live event doesn’t have the same flexibility as a watch-it-anywhere webinar. Yet, as Scott points out, the quality of online CLE often doesn’t match live, where  students can ask questions and faculty can experiment with different approaches in response to a sea of blank faces.  That level of interaction is lost online which reduces the quality.

Online CLE doesn’t just eliminate interaction between faculty and students, but between students and other students. In many ways, learning is a collective experience and unless I’m puzzling something out hands on (like learning to edit a video or code a website), I find that I’m more attentive when I’m in a room with others. Plus, I often learn from other student comments as well as their prompts (for example, if I see everyone else picking up a pen to take notes, I’m more apt to follow suit).

In many ways, online-offline learning is false dichotomy. One hundred percent online, virtual learning will never adequately substitute for college or law school or CLE.  At the same time, offline learning can be costly and potentially limiting since some bar associations simply don’t have access to local experts on certain topics.  Co-viewing is a potential hybrid solution.

Co-viewing is hardly a novel idea – indeed, it’s how I studied for the New York bar exam the summer after graduating law school.  Rather than return home to self-study through recorded videos, I chose to remain on campus where I watched those same recorded videos in a classroom with 50 students, most of them familiar classmates, who chose to study the same way.  Though we couldn’t interact with the professors, we could discuss the material with each other and also establish common routines – meeting for coffee in the morning before class and lunch afterwards – that kept us accountable in our preparation.

Just as  co-working spaces are gaining traction, co-learning spaces offer the same advantages. And not just for CLE – there’s a world of online content available at Udacity, Coursera and others just waiting to be exploited.  You don’t have to go it alone — in fact, you may find that you’ll get more out of the classes if you don’t.