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

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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.

  • Most people believe (as I did previously) that instructor-led training is superior to technology-based training.  I’ll guess that that bias reflects the fact that our personal learning experiences are overwhelmingly ILT, whereas TBT, being newer, may be a much smaller component of our total learning.  We tend to favor the more familiar.

    When I researched the question, though, I learned that the polar opposite is true. Irrespective of environment — corporate, government, military, professional services — TBT outperforms ILT on every recognized learning metric, and by a huge amount.  It’s not even close. Learning experts are in virtually unanimous agreement.

    Besides cost, the advantage of which is easy to see, there’s retention, learning speed, instructional efficiency, “learning velocity,” currency, timeliness, consistency, flexibility, access, measurability — TBT outperforms ILT by a wide margin. Add the very human factor that TBT is less intimidating than ILT, and you’ve got the picture.

    If you’d like to see the free white paper I prepared based on this research, go to

  • myshingle


    I do not agree with the results of your study. Most of the “findings” are by people who promote online learning. Moreover, many who favored online learning cited lower cost as a factor. I agree – if the choice is no training versus online training then the latter will come out on top.
    The comparison charts in your report also presented a false dichotomy. For example, the online reports had an advantage because people could go back online and review the materials. Most in person teachers share materials and note that are available for people to go back to.
    I don’t disagree that online learning had its place. It is a great way to sample a new area or learn a new skill at a Los cost. Truth be told, if I am learning a skill (like coding a website) or s new area of law (like foreclosure), I often prefer books or screenshots rather than video. However if I have to master a mission critical skill – like when I learned how to do court appointed criminal cases when I started my firm, or studying for a bar exam, I would only trust an in person class to get the job done. I don’t think that even my tern daughters – who aren’t old like I am – would disagree either.

  • Carolyn, in addition to the quotes from learning experts, you’ll also see them from corporate users, e.g., Hambrecht + Co. and Merrill Lynch, and independent sources, e.g., Wired and Forrester Research, who cite the advantages I mention.  After compiling this, I remained skeptical because of the apparent unanimity. So I tested it by doing a Google search for the opposite result, using “instructor-led training advantages” as my search string.  The paucity of specific results spoke loudly, at least to me.

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