Distance Learning in the COVID-19 Era: A Reflection From Governor Swift

Today I am hosting a guest blog post from Governor Jane Swift, who is currently the Rappaport Center for Law & Public Policy Distinguished Visiting Professor.


The ironies abound. First, the course I am teaching at Boston College Law School is titled, “Governing in the Era of Facebook: Privacy, Propaganda & the Public Good.” The entire course is premised on the speed of innovation and how it is rapidly changing the nature of work and learning and challenging the legal and regulatory sectors. Second, I have been an executive in the Education Technology industry for nearly two decades. I have run online learning companies and sold and delivered online courses to schools and colleges. So, if anyone should have been ready to quickly pivot their face-to-face teaching as a Rappaport visiting professor from traditional delivery to online, that guest professor should have been me. If I could play a guitar or sing, however, I would have written and tried to get this video to trend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCe5PaeAeew&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1jsCv4x-qVlKUGzmzGvJRH3DnXkKCI0EvKIkBHvFFh6K8UGvPlGxi1w8g 

One thing is really important to put in perspective from the get-go. What is happening this spring semester, where schools are continuing to deliver coursework to college and university students, is decidedly NOT online learning. True online courses, like the ones my colleagues and I built at Middlebury Interactive Languages, take months and sometimes years to build. They depend on professionals with specific expertise in course design to translate pedagogy from in-person to online. Even in online learning, there is huge variation in the degree of features and functionality, the use of video and audio, whether assessments are embedded in the course, and how those are proctored. None of that can happen at scale, securely in a three day or two week period. Instead, what you see now would more fairly be categorized as distance learning or – and even this is a stretch – as blended learning.

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We Are Human Beings First And Law Students Second

Editor’s note: due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Boston College has moved all classes online and sent students home for the semester. The BC Law Impact blog has suspended its normal posting schedule, and bloggers are now focused on writing about the impact of the shutdown and the current state of the world on their academic and social experiences as law students. We are all in this together; let’s find our way through together.

I am a law student who, like everyone else at BC Law (and literally everywhere else on Earth), wishes this wasn’t happening.

I am a student attorney trying to figure out how to help my clients, since the courts have all but shut down.

I am a millennial who has grown up in endless war, and I probably have a lot of residual trauma from multiple mass shootings in my community.

I am a teacher whose first grade Hebrew students are going stir-crazy in their homes while I try to teach them on Zoom.

I am a daughter of parents whose small business has been shuttered in this crisis.

I am a sister worrying about my siblings who are suddenly out of work without a safety net to fall back on.

I am a partner of a full-time graduate student, who is also doing his learning and his part-time teaching jobs from our apartment.

But before all of those things, I am a human being living in a community that is being tested like never before, in ways large and small.

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My Unconventional Spring Semester: Four Classes That Inspire Me

One of the things I was most looking forward to as a 2L was being able to select my own classes. Unlike my undergraduate experience where it felt like the list of required courses was never-ending and took up most of my schedule, BC Law gives students a ton of flexibility when it comes to deciding their courses of study.

My strategy to picking classes falls into three categories: classes that will prepare me for the bar, classes that I think will be helpful in practice, and classes that I simply find interesting. Last semester I tended to focus on bar classes (including Evidence and Corporations), but my spring course load is filled with classes that I thought sounded interesting.

Below I provide a brief overview of my spring semester, including why I chose to take the classes I did:

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