The Future of Legal Education: Ted Talks, Kahn Academy and LegalED Web

Live Blogging from the CELT Workshop


On April 17, 2013, Michelle Pistone, Professor of Law and Director, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) at Villanova University School of Law, spoke to the Albany Law School faculty on the topic of How Emerging Innovations Will Disrupt Legal Education:

Her engaging presentation began with a clip from 1994 of Bryant Gumble and Katie Couric from the Today Show debating the pronunciation of a mysterious keyboard symbol, the”@” symbol. From there and Bob Dylan (“The Times They Are A Changin”), she reminisced about buying books and records at neighborhood stores, seeing movies in the theaters, and when TV shows only played once a week, and if you missed them, you had to hope they’d be rerun during the summer.

Yes, this has all changed. Books and newspapers are now digital. TV shows and movies can be watched at anytime and on computers and phones. These changes are result of innovations which have created a new world.

However, this is the only world that our students know!! They were born digital.

As a result, our students are visual, connected, relate to one another through technology, have an abundance of information that is available at any time from any place. They are used to convenience, speed, multi-tasking, immediate feedback and working together on projects, collaborating, sharing, and creating.

So the important question that Prof. Pistone raised was: In light of these changes, have law schools changed enough?

And her answer was: “Law schools have not changed much in the last 100 years.”

K-16 education has been changing. We have the addition of MOOCS (massive open online courses); Khan Academy which offers videos and quizzes that can being used alone or to flip the classroom. TED ED which makes videos for use in high school – students watch videos online for homework and then can come into class ready to do active problem based learning (thus “flipping the classroom”).

Prof. Pistone recommended reading the book Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clay Christensen. In it, he introduces the key concepts of sustaining technologies (those that improve the performance of established products) and disruptive technologies. Although “disruptive technologies” result in worse product performance in the short term, they are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use (Skype being an example.) So we need to adapt to them.

A study conducted by the Department of Education found that blended learning (a combination of online and face-to-face instruction) obtained better results for students and than either face-to-face or completely online learning. This is something to keep in mind.

So what is next for law schools?

Prof. Pistone recommends focusing on:

  • What we teach – in light of our changing, globalizing, interdisciplinary world
  • How we teach — to cover a wide range of competencies and reach different learning styles
  • How we assess what students are learning – supplementing the final summative exam with formative assessment
  • How we signal to others a student’s competencies


Lastly, Prof. Pistone introduced her new project called LegalED. LegalED is a web-based platform that will host teaching materials for legal education. The materials will include:

  • short videos made for internet viewing
  • problems and exercises
  • assessment tools

This online platform of teaching materials (esp. the short videos) can be used to supplement law school and to “flip” the classroom.


Prof. Pistone’s presentation concluded with a lively discussion by faculty on law school competencies that cannot be taught online (such as empathy), mapping competencies to the teaching process, mastery/adaptive learning, bar exam…

5 Responses

  1. This is wonderful. I am delighted to see efforts like this coming from law faculty. CALI stands ready and willing to support this effort. We have created and collected many materials at and at

    A TED-like or Khan Academy-like collection of videos covering all doctrine law for all 1L and Bar-related courses would be a tremendous resource – and it would be GOOD THING to have multiple faculty covering the same topics. When we were doing podcasting of courses a few years back, we received feedback from students who liked listening to teachers other than the ones teaching their class to get a “second listen”. We also heard from faculty who learned about better teaching approaches by listening to other faculty podcasters. Many of these podcasts are still openly available at

    The 2007 Podcast survey of students is here…

    The students comments are here…

    Look forward to seeing this project progress. Let me know how I can help.

    • I agree that we need to see more efforts such as this. What we need to focus on, however, is not content, but rather PROCESS. HOW will we approach student learning? What does it LOOK LIKE in the classroom when teaching and learning evolve in new and innovative ways? How do we ASSESS new instructional methodologies and the impact they have on student learning?

  2. Great to see new blended approaches beginning to be applied in law schools. As we all know there is no magic bullet for effective teaching/learning, it is a labor intensive process (as all good thing are) to find what works from the organizational and individual’s perspective. What is exciting is the existing tech infrastructure out there today to make that process more scalable and accessible.

  3. Great information. I like your methods.

  4. […] about actually practicing law and running a law firm. In fact, this very issue was discussed during a recent presentation at my alma mater, Albany Law School, when Villanova Law Professor Michelle Pistone spoke to the […]

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