Classroom to Cyberspace: Preserving Street Law's Interactive and Student-Centered Focus during Distance Learning
The Street Law program at New York Law School (NYLS) is a faculty taught, credit-bearing course that trains law students to teach interactive lessons covering practical legal topics at The Charter High School for Law & Social Justice (CHSLSJ), in the Bronx, New York.
On March 3, 2020, NYLS moved online due to the rapid rise of COVID cases in New York City. Like many clinical and experiential programs, we weighed options that would provide both valuable experiences for our high school and law students while keeping everyone safe.
On Sunday March 15, 2020, the New York City public schools shifted to remote learning. The immediate closure of physical buildings forced schools into reactive emergency distance learning. Determined to continue to provide Street Law lessons and some consistency for our high school students, we supplied weekly asynchronous lessons because synchronous teaching was not available at CHSLSJ. We could see from student work product that they were continuing to learn content and practice skills. However, the connection and community often created in Street Law classrooms was missing.
Additionally, for the past several summers, CHSLSJ has offered a Summer Bridge program for their incoming students that follows the Street Law model. This summer, we taught Summer Bridge synchronously.
After completing two months of asynchronous Street Law instruction and an intensive two-week synchronous program, we have amassed best practices for teaching Street Law through distance learning. These best practices include technology choice, class length, class size, number of instructors, and use of visuals.
We recently learned that CHSLSJ will be entirely online again this fall. We will use lessons learned to prepare the best program we can for the upcoming semester. This paper will examine whether is it possible to maintain interactive, student-centered Street Law instruction during distance learning.
International Journal of Clinical Legal Education, Vol. 27, Issue 4 (2020), pp. 83-106
Special Issue - Clinical and Public Legal Education: Responses to Coronavirus: Practice Report
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