Key challenges and opportunities around wellbeing for distance learning students: the online law school experience

Jones, Emma; Samra, Rajvinder and Lucassen, Mathijs (2021). Key challenges and opportunities around wellbeing for distance learning students: the online law school experience. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02680513.2021.1906639

Abstract

The wellbeing of students in higher education generally, and law students, in particular, has become an area of increasing concern in recent years. Despite the growing interest in the area, empirical work on the wellbeing of distance learning law students remains sparse. This paper builds on previous studies around wellbeing in higher education, especially in relation to law schools, by reporting on the findings of a series of focus groups conducted with distance learning law students at The Open University. Its aim was to explore participants’ perceptions of how studying law had impacted their wellbeing. Its findings indicate that participants viewed the online distance-learning nature of their studies as having the most significant impact on their wellbeing, generating a range of practical and psycho-social implications. Although issues specific to the law as a discipline were raised, it appeared to be the mode of delivery, not the subject content, that was of primary relevance. This exploratory study is particularly salient at this time when law schools across the globe have been forced to perform an ‘online pivot’, with many now also considering expanding their long-term online offerings. The paper concludes by considering the ways in which the results of this study could usefully inform future wellbeing initiatives within online legal education.

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