Harvard is first law school to announce all online curriculum for Fall of 2020


Harvard law students who were holding their breath that school would be going back to normal after COVID-19, let out a big sigh of disappointment last week. Harvard Law School announced on June 3 that all law classes will be held online for the upcoming fall schedule. 

“This is not the announcement we’d hoped to make,” Dean John F. Manning wrote in his letter to students. “But our first priority is, and must continue to be, the health and safety of our community, and we cannot reliably conclude at this time that we can safely provide an effective on-campus program this fall.” 

Due to the fact that not all students have the resources available to learn online, Harvard Law School created a new $1 million Technology Assistance Fund available for students.

“In the meantime, we are working hard to address the fact that the shift to a full semester of online learning will pose particular challenges for some – for example, those who face difficult learning environments at home, those who have technological challenges, or those in time zones remote from that of Cambridge who may find it difficult to participate in classes in real-time, as is required by the active-learning approach to law school pedagogy,” Manning wrote.

Harvard Law School will offer an additional deferral period for newly admitted JD and LL.M students due to this decision to only hold online classes. It will also allow returning students to opt for a fall-semester or full-year leave during Academic Year 2020-2021. All students have until June 19 to make their decisions. 

“We very much hope that you choose to remain in what we expect to be an exciting and enriching online academic and social program,” Meaning wrote. “But we want to be sure that you have a fair opportunity to make a decision that is right for you based on the best information we can provide you at this time.”

Manning assured students who are both willing and able to attend a virtual class setting that they will still get everything. 

“We have been busy, in recent weeks, studying and absorbing the latest research about how students best learn online and identifying the range of tools, techniques, and approaches that create excellent, engaging online courses,” he said. “It is an exciting process, with much to be learned and much new to try in our virtual classrooms and clinics. I’m inspired by the creativity and dedication with which faculty are planning for the fall as we work to nurture a vibrant, connected online community.”

Manning also addressed that the health crisis could very well change between now and late August when classes begin, but the decision to hold online classes will not change. 

“We dearly hope, as everyone does, that scientific developments with respect to COVID-19 will allow greater in-person activity, here and elsewhere, very soon,” Manning wrote. “We must now turn our focus fully to developing the best, most robust, highest-quality online academic, clinical, and extracurricular programming we can for the coming term.”

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