Collaborative learning in online clinical legal education

The benefits of collaborative learning are widely acknowledged. It is built into the structures of qualifications, is often a learning outcome within clinical programmes and is perceived as an important professional skill.

Yet we understand that collaborative processes carry with them attendant difficulties, and amongst other issues, often cause peer-to-peer and student-to-institution frictions. These may manifest themselves in a number of ways, including, for example, inter-group tension, fall-outs or break-ups.

Online clinical legal education within a distance learning environment has the potential to amplify the tensions that exist in collaborative working. Geographic distance can equate to strains in the social relationships which often underpin effective collaborative learning.

We will seek to identify these issues in an interactive workshop with our audience, seeking to better understand valued ways of promoting successful clinical collaborations with distance learning students. We will draw on our own experiences of working on clinical projects within an open access distance learning setting.