Why I’m Teaching Internet Law Online This Fall

[Santa Clara University gave me the option to teach online this semester instead of in the physical classroom, as I had been initially scheduled to do. I sent this note to the enrolled and waitlisted students explaining why I chose to teach online. For more on my experiences teaching the course online last year, see this post.]

As the law school has informed you, I have chosen to teach Internet Law this semester as an online-only course. This was not my preference, and it’s probably not your preference either. I wanted to explain to you why I made this decision, and its implications for our time together this semester.

My wife has been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. This means she is immunocompromised and especially vulnerable to respiratory ailments. Even though she (and everyone in our family) is vaccinated, my wife has a nontrivial risk of dying if she contracts the virus. For that reason, we go to extra lengths to reduce her potential exposure.

We had a scare this summer when my son attended a summer camp where everyone was vaccinated. Nevertheless, the camp had at least 7 breakthrough infections. When we brought my son home from camp, we had to quarantine him for several days to ensure that my wife would not be exposed. Fortunately, my son didn’t get the virus, but his quarantine disrupted our household a lot.

If I teach in person and any student in the class gets the virus during the semester, I would almost certainly feel compelled to quarantine from my wife until I was sure I was safe. That would be hugely disruptive to my family and my schedule. Teaching online sidesteps this risk.

There’s also the practical concern that conducting lectures and class discussions where I and all of the students are masked will create significant barriers to my pedagogical goals.

Teaching online will require 2x-3x more work for me than if we were meeting in person. Yet, switching to online-only was an easy call in my situation.

I know that some of you will choose to drop the course in favor of alternative courses that are meeting in person. I understand and respect that choice. If you make that choice, I’m very sorry for any inconvenience you’ll experience and for my missed opportunity to explore Internet Law with you.

If you choose to remain in the course, note that the online version of Internet Law this semester may be more demanding on you than an in-person offering. Specifically, you will have point-earning commitments every week, and if you fall behind with the material, the course’s rapid pace will make it difficult to catch up. If investing some time in Internet Law every week sounds like a potential problem, this course may not be the right one for you.

I became a law professor principally because I am dedicated to helping students achieve their professional development goals. Regardless of teaching modality, I will give you my best efforts to achieve that goal. I welcome your ideas of what I can do to help you the most.

Because of the last-minute modality switch, I am behind in preparing my syllabus and Camino page. I will let you know as soon as they are available. I will provide you with a free PDF of the casebook via Camino when the page is ready. If you will want a hard copy, you can get it from https://amzn.to/3jmEmF5

I welcome your comments and questions. If you choose to stay enrolled, I look forward to a great semester with you.