Session 1, day 2, UNSW legal research conference

by Paul Maharg on 04/12/2017

This session is called ‘Technology: disrupting legal education’.  First up, Michael Adams, giving us ‘Law and technology: 20 year reflections’.  Started with a roundup of hardware.  According to him underlying pedagogy has not changed; though technology, he says has changed teaching.  Not sure I agree with that.  Mentioned LMSs, showed market placings of LMSs, mentioned apps and social media.  He mentioned work with Mark Freeman on online asynchronous role plays, and Sally Kift’s work on first year engagement, James Arvanitakis on social media engagement, Grace Borsellino, Simon Kozlina and Elen Seymour on Polldaddy and Twitter.  As to the future, he told us about his visit to Microsoft HQ, Seattle.  Trends include importance of data based decisions – The Graph.  AI to provide context for searching. Video indexing – instant transcripts; and translations on the fly, and in 28 languages.  This was a roundup of hardware and tech, theory-lite.

Next, Jenny Buchan et al,  on ‘Using online learning to transform teaching and learning…’  She described UNSW’S MOOC on International Franchise Law.  Jenny took us through the literature on MOOCs’ advantages.  Why on franchising?  Because there’s little in the field re teaching resources, and yet it’s an area of complex law that affects many worldwide.  MOOC digital resources include videos (6 episodes of a case study, 18 academic instruction videos, eg), online activities and additional support – weekly emails and internationally-focused open source and user-pay weekly reading links.  Social constructivist pedagogy.  The MOOC lasted 12 weeks, later cut to a shorter 6-week offering, with a culturally and educationally diverse audience; and different learning objectives for the online vs on campus models.  Topics included Cultural and legal due diligence, franchise agreements, IP, competition & unit-trust, cross-border tax issues, dispute resolution, exit options including listing and insolvency, social franchising, and the critical differences between common law & civil law.  Jenny mentioned in passing that the f2f students had to participate in the online MOOC – that’s an interesting idea.  20% of their assessment was allocated to that participation (if I’ve understood her right).  She finished by showing part of a video used on the MOOC.  Interesting presentation.  MOOC received positive feedback.  I’d really like to hear more about how the MOOC was designed – more of a backroom approach, as well as the theories applied, and the model of the MOOC that was adopted.  There is a paper, I think.  Impressive, well-designed project.

Finally, Jennifer Dickfos et al, on ‘An engagement toolkit for the disengaged’.  They looked at the tools with which they helped students to engage in courses – eg preparation etc.  Sarah Mann’s work was consulted, including REPIC (their acronym, based on Mann’s work – Redistribute the power of student learning and development, Emphasise teamwork, Provide a non-judgmental learning environment, Inspire students’ ‘thinking selves’ to question, Create an hospitable culture).  Jennifer gave an example of a flipped classroom as a REPIC context.

The example of the flipped lecture is an easy example, but quite interesting because of course it’s difficult to see how a conventional lecture could be fitted into the REPIC framework.  In other words, the basic REPIC model templates learning and teaching.  The statistical results showed students preferred the flipped model.  So, I’m wondering, was it flipping or REPIC that was the major underlying change here…

Second example, in Commerce Law – ‘corporate villains’ – humanises cases using a storytelling method. A photo of a corporate villain is posted up. Very popular with students.  What about the corporate heroes, though (and this was raised in questions) – I’d like to see more of that – and of course either villains or heroes, the basic approach is the same – but I wonder if the effect of positive as opposed to negative roles has an ethical effect.  Quite a complex question, because it very much depends on the nature of the discussions with students.  Third example – didn’t get this, too little time.  Four example, SV Partners Liquidation competition, 250+ commerce students in Company Law completed a hypothetical assignment question, draft by Matthew Hudson at SV Partners and moderated by academic staff.  Top six answers referred to Matthew for judging, winner receives paid work experience, with potential full time employment. Example of authentic assessment.


Student disengagement can be reduced if we REPIC our learning and teaching practices.  However, – ongoing need to promote L&T success of the tools to students, and there’s an ongoing need to develop authentic assessment examples (minor query on what exactly authenticity means in these contexts – but this is more a note to self…).  Very good approaches, well thought-out, really liked the examples that were given in the latter two presentations, which prompted me to think hard about complex issues (eg the villains vs heroes approach).  And as always, the presence of the digital compels us to rethink the f2f.


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