Open Justice Centre shares online education best practice

The Open University Law School’s Open Justice Centre is reaching out to support the wider legal education sector in its time of need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While other universities and educational establishments struggle to deliver a full learning experience while shifting so quickly to online teaching methods, The Open University is providing ongoing support internationally to both learners and teachers in the Higher Education and Further Education sectors, to share its knowledge and expertise in the development of high-quality online teaching, supported by academic research.

The Open Justice team held a 90-minute online workshop in May, designed to support legal industry colleagues who have suddenly found themselves needing to teach clinical legal education online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sixty educators from as far as Australia and Trinidad took part in the event. It focused on how the Open Justice Centre successfully uses the OU’s widely celebrated expertise in online teaching within the clinical legal field.

Sharing an approach to meaningful online activities for law students

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting UK lockdown, interest in online learning has peaked. Other universities around the world which are less experienced in online learning than the OU and use traditional face-to-face teaching methods, have had to make a sudden and drastic change in the way they teach.

Distance learning has been at the heart of the OU for more than 50 years. Through its ‘Taking Clinical Legal Education Online’ workshop, the Open Justice Centre team shared its approach to developing meaningful online pro bono activities for students. It was open to anyone working in the legal education sector

The Open Justice Centre runs a Justice in Action module, which was designed to make experiential legal education accessible to part-time distance learning law undergraduates. It also creates useful resources for the public in relation to legal information, advice and guidance.

Drawing on its experience, the module team outlined some of its core innovations for sector colleagues, including its:

  • Online legal advice clinic
  • Smartphone apps project
  • Use of virtual reality
  • Development of online partnerships
  • Remote group working practices
  • Approach to assessing online clinical activity.

The workshops were delivered by Hugh McFaul and Francine Ryan, Co-Directors of the Open Justice Centre, and Liz Hardie, Teaching Director.

The response to the workshop was excellent – we had a global attendance, which was incredible. We were proud to be able to support industry colleagues who have found themselves in a difficult position during the pandemic. They need to teach online but they don’t have the same level of experience that we do. The Open University has 50 years of experience in distance learning – this is what we do best.

Our team has worked hard to apply distance learning practices to develop and deliver online pro bono activities for students which support their legal learning and expose them to useful, relevant experience. With so many face-to-face educators now having to switch their tactics to online, it felt like sharing our approach was the right thing to do. Everyone was very appreciative and it was brilliantly received.

Hugh McFaul, Co-Director

Claire Johnson, Head of Clinic Support and Development at LawWorks, attended the event:

It was really good to learn more about all the projects and hear how things work in practice.

Claire Johnson, Head of Clinic Support and Development at LawWorks

Find out more about the OU Open Justice Centre.

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