In Fall 2020, the Lakehead Faculty of Law moved most classes online. Generally, the online instruction has gone well. The experience of switching to online in March provided useful lessons in how to adapt. So too did teaching two Spring courses, a new option that was over-subscribed.
For two first-year courses, Constitutional Law and Legal Research and Writing, in-person teaching has been offered. About a third of the incoming class of 64 indicated an interest in the in-person option. There is also an in-person component of Civil Practice, a second-year course. Due to size restrictions in the classroom being used, teaching has taken the form of hybrid instruction, with a mix of in-person and online attendance. Some classes associated with the Legal Clinic have also been offered in-person.
The hybrid approach has been a success overall. Strict protocols relating to face masks, entrance and exit points at the law building, extra cleaning measures, traffic control and physical distancing within the classroom have been introduced. Students are required to take an online COVID-19 course and provide proof of their certificate. Students returning to southern Ontario for Thanksgiving and the Reading Week will need to stay away from the in-person classes for seven days after their return. The university has confirmed that online instruction will be the norm for the Winter Term. December and Spring exams will be online.
The law building, which is physically separate from the main Lakehead University campus, is largely unoccupied on any given day. Instructors have been asked to work from home. They have access to their offices, providing they have taken the COVID-19 training and follow cleaning protocols. Some have been coming in and the Dean and her Executive Assistant and some staff are in regularly. Faculty Council meetings take place online, as do other committee meetings. The law library has curbside service and limited on site access.
Zoom is the main teaching platform. The university has provided extensive training and technical support is available for those who require it. Course design has been both synchronous and asynchronous, with many instructors using break-out rooms, polls and other techniques to encourage participation and provide a learning experience commensurate with that of traditional in-person teaching. There was an active orientation program in September that was integrated with a two-week course in Foundations of Law for all first-years. Student clubs and associations have been active via Zoom, as have Student Health and Wellness and Student Accommodation services. Dean’s Fellows continue to provide support for the first-year programs.