In the fall of 2020, the CALT website is featuring updates from law professors about how their institutions are responding to the challenge of teaching during a pandemic.
The Schulich School of Law is offering primarily online courses, with very limited exceptions for some clinical courses. The first-year curriculum includes some large group classes and some as small group seminar-style classes. The small group format is a unique feature of Schulich’s first-year law program and it was important to us to retain it even in the online environment.
Courses that are traditionally lecture courses are being delivered in synchronous and asynchronous combinations. Professors are creating videos to provide the information and then meeting with students live online once a week for 50 to 120 minutes, depending on the course. Our seminar courses are being taught entirely synchronously, online. The synchronous sessions are being held on one of three online platforms: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Collaborate Ultra.
The challenge of transitioning to online teaching has been arduous, but it has also given our faculty unprecedented opportunities for collaboration and creativity, which has strengthened our team. We convened a Working Group for Online Teaching Innovation early in April 2020, chaired by Professor Jacqui Walsh. This working group hired several students and provided them with training in technology to assist us in our transition. The students far exceeded our expectations and have been instrumental in helping us construct our courses and learn new online platforms. These students are still employed to assist with our ongoing online teaching.
Maintaining a sense of belonging to the Schulich School of Law community among all our students was an important consideration for us. We convened a Working Group for Community Building in April 2020 dedicated to this cause, and we are hopeful that we have been able to show that even at a distance, we remain fully dedicated to our students’ education. So far, student response has been that they are appreciative of the faculty’s efforts.