Turning Points: Law professors tweak teaching methods during remote delivery

Demands of virtual classes produce useful new approaches

Sarah Kent - 22 July 2021

Assistant Professor Tamar Meshel and Professor Eran Kaplinsky will be putting several lessons learned from remote class delivery into action when the Faculty returns to campus.

While adjusting to the technology learning curve, both instructors discovered new ways to help first-year students acclimatize to law school.

Being unable to pick up on students’ non-verbal cues while lecturing during her tort law class was the biggest challenge for Meshel.

“You cannot read the virtual room,” says Meshel, who relied on repetition and visual aids such as Prezi to ensure students understood the material. These measures turned out to be something students greatly appreciated.

To help first-year students get to know each other, Meshel regularly used virtual breakout rooms, allowing students to work on in-class exercises in small groups.

“When I used to do these in-class exercises (in person), I handed them out and they did them individually, and now I think I should start doing breakout rooms in class.”

Mimicking the format of in-person lectures as closely as possible was also a priority for Meshel. So, while she recorded lectures to share with students, she held classes live at the same time each week. “I thought the structure would be beneficial, especially for the 1Ls.”

Kaplinsky was focused on finding a way to help first-year students feel more engaged in his property law class. He decided to abandon the traditional course management systems, like eClass and the West Education Network, and opted for Discord, a popular messaging and video call platform.

“(Discord) is the leading tool for building a community of users on any subject. And why not law?” he says. “This was experimental, but despite early hiccups, it ultimately proved to be a very rewarding decision because the established tools were not built for the pandemic."

Students used the platform to engage in conversation, access course materials, prepare group assignments and direct message Kaplinsky with their questions.

“I’m an early and enthusiastic adopter of technology,” says Kaplinsky, who invested in a high-quality microphone and camera and integrated Open Broadcaster Software, a streaming program, with Zoom. He plans to continue using Discord and hopes it will gain traction as an alternative course management tool.