Maximise Modelling, Minimise Drudgery, Enhance Learning: Developing and Customising an Expandable Web Site that Teaches Law Students How to Interview and Counsel Clients
Marlene J Le Brun
Director, National Judicial College of Australia
The Australian National University, Canberra
Technological resources can ask for different methods of learning through [the use of] powerful visuals and well-organised print; through direct, vicarious, and virtual experiences; and through tasks requiring analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, with applications to real-life situations. They can encourage self-reflection and self-evaluation. They can drive collaboration and group problem solving. Technologies can help students learn in ways they find most effective and broaden their repertoires for learning … . Fast, bright students can move quickly through materials they master easily and go on to more difficult tasks; slower students can take more time and get more feedback and direct help from teachers and fellow students.
This article complements the demonstration of a web site that I developed with a team of students and colleagues at City University of Hong Kong and with staff from Launchpad Multimedia. The web site, 'You and Your Client: The Art of Legal Interviewing,' is designed to teach law students how to conduct an initial client-centred interview. In this paper, I describe what has been accomplished and discuss the potential that modern technology holds to revolutionize the teaching of legal skills.
Keywords: Legal Education, CAL, Legal Interviewing, Teaching of Legal Skills, Using Technology to Enhance Learning.
This is a Refereed article published on 6 December 2002.
Citation: Le Brun M J, 'Maximise Modelling, Minimise Drudgery, Enhance Learning: Developing and Customising an Expandable Web Site that Teaches Law Students How to Interview and Counsel Clients', The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT), 2002 (3) <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/02-3/lebrun.html>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2002_3/lebrun/>.
1. Introduction - Background
Late in 2000, the Louis M Brown International Client Counselling Competition was introduced to Hong Kong. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the competition: the late Professor Louis M Brown conceived and developed the ideas behind the competition. The competition is specifically designed to help students develop their interviewing, counselling, planning, teamwork, and analytical skills. Its main aim is to promote knowledge of preventive law. Student teams are given a note to file that gives them basic information about the 30-minute interview that they will conduct of a client. The client is played by a trained actor who has been given instructions about the role and the amount and timing of the release of delicate or confidential information. At the conclusion of the interview, the students are given 15 minutes within which to debrief their interview and plan the carriage of the matter. A panel of three judges comprised of two lawyers and one social worker judges the team and provides constructive feedback to the students. The best team wins the competition. Over the years the number of international competitors has grown considerably.
In order to bring the benefits of the competition to Hong Kong, colleague Charu Sharma and I coached several teams of third-year law students and accompanied the winning team from City University of Hong Kong to the international competition in April 2001. In April 2002 colleague Anthony Upham and I escorted the second City University law student team to the international competition.
Despite the energy invested and the hours involved in coaching a team, our efforts were not counted in the allocation of teaching for the academic year. I was not surprised. Client interviewing and is not offered as a separate subject in universities in Hong Kong in either the undergraduate or post-graduate law programmes. Nor is client interviewing likely to be offered as a stand-alone subject in the very near future, given that legal education and training in Hong Kong is currently under review. This position contrasts sharply with that of other common law jurisdictions where, for example in the USA universities compete vigorously with one another to send a team to the annual Louis M Brown International Client Counselling Competition and where, for example in many institutions in Australia the teaching of interviewing and counselling forms part of the mainstream law curriculum.
Since client interviewing is not included in the formal course of study for Hong Kong students and since teaching students to learn how to interview clients is labour and resource intensive, I realised that if participation in the international competition were to continue I needed to develop an efficient and effective educational approach that would limit face-to-face contact with students yet at the same time provide sufficient incentive for them to compete. Attendance at an overseas conference provided the carrot. The use of information technology provided the means. In order to exploit the advantages that flexible teaching/learning innovations offer to teach legal skills, I applied for and was awarded a Quality Enhancement Fund ('QEF') grant by City University.
2. Why Computer-Assisted Learning? The Production of a Web Site
With QEF support and assistance from students and colleagues, I was able to create an expandable, flexible web programme that is designed to teach law students how to conduct an initial client-centred interview.
Figure 1: The Art of Interviewing Home Page
2.1 The Project Team
A number of colleagues and students in Hong Kong and in Australia contributed to the development of the web site. All three staff members who coached the City University law students in preparation for the international competitions appear as feedback givers on the web site. In addition two staff members from City University Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching provided pedagogical advice and assumed responsibility for the formative and summative aspects of the project. First, second, and third-year City University law students played prominent roles as 'lawyers', 'clients', 'talking heads', 'research assistants', 'evaluators', 'assistant scenario writers', 'administrators', and general helpers. Web technical advice and assistance was provided by Crusher Wong and his colleagues in the Enterprise Solutions Unit at City University. Filming, editing and web creation and production were provided in-house by staff and students under Wong's direction. Launchpad Multimedia in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia was commissioned to provide graphics and additional technical advice on the project as it developed.
2.2 Learning from Past Projects
In producing the web site, I built upon what I had learned from earlier IT initiatives. From previous experience, I had learned that I needed to address the concerns outlined by McConnell in his discussion about the use of the Internet for distance learning. I needed to think about the kinds of knowledge that I wanted to introduce as well their method of introduction. In particular, I needed to identify specific learning outcomes.
Once the scope of the undertaking was reasonably clear in my mind, I had to select an appropriate medium. Since the web site was to be used by law students working alone and in groups, since the site was designed to expand as a learning site as knowledge of effective client interviewing practices grows, and since the site needed to provide enough information to enable students to compete in local and international competitions, I needed a format and structure that would achieve these goals effectively and cost-efficiently. I decided to develop a web site rather than produce a CD-ROM because I had been told that the web would give me greater flexibility at lower cost.
Originally I considered using the standard WebCT platform; however, it soon became clear that the platform needed to be modified. As Crusher Wong, the technical expert on the project team, explained to me, WebCT provides a standard interface of authentication that saves resources in user account management. In short, without WebCT, we would have had to start programme design from scratch. In addition, if we wanted to limit access to a certain cohort of students, as I did, we would have had to create an authentication system that allowed students to log into the site.
My desire to use graphics to produce an attractive and user-friendly site involved additional planning for the site. To meet this challenge, Wong and his team at Enterprise Solutions created a consistent, self-contained template within a WebCT course account. Computer programming scripts were written by Wong's team so that students could access the bulletin board and chat room features offered by WebCT within the template that was created, as opposed to elsewhere on the screen. The result is the production of a website that integrates WebCT tools with a specifically designed site.
Since students were expected to work through the site before face-to-face coaching was to occur with staff, I had to anticipate the sorts of problems that the students might encounter and minimise or eliminate them. I also had to respond to students' needs and interests and their attitudes towards learning with IT. Fortunately, the students who were employed on the project provided the needed advice. They were happy to talk about students' tastes and preferences, were willing to identify and solve some of the navigation problems that were encountered, were eager to help create the main menu for the site, and were keen to share ideas about the 'look and feel' of the web site. This meant that the site needed to be attractive and user-friendly. Students needed to be able to navigate successfully through the site, comfortably at their own pace.
2.3 Web Site Features
Figure 2: The Main Menu
The web site contains various features, which include:
information about the development and use of the web site;
background text that introduces students to the concept of client-centred interviewing practice;
a one-page checklist/series of prompts for use in an initial interview of a client.
core videos that demonstrate various interviewing skills;
student videos that illustrate the students' progress as they learn about interviewing; and
counselling while they conduct their interview of 'clients' (people acting in role).
additional client interview scenarios that students can use to practice their interviewing skills;
a template that students can use to write their own scenarios so that they can create opportunities for additional practice;
videos of students as they debrief their interviews and text that explains the role and importance of the debriefing process;
information about, and a model for, giving and receiving constructive feedback;
information about client interviewing competitions. This section includes:
information about the Louis M Brown International Client Counselling Competition;
a sample judging sheet;
instructions that are to be given to actors who play clients;
a list of additional resources and references that students may wish to consult.
2.4 The Core Videos
Clips from four videos that I had produced earlier and clips from two student videos that were produced by the City University students provide the main materials for the modelling of client interviewing and counselling skills. The first student video was made as the team prepared to compete in the international competition; the second was made of their first interview in the international competition. In addition to these videos, this section of the web site includes a question and sample answer section for students to work through as they navigate through the web site.
These videos and the questions and answers will remain on the web site as core teaching/learning materials. They will be added to as the site expands to include clips from student videos that are made in the future.
2.5 Additional (Non-Core) Student Videos
This section of the web site contain extracts from digitally recorded videos made of two teams of third-year law students as they learned how to interview in preparation for the 2001 and the 2002 international competitions. Thus, a user of the site can witness the progress of these teams of students as their interviewing and skills improve over time. Two videos have been added in 2002 to the ones filmed in 2001. In future some of these videos will be deleted and additional videos uploaded to the site as the students' knowledge deepens and as their performance improves from year to year.
The scenarios for most of the non-core videos were based on the notes that were distributed to competitors before the international competition; however, I adapted the 'client's story' to suit a Hong Kong audience (eg tenancy problems centred around life in a high rise building rather than in a ranch-style house; amounts of money discussed in an investment case reflected Hong Kong earnings, not American or Australian). The scenarios were designed to motivate students to adopt a deep approach to learning. This was essential because the 2001 International Counselling Competition focused on elder law and the 2002 Competition focused on environmental law, areas of law unfamiliar to the teams of student competitors. Thus, the students had to learn the area of substantive law at the same time as they learned how to interview and counsel clients.
2.6 Debrief and Feedback Sections
Paliwala and other scholars emphasise the importance of reflection in teaching clinical legal studies. This element is no less important when teaching more discrete lawyering skills such as interviewing and counselling. Here the departure from traditional forms of teaching is evident. Rather than focus on 'transmitting largely predefined forms of knowledge with little if any connection with personal experience and critical reflection', (the typical lecture scenario), the debrief and feedback sections of the web site are designed to help students learn how to reflect on their work and that of their peers, and to teach students how to give and receive constructive feedback.
The debrief section of the web section includes edited video extracts of the student 'lawyers' as they talk about and reflect on the conduct of their interviews. The site also discusses the role and the importance of the debriefing process.
The feedback section of the web site draws on the use of sound, visual image, and text. It has been designed to teach students about the value of feedback and the process of giving and receiving constructive feedback. This section of the site also includes an example of how to commence a constructive feedback conversation (voiceover and text) and a feedback quiz complete with sample answers.
In the debrief and feedback sections of the web the advantages of teaching with modern technology become apparent. Student users of the site have immediate access to what the student lawyer team members thought about their interviews and what their peers and teachers considered were effective interviewing techniques. Moreover, the ready availability of feedback from more than one person enriches the learning experience overall. It provides fodder for general discussion about the nature and evaluation of professional practice, particularly if the feedback givers do not agree about what effective practice entails. Thus, it gives students insight into the construction of legal knowledge and expertise and the role of the professional community in that construction. Finally, the immediacy of the debrief and feedback as well as the opportunities that students have to revisit the videos and text at their convenience have been designed to enhance student learning.
The skills of self and peer assessment are developed in additional ways in the web site. In order to encourage students to learn from one another as well as from their teachers, the web designers adopted the bulletin board and chat room functions of WebCT, as noted above. Students, therefore, can comment in real-time or asynchronously on the interviews that they watch while they enhance their learning of interviewing and their learning of the language of constructive feedback.
The benefits of using chat rooms and bulletin boards in flexible learning initiatives are many. As Chickering and Ehrmann emphasise, these tools give students the chance to exchange
ideas more speedily than before, and more thoughtfully and 'safely' than when confronting each other in a classroom or faculty office. Total communication increases and for many students the results seem more intimate, protected, and convenient than the more intimidating demands of face-to-face communication with faculty.
These advantages complement the team-based approach adopted in the local and international competitions since
'(g)ood learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated'.
2.7 Opportunities for Further practice: Using and Writing Interview Scenarios and Notes to File
Since interviewing is a skill that needs regular practice, the web site offers students additional opportunities to enhance what they have learned. Additional interview scenarios have been written and a template for writing interview scenarios has been developed so that students can write their own scenarios and organise additional interviewing opportunities.
This section of the web site includes: a note to file that is made by a fictitious administrative assistant (the note provides some information about the interview for the lawyers (eg 'Mr/Ms Wing telephoned. She was very agitated and wants to see you as soon as possible because her mother has been taken into hospital')); and instructions that are to be given to the actor who plays the client.
3. Integrating the Web Site: Complementary Resources - Text and Teaching
Although the web site provides a basic stand-alone teaching tool, its use as a learning medium is easily enhanced through the use of text and face-to-face teaching. The web site is based, in part, on the text Legal Interviewing: Theory, Tactics, and Techniques, which I co-authored with Kay Lauchland. The video data bank supplements learning from this text by complementing and going beyond the text. The site demonstrates aspects of effective and less effective practice. Students, therefore, are encouraged to supplement their web learning by consulting the book.
Had the web site been produced as an integral part a subject offering in the law curriculum at City University, I would have designed the site differently. As the main use of the web site is to teach law students in Hong Kong interviewing to prepare them to enter the international competition (and to save me face-to-face teaching time), I had to adjust my goals. Rather than offer a site that would be accompanied by regular face-to-face coaching, I needed to develop a site that would prepare the students to, as it were, 'hit the ground running'. I did not have the time or resources to coach novice team members, hold an internal competition as well as continue with coaching the winning team in preparation for the international competition.
It is clear that this approach has proved most successful. Several teams of students used the web site in 2002 to prepare for the internal competition. The students demonstrated that they had learned the basic stages of the interview and counselling process because they were able to conduct an interview with some confidence, ease, and understanding. Their abilities showed me how effective, and efficient, on-line teaching of legal skills can be.
The web site has saved considerable face-to-face contact time. The students had learned many of the basic skills involved in interviewing directly from the web, thus saving me considerable hours of (in some instances, very routine) coaching. Once my colleague and I selected the winning City University team, we offered less than 12 hours of individualised coaching to help the team prepare for the Louis M Brown International Client Counselling Competition that was held in Florida in April 2002.
The burden of organising and holding the internal knock-out competition was lightened in another way. The law student who won the 'Lucky Draw' and participated as an observer in the 2001 international competition was in charge of the administration and organisation of the internal knock-out competition in 2002. As a condition of his participation, the student who won the draw in 2002 and joined us as an observer in the international competition in 2002 will organise the internal competition in 2003.
4. Expanding the Web Site
As noted above, the client interviewing and web site was designed to grow as the skills of student interviewers at City University develop. For example, videos of interviews, and debrief and feedback sessions made in 2002 have been edited and uploaded to the web. The resource and reference list developed in 2001 was updated in 2002 and a virtual library is currently under construction for use by City University students. Once it is finished, the virtual library will be uploaded to the site as well. Other sections of the remainder of the site have been updated so that only what is most educationally useful and current is retained. Thus, the entire package will develop at the same time as the students' knowledge of interviewing and counselling increases.
4.1 Challenges and Obstacles
As this was the first web site that I have produced for the teaching of legal skills, I needed to learn about web capacities and capabilities as the project progressed. I faced a number of challenges and had to learn about the process as the project took shape.
4.2 Customisation and Users
I convened a number of meetings with the project team before the main menu was created because it took me some time to visualize how the students would navigate the site in a systematic fashion. Once the design of menu was clear, I needed to customise the site to accommodate the topics that needed to be included in the site.
The web site also needed to be designed to accommodate the needs and interests of first time users and repeat users. The project team needed to solve a number of problems at the onset. The main hurdle was deciding on layout and display. For example, we tried to squeeze too many items on to the navigation bar, and the frame went out of space (and sight). Deciding which items were to be placed on various levels of access proved time consuming. The project team operated on the assumption that student users were generally impatient and unforgiving when they used educational sites. In order to attract the students' interest and maintain their attention by ensuring the site operated at a pace suitable to them, we placed the most interesting features such as the online videos on the first level of navigation. We hoped that this would entice students into the other levels of the site where they could begin reading text and completing the exercises.
4.3 'Look and Feel:' Text and Graphics
One of the biggest problems that I faced initially was in the management of the amount of text that wanted included in the site. I was used to writing books and text for CD-ROMs, not for web sites. Here the advice of the project team proved invaluable. To be effective, I realised that I needed to minimise the amount of text per 'web page' and find a way to make the text interesting. I did a considerable amount of writing and rewriting text and thinking about and experimenting with layout (eg the use of font, boxes, shadow, image).
On top of these needs, I wanted to develop a Chinese look to the site to remind students of the culturally-specific nature of client interviewing. I also wanted to site to be visually appealing and demonstrate the artistry in interviewing and counselling (hence the title, 'You and Your Client: The Art of Legal Interviewing'). I believed that good graphics were essential to provide illustration as well as nuance and appeal.
To give student users the sensation that they were watching an (artful) interview as it progressed, the graphics on the menu page include a Chinese screen that appears on the left had side and top of the computer screen. Chinese motifs, images, and characters were developed by Launchpad Multimedia. They were designed to convey both feeling and meaning as well as beauty (eg the use of the crane to symbolise longevity and the lotus to symbolise purity and perfection; the inclusion of Chinese characters that depict various terms in law and in interviewing (eg communication); the use of bamboo for colour and visual balance; the depiction of a pair of hands presenting a business card to a client's two hands as is customary in introductions in Hong Kong). The inclusion of these images were designed to evoke the style reminiscent of paintings on traditional Chinese screens.
Launchpad also created the other graphics that are depicted in the web site. The use of graphics had to be limited, however, so that students could download files with ease. As a result both PDF and HTML formats were used. The PDF format was employed, for example, for the interview checklist and the sample judging sheet to provide for ease in printing.
Launchpad faced the challenge of meeting specific graphic design needs while working from a distance both geographically and culturally. Although Launchpad has extensive experience with culturally-sensitive projects within Australia, they had not developed a product for a predominantly Chinese audience before. Considerable discussion took place about appropriate designs and styles to use. Launchpad created a number of prototype designs that were commented upon by the project team before the final design was chosen. This back-and-forth process was conducted by e-mail, ensuring that the work progressed smoothly and quickly.
On a more technological note, the main issue that Launchpad and Crusher Wong and his team had to address was format: should the site be created in Flash or HTML? Flash websites are popular because they generally contain more animations and tend to appear smoother to the eye of the viewer. However, they cannot be searched by web search engines, and they require plug-ins to the user's Internet browser. Ultimately, the decision was made to use HTML because it also offered the benefit of easier insertion of graphics into the final site. Thus the graphics were developed as HTML documents by Launchpad and then sent to Hong Kong for insertion into the web site by Wong and his team.
An additional consideration was that some of the downloadable documents also needed graphics to make the site more appealing. Due to the educational nature of the website, a number of documents had to be created in a way so that they could be downloaded by students. Launchpad created complementary background graphics for these as JPEG files. These graphics were incorporated into the documents, then the documents were saved as PDF (Adobe Acrobat) files. The saving of the files as PDF files was necessary to reduce the size of the files (leading to quicker downloads); it also made the files more difficult to edit, thus preserving their original formatting.
4.4 Timeline and Student Assistance
The entire project was due for completion in approximately nine months. This timeline proved unrealistic. Since the project unexpectedly ran over the summer months, I had difficulty securing student support throughout the life of the project. As a result, time was lost because I had to replace some key team members. This delay, in turn, affected the final stage of the project - the evaluation.
Originally the Project Evaluator Joe Hong had hoped to draw on the work of the Flashlight Project to help evaluate the site. In short, the Flashlight Project has developed tools to evaluate the impact of technology on learning outcomes. This approach proved impossible to adopt because Flashlight is designed for use by a large number of students, and the number of students who were interested in participating in the 2002 competition was small.
As a result, face-to-face unstructured interviews were conducted by W S (Grace) Lo at the end of 2001. The student teams who registered to compete in the internal competition in 2002 were invited to attend the interviews. At the interview, the students were asked to express their opinions on the usability of the site and to discuss the impact of the use technology on their learning of interviewing and counselling.
The students reported that the site gave them an exposure to client-centred interview and counselling techniques. They said that they found the videos helpful and more effective than reading books about interviewing. The use of the multimedia tool helped gave them general idea of the topic, and they stated that they believed that they could learn faster in the coming training sessions as a result. The video component of the site also enhanced the students' abilities to reflect on the client-centred interview and counselling process. Interestingly, the students reported that from using the web site they realized that they should evaluate their own performance after an interview - thereby learning about the importance of the role of reflection in professional practice.
5.1 Lessons Learned
As with the other IT materials that I have developed, I learned a number of lessons from this project.
The first reinforces lessons that I have already learned. It concerns the central role that students (and colleagues) play in developing computer-assisted learning materials. This web site could not have been developed as easily or as successfully without the active and enthusiastic cooperation of the law students and the media students. Despite their initial reticence and lack of confidence, particularly when facing the cameras, almost all students (and staff) who participated in the project threw themselves into the project with gusto. Even the team who was unsuccessful in the internal knock-out competition helped coach the winning team in preparation for the international competition by providing constructive feedback and support. This team (and a member of the 2001 City University team) also generously coached the team that represented City University in the international competition in 2002.
5.2 If I Were to Undertake a Project of This Nature Again …
Were I were to undertake a project of this nature again (and happily I would), I would devote more time to teaching students (and colleagues) how to give constructive feedback. I would introduce them to various models of feedback and explain why the coaching model that I prefer to use is effective. I would also give the students ample opportunity to give feedback to their peers and to debrief their feedback. I would then give them feedback on their feedback and on their feedback debrief. I would film some of the sessions and upload the more appropriate extracts. The current feedback video extracts do not adequately demonstrate the coaching aspect that I believe is central to giving feedback that is constructive. This limitation may be rectified in future versions of the site.
I would keep a closer watch on the filming of the videos to ensure that the images that I wanted were actually captured on film (eg by way of close up). In order to save costs and provide learning opportunities for university students generally, media students were employed who did not have sufficient understanding of the process of legal interviewing and counselling to be able to capture on film what was significant in the interview process. A considerable amount of, what could have been usable, footage was lost as a result.
If budget would permit, I would hire experienced actors to do the voiceovers and assume the role of 'talking head' to save time and enhance quality.
I would also keep closer check on the creation of some of the text-based resources to ensure that the students who assumed responsibility for developing these materials understood exactly what was involved and when the material list was due.
I would work to ensure that all members of the project were able to cooperate as members of a team. There was less espirit de corps in this project than in the ones I have managed in the past. Some students were less willing than others to pitch in to do what needed to be done; one regularly tried to 'pull rank' on the others.
I would highlight the importance of working to a deadline and enforce deadlines strictly. Getting students (and some staff) to meet deadlines proved problematic throughout the life of the project. As a result, I would be more realistic about the time within which the project could be finished. For example, if I were to experience delays in future projects, I would liaise more closely with other project members to ensure that they could continue to participate actively in the project at the time their input was needed.
I would have learned more about the 'static' features of the web site itself before we commenced the project in earnest. For example, it was only as we neared completion that I realised that certain features of the site could not be changed (eg the colour of the video bar). Had I known about these features, I would have opted for a more complementary colour scheme for some of the sections of the web site.
6. Maintenance of the Web Site and Future Development
[T]here is a serendipity of education, legal education, and information technology in education theories in emphasising student centred, independent, situated, contextual, active and reflective learning .… [I]t would be foolish to ignore C&IT in legal education … C&IT can, through new modes of illumination and careful exploration, transcend the limitations of the linear text form and promote slow digestion of issues over time. It can provide conversational space beyond the classroom.
In the evaluation of the site conducted by Lo, the students suggested: that options should be offered to students for viewing the videos either in 'Windows Media Player' or 'Real Player'; that links to download the 'Windows Media Player' and 'Real Player should be provided; that additional navigation buttons, such as 'Page Back,' should be included; and that new pop-up windows should be minimized.
The students also suggested that the site should include a chat room to allow them to interact with their classmates on scheduled time. Instead of providing all the information to students, the chat room could stimulate their critical thinking and also the interest in the topic through discussion with others. Although bulletin board and chat rooms feature are available, no schedule had been created. Were I to offer interviewing and counselling as a formal subject of study, I would made sure that the chat room and bulletin board provided key teaching/learning opportunities (see below).
In addition, the students reported that they had difficulty identifying the skills involved in interviewing and counselling when viewing the videos because there was no guidance provided. Were more time and additional funding available, I would respond directly to this excellent suggestion. I would provide additional opportunities for students to interact with the medium (for example by asking students to identify the exact skill that is demonstrated and discuss the effectiveness of the performance). In addition, I would improve the section on assessment, I would add a pre-test and a post-test, and I would further develop the self and peer assessment sections of the site.
6.1 Using the Web Site in a Course on Client Interviewing and Counselling
If I were to offer a course on client interviewing and some time in the future, the web site would be central to the teaching/learning approach adopted in the course. It would not be the only approach that I would use, however. Although bulletin boards and chat rooms provide opportunities for students and academic staff to interact, particularly if the 'discussions' are threaded, and although these tools may encourage less confident students to engage more in 'discussions,' my impression, at least to date, is that web delivery by itself cannot replace the benefits of face-to-face contact. I would supplement web teaching with individualised and group coaching so that my students - and I - remain motivated and interested. I believe that the adoption of such an approach, one which integrates on-line teaching with face-to-face teaching, will help teachers understand and address any misconceptions that their students have and help their students learn in greater depth about the artistry involved in interviewing and counselling clients.
6.2 Using the Site Outside Law and Outside Hong Kong
The success of IT-based teaching/learning approaches depends, in part, on how an institution and the culture of an institution think about education and educational change. The client interviewing and counselling web site that I have developed with my students and colleagues is currently restricted for use by City University law students who wish to compete in the local and international competitions. In future, access may be granted for City University students enrolled in other disciplines who wish to learn about some of the transferable skills involved in legal interviewing and counselling.
In April 2002 I demonstrated sections of the web site to members of academic staff who attended the Louis M Brown International Client Counselling Competition held in Florida. Several participants were very interested in the power that technology has to teach interviewing and counselling skills; some asked if they could purchase copies of the site on CD-ROM. Since the site was developed specifically for students in Hong Kong for in-house educational purposes, rather than sell or otherwise distribute the entire site, at present I am investigating how Crusher Wong and I can develop a template so that others can use the template to create their own culturally and contextually-specific flexible learning materials. Given the availability of digital and video cameras and the relative ease with which video can be made, edited, and uploaded, these local sites that have been built on the template with locally produced videos could then be used to teach client interviewing and counselling to students anywhere in the world.
7. Many Roads Lead to Learning
Many roads lead to learning. Different students bring different talents and styles to (university). Brilliant students in a seminar might be all thumbs in a lab or studio; students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need opportunities to show off their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed in new ways that do not come so easily.
In 'Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,' Chickering and Ehrmann relate (albeit in relation to the World Wide Web) how many faculty report that students feel stimulated by knowing their finished work will be 'published'. This was clearly the case with student involvement in developing the web site for teaching students to interview and counsel clients. Upon viewing her performance for the first time on the web, one young law student competitor exclaimed with glee (and with a beaming smile), 'I'm a star!' When the other students whose performances were captured on video watched their performances at the launch of the web site in 2001, there was a marvelous feeling of accomplishment, of delight, and of magic.
Notes and References
1. Chickering, A W and Ehrmann, S C, 'Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,' American Association for Higher Education,
<http://www.aahe.org/bulletin/Implementing%20the%20Seven %20Principles.htm>, 4.
2. The 'Note to File' vary in the amount of information provided; however, at the very least they give students a basic idea of the subject matter of the interview.
3. Charu Sharma is an Instructor I in the School of Law at City University of Hong Kong. Sharma had worked as a lawyer before commencing work as an academic.
4. Anthony Upham is an Associate Professor at City University School of Law.
5. Hong Kong adopted the traditional English form of legal education, the three-year undergraduate degree taught in traditional lecture/tutorial format. Students who wish to practice law usually complete a one-year post-graduate programme (the 'PCLL').
6. Redmond, P and Roper, C (2001), The Steering Committee on the Review of Legal Education and Training in Hong Kong: Legal Education and Training in Hong Kong: A Preliminary Review-Executive Summary of the Report of the Consultants, August 2001.
7. Sharma joined me as a coach in 2001 and Upham in 2002.
8. Joe Hong was the project evaluator. Jacky Pow provided pedagogical advice on the project.
9. To illustrate the contribution of the students: law student Nana Liu played the role of a 'client' in one interview and appears as the 'talking head' in the section on giving constructive feedback.
10. Crusher Wong headed up a team of staff and students who took responsibility for filming and editing, and web design and production.
11. I had worked with Launchpad on earlier projects and, therefore, was familiar with the professional quality of their work.
12. I drew on what I had learned from producing a video-manual package designed to teach interviewing skills and a CD-ROM designed to teach legal ethics and professional responsibility.
13. The importance of understanding about how adults learn should not be underestimated. '[T]hose … who had gone into electronic media had quickly found themselves having to revisit educational theory. As one contributor [to a conference on IT learning] from Strathclyde said:"[O]ur educational basis was explicit from the outset of the project', Meszaros, G (1998), 'Using the Internet to Teach Law,' Conference Report, The Journal of Information, Law and Technology, (JILT), 1998 (3)
14. These considerations include: the needs and interests of the learner; the kind of learning that it is to take place; the kinds of knowledge that students will explore, McConnell,D (1998), 'Using the Internet for Distance Learning - A Paradigm Shift?' <http://www.law.warwick.ac.uk/seminars/98-2-dm.html>.
15. John Dale lists the considerations that one should address when designing web-based learning materials. These are: 'the type of source material and the range of media to be delivered; the need for communication between staff and students; the need for interactivity … the frequency with which the materials will have to be updated; and the audience (eg This includes knowing who they are, where they are, and where will they be using the resources, and knowing what sort of access the audience has)', Dale, J, 'Making the Best Use of the Internet',
16. For information on the strengths and weaknesses generally of the internet as a teaching resource, see John Dale, above note 15.
17. This section entitled 'Overview' includes the following: 'About This Web Site,' 'Learning Outcomes, 'Why Learning Interviewing is Important,' 'Why a Web Site?' 'Web Site Features,' 'Using the Web Site,' 'Considerations' (things to think about generally), 'Client Interviewing and the Law' (jurisdictional issues), 'The Project Team,' and 'Acknowledgments'.
18. This section introduces students to client-centred interviewing in general. It discusses why a client-centred, holistic approach is important and the significance of being prepared to conduct an initial interview of a client. I advocate a 'client-centred' approach that embraces collaboration between client and lawyer but which focuses primary attention on the client, much as good education focuses on student learning.
19. The plan can be used as a checklist and a prompt by the students as the interview progresses.
20. '[C]omputers can provide rich storage and easy access to student performances and products. Computers can keep track of early efforts, so instructors and students can see the extent to which later efforts demonstrate gains in knowledge, competence, or other valued outcomes', Chickering and Ehrmann, above note 2, 3.
21. This section was compiled by two law students.
22. Although the PCLL students have greater knowledge and understanding of the law, their interest in learning about interviewing appears to be limited, possibly because of the heavy workload involved in post-graduate legal training.
23. Paliwala, A (1993), (citing the work of Sherr 1997, Spiegel 1987, and Goldsmith 1993), 'Learning in Cyberspace,' Journal of Information, Law, and Technology (JILT), 1998 (3)
24. D McConnell, above note 15, 3.
25. Chickering and Ehrmann, above note 2, 2.
26. Chickering and Ehrmann, above note 2, 2.
27. On occasion, more than one actor attends the interview so scripts must be written for each actor. One of the challenges for the student 'lawyer' team is to discover which actor is the actual client.
28. Lauchland K A and Le Brun, M J (1996), Legal Interviewing: Theory, Tactics, and Techniques, Sydney, Butterworths.
29. If the University of Hong Kong were to compete, a knockout competition would be held between City University School of Law and the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong. The winner of that competition would represent Hong Kong/China in the Louis M Brown International Client Competition in 2003.
30. A 'Lucky Draw' is the Hong Kong equivalent of a lottery.
31. These students' costs were paid for, in part, by a Quality Campus Life Fund Grant awarded by City University. The student, who participated as an observer in 2001 and organised the internal competition in 2002, also competed in the internal knockout competition in 2002.
32. This paragraph was written by Crusher Wong with Marlene Le Brun.
33. The 'Look and Feel' section was written by Trinity Ryan and Marlene Le Brun.
34. Had 'Your Client and You' sounded better, I would have used it as the title because it emphasizes the centrality of the client in the interviewing and counselling process.
35. The inclusion of the Chinese characters was not entirely straightforward because of the variations in the characters (eg there are complicated characters (eg those used in Hong Kong and Taiwan) as well as simplified characters (eg those used in mainland China).
36. I would like to thank my colleague John Ho for his help with this aspect of the graphic design.
37. This includes the development by Launchpad of a training course for Aboriginal supervisors in educational institutions.
38. This section on evaluation was written by W S Lo, Joe Hong, and Marlene Le Brun.
39. The Flashlight Project developed out of the work of the Annenberg/CPB Project. Information about the Project is contained in Stephen Ehrmann, 'Asking the Right Questions: What Does Research Tell Us about Technology and Higher Learning?' (1995) Change, March/April and at <http://www.tltgroup.org>.
40. These are described in MJ Le Brun with T Ryan, P Weyand, and L Scull, 'Producing Multi-Media Teaching/Learning Materials for Teaching Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility: And the Lesson is … Soldier On,' (2001) Legal Education Review, 157; MJ Le Brun, 'Enhancing Student Learning of Law by Involving Students (and Colleagues) in Developing Multi-Media Teaching and Learning Materials,' (2000) 41. 34 The Law Teacher: The International Journal of Legal Education, no 1, 40; MJ Le Brun, 'On Becoming a Techie: Making Technology Work for Law,' Syracuse Law Review, forthcoming 2002.
41. 'C&IT' refers to communication and information technology.
42. Paliwala, above note 24, 12.
43. Wong advised that, since the University has neither the license nor the funds to host a server for Windows Media Player, we cannot implement this (otherwise good) suggestion
44. Wong advised that a link has been provided on the WebCt home page beneath the 'business card' icon. There is also a link to 'REAL' near the video.
45. Wong advised that if we added a button with that title, viewers using a 800X600 resolution would need to scroll the entire page. Instead we have created a button labeled 'Back;' this has not involved enlarging the size of the page.
46. This has been done.
47. 'Integrating inter or intranets into legal education is a matter of strategic thinking about educational change, consideration of an institution's own place within a spectrum of learning provision, the development of learning strategies which integrate different teaching/learning technologies, effective use of resources through collaboration where appropriate …' Abdul Paliwala, (1998) 'Integrating Internet-Based Teaching and Learning into Legal Education,
48. Neither Wong nor I have the time or resources to reproduce the web site/CD and distribute it. If, however, we create a template that can be sent by e-mail, distribution problems become small. To be able to do this easily, we need to delete video content. Hence it appears to be more useful for us to create and e-mail the basic template to the local 'producer' who then can film and upload locally-produced videos (and any videos made during the international competition for which permission to upload has been received from the international committee) for their own use. This means, in short, for example that South Africa can create their own teaching tool -one with the look, feel, sound, and culture of interviewing and counseling South African style.
49. Chickering and Ehrman, above note 2, 3.
50. Chickering and Ehrman, above note 2, 3.