Three reflections and a takeaway on distance teaching
There is value in reflecting on the impact that Covid-19 has on legal education. A first reflection relates to the fact that many state that Covid-19 invites for virtual teaching. Teaching is not virtual, since it is as real as it can get: students and instructors are real, experiences are real.
We should speak of distance teaching, yet distance can and should become an anecdote within the entire teaching experience. It is up to all actors for that distance to disappear. Distance will disappear if we are open to listen, see, speak, and reflect. After all, that is what teaching is about and is the best way to secure that both students and instructors learn.
A second reflection alerts that the current teaching offers a classroom that is always open and travels with us. Our classroom is available in the different platforms and environments. We can all reach out, and it is always open. We can constantly engage in communication, feed discussion forums, and work on our assignments. This new teaching allows all actors to embark in an ongoing journey of discovery.
A third reflection points to the speed at which things evolve. Ideas evolve at high speed. Technology evolves at high speed likewise, as we are constantly reminded, and corrections are always made to our technological tools. People adapt at amazing speed, showing an impressive resilience. Adaptation is never imposed, since we are well aware of the need to adapt. That need has to be accompanied by timely explanations: simple, straight forward, and humane. Explanations need to be likewise bi-directional, that is to say, from instructors to students and from students to instructors. There is a need also for timely explanations between instructors and between students. We must nurture communication amongst all actors, since adaptation will only take place when we fully understand the current scenario.
One main takeaway is evident. We have a clear advantage when we explain things, when we communicate, and when we understand. We can then undergo change, adapt to a new scenario, and therefore bridge the distance. We must be ready to listen, see, speak, and reflect; and, above all, we need to allow us to be touched in our souls. That takes us to the first reflection: we need to return to the basics of teaching.
For additional perspectives on distance teaching, and for an extended version of these reflections, see the different contributions available at Colloquium: The Opportunities of Distance Teaching, 13 Journal of Civil Law Studies 119-148 (2020).
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