Legal training experiment: Talk less, act more (II)

In yesterday’s blog I suggested to replace the one in-class phase by using three training phases.


Three phases: exploit merging of  internet and instructional design expertise

First phase: prepare and prime

First, TrainWell designed an engaging pre-class phase: prospective students could test themselves online about lacking expertise required to successfully participate in the upcoming in-class activities. Subsequently the prospective students received customized remedial and userfriendly multimedia (text,video and audio) learning material again including self-tests.

In addition, moderated social forums ensured the prospective students got engaged with their peers.  Not only to get to know each other but also to start interacting on relevant course material and real world developments. As a result course participants arrived in class not only well prepared but also  eager to learn and meet their online peers in person.

Second phase: learn

During in-class sessions students did no longer spent most of their time listening passively to PowerPoint slides. Instead, they became actively involved in developing and deepening the expertise acquired in the pre-class phase. They solved authentic and relevant legal cases that increased in complexity, they collaborated and produced challenging legal products, engaged in authentic work-related  discussions and developed course topic-related Wikipedia entries and tests for prospective trainees. Through these activities the trainees gained deep understanding and the abilities to apply their understanding in work authentic circumstances. The teacher served as a guide on the side instead as the sage on the stage. Using the latest internet learning features allowed for a high degree of interactivity and increased motivation. In short, course participants actually learned what they should learn by actively engaging themselves with the new information and by increasing their legal problem solving abilities.

Third phase: consolidate

Finally, after the in-class phase ex-course participants continued to stay in contact with their teacher and peers by actively using online course forums. In these moderated meeting places new relevant developments were discussed. Participants were challenged, encouraged and informed in relation to the course topic. This engagement consolidated and deepened their expertise acquired in class. A kind of network learning dynamics developed.


The feedback

Course participants and their managers reported a significant improvement in training results and satisfaction. Willingness to participate in the legal training clearly increased. After some getting used to, everyone enjoyed being involved in learning activities.

The legal problems back at work were better addressed given that these had now already been practiced in many variations during the course. In short: the new approach meant a substantial improvement over the conventional legal training model of talking by the lecturer and listening by the audience.


The Lessons learned

First, without a sound pedagogical approach little success was achievable. If we cannot not get participants engaged and motivated, little gets learned either. A pedagogic sound approach was also indispensable to structure the course. This ensured the right things were learned at the right time at the right level of complexity.

Second, developing good training cannot be achieved without substantial investment in time and money. On the other hand such costs are only a fraction of the year-on-year substantial hidden losses resulting from wasted conventional legal training. And these do yet include the costs of frustration by receiving boring training or the costs of working with colleagues or legal service providers who have not been equipped with the needed expertise.

Thirdly, learning takes more time than is generally estimated. Limiting the amount of course topics realistically helps achieve learning goals. It is preferable to learn a few topic in a way that the expertise can be retrieved and therefore becomes available at work,  than to cover an extensive amount of topics which leaves no traces in the memory of the participants. This lesson learned will be a tough sell to the marketing departments of the legal teaching institutes which like to boast the amounts of topics covered in their courses.

And finally, a good and well supported multidisciplinary development team is necessary to achieve the aforementioned results. These days, there are simply too many specialisms involved in sound teaching.

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