Studying Law in 2020 – How I’ve Adapted to Blended Learning
This year isn’t what any of us expected. But we’ve got to adapt to these crazy circumstances! So I thought I would share my methods for reading, note-taking, and making the most of online / in-person seminars this year.
Last year, I bought my textbooks at the Law Book Sale. I often dragged these huge books to the library with me & sat there attempting to read the same sentence over and over again to make sense of it. I don’t think I ever really took notes on the reading I was doing in first year (this was stupid, don’t do this).
This year, I opted out of buying textbooks secondhand or otherwise, and decided to use the LawTrove access that we are given. There’s definitely some pros / cons to online textbooks (see below), but for now I think I’m doing okay!
I start each module each week with the reading that is set. This gives me an outline of notes summarised from the textbook that I can then supplement with the lecture content. I find that taking the time to really understand the reading makes the lectures so much more enjoyable and easier to digest!
Pros / Cons of Digital Textbooks / E-Books
- don’t have to carry them anywhere – if you’ve got your laptop, you’re all set
- don’t have to flick through a big book with tiny text to find things!
- can use the Cmd+F / Ctrl+F function to find any key words or phrases you are looking for
- can copy and paste small phrases, diagrams, etc. into your notes
- LawTrove only lets you download PDFs in the form of individual chapters, which is a bit annoying
- it’s harder to find the page numbers (they’re written in grey in the middle of paragraphs to show where the page changes in the physical book version)
- it can look like a lot more reading since the whole chapter is on that one page
Notes & Lecture Content
Since this years ‘lecture content’ is online, it’s a bit different. Instead of just having 2 one-hour videos uploaded on Moodle, most modules have opted to give you shorter video clips, some different readings, some exercises etc. to make it more engaging and interactive. I actually think I prefer this online approach because I can make my way through the content at my own speed & I am using a wide range of materials to enhance my understanding.
So, after I have taken my basic notes from the reading, I go through the rest of the resources on that topic in the order they’ve set it out in. I add notes in wherever they fit into the textbook notes so that everything is nicely organised on the page.
Here’s a page from my Contract Law notes to show how I organise them!
I use purple for key words / phrases / definitions, pink for academia, green for legislation, dark blue for case law, light blue for policy / reform, and just bold text for any emphasis!
This year, I have 2 online seminars and 2 in-person seminars (subject to change). While in-person seminars are pretty standard (just remember your mask!), the online seminars can be harder to navigate. Here’s how to go about it!
- always prep for the seminar – do the readings, answer the questions – if you don’t, you will probably just end up feeling confused about what everyone is talking about
- have your camera on but your mic off – this is how most departments want the sessions to go, the mics can cause a lot of feedback if everyone leaves them on but they still want to see your faces to show you are present and engaged!
- use the raise your hand function– volunteer to answer the questions, or let the teacher know you have a question, by raising your hand. Don’t forget to click the button again to put your hand down!!
- use the Teams app not the Web version if you can – the app allows you to see everyone you’re on call with in a grid, rather than the person who is speaking just popping up full screen
So far, second year is going well. There’s a lot of content but I think most students have learned how to navigate all the work by now! If things do move all online in the coming weeks, at least we will be prepared. Please remember you can reach out to your Personal Tutor, your department, the Wellbeing Services, or the Uni itself if you are having any problems. You should definitely contact your tutor & department if you suddenly have to isolate, or you are having technical difficulties with WiFi or access to a laptop!