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Serious Games Changing Cultures In Legal Education

Via: Journal of Information, Law & Technology (JILT) 2007 - Special Issue on Law, Education and Technology

Serious Games deployed as creative learning environments in UK law schools

The Journal of Information, Law and Technology has just published a special issue containing six papers originally presented at the 21st Annual Conference of the British and Irish Law, Education and Technology Association at the University of Malta.

The papers focus on the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in legal education and demonstrate the increasingly diverse ways in which information technology is being developed and deployed to support creative learning environments designed to stimulate new forms of learning.

The Glasgow Graduate School of Law at Strathclyde University has been developing simulation learning within their Diploma in Legal Practice.

Their virtual village of Ardcalloch provides the backdrop to what is described as ‘transactional learning’, in the paper Simulations, Learning And The Metaverse: Changing Cultures In Legal Education, which charts the progress of the development of this learning environment and sets it in the context of simulation learning in a broader field.

Glasgow Graduate School of Law (GGSL) - Virtually Legal
A passion for Utopian literature has led to the creation of a "virtual community", Ardcalloch, a unique teaching tool for students on the Glasgow Graduate School of Law (GGSL) Diploma in Legal Practice course and a world-first in training lawyers.

Professor Alan Patterson (left), Senior Lecturer Patricia McKellar (centre) and Professor Fraser Davidson take a look at Ardcalloch

"Everything from Plato's Republic to SimCity" gave Paul Maharg, Professor in Law at the University of Strathclyde, the idea of creating a virtual community using sophisticated IT capability to let students immerse themselves and learn legal skills within the safety of virtual environment.

Ardcalloch is a virtual community that simulates real-life legal scenarios, giving students transactional training as members of legal 'firms' throughout their one-year course. Fifty firms interact with each other covering many of the legal activities that take place in any city, from buying and selling properties to personal injury claims. Their interaction via email is monitored and assessed by tutor Professor Maharg and colleagues, who may assume up to 50 different roles in this unique virtual learning environment. A world-first as a legal training tool, it was made possible by Synergy (Glasgow-Strathclyde Universities Strategic Alliance)

The skills-based curriculum of the Law Society of Scotland sets new challenges for providers of the Diploma in Legal Practice, the compulsory one-year course for law graduates. Professor Alan Paterson, Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at the University of Strathclyde, explains: "The amount of skills training in any course depends on availability of trainers and the cost. Synergy has allowed GGSL to recruit top people (as full-time staff, visiting professors and as practitioner tutors) and give them the budget to develop these innovative teaching and skills resources. Ardcalloch, the virtual community, is the only training environment we know of in any jurisdiction in which students can use the internet to see the full legal transaction through from beginning to end over an 11-week period. We also have superb audio visual provision for students to practise their negotiation and advocacy skills."

Advances in teaching

Webcast tutoring and simulated learning are much more than learning through play via a computer screen.

Integrated with traditional paper-based materials, workshops and seminars, they advance education to a new level, moving the student beyond the often mechanistic approach of achieving 'learning outcomes' based largely on good memory and hoop-jumping skills.

Using these unique interactive tools, the student develops the capacity for self-appraisal, interpersonal skills, lateral thinking and imaginative problem solving. Webcast and simulated learning are therefore broader educational tools with cross-disciplinary potential.