Cemile Cakir, known to students as ‘Gem,’ is ULaw’s Head of Online Postgraduate Academic and a member of ULTRA, the University’s Legal Technology Research Academy. We caught up with her to talk about the Online Campus and the insights and innovations made over the course of the pandemic.
The student body has certainly changed during the pandemic. Online learning has widened access and diversified our cohorts, which is fantastic. Obviously, there is a wealth of difference between ethics, culture and geographies in different regions and this enriches our learning and teaching experience. Our online students now reach across every continent except for Antarctica. The potential for using insights from learner analytics alongside this is amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing how meaningful data can be extracted from the experiences of our learners and used to improve their studies and contextualise their achievements.
In my previous role I was working a lot with programme student leads (PSLs) and that was invaluable improving support systems for students virtually. During 2020 and 2021, the Wellbeing Team have been excellent in supporting students at a time when we don’t have such a strong sense of what’s going on in the corridors. In my role as Head of Online PG Academic, I’m collaborating with colleagues on making sure the Online Campus bridges gaps between asynchronous learning and the in-person experience.
Many of our online students are balancing differing sets of challenges and career change. Home-schooling has been a tremendous challenge. There has also been a lot of excellence. As a group, our online students have been exceptionally strong. Also during the pandemic, there has been an interesting parallel between widening access to justice via online/digital communications and widening access to law training. At ULaw we have a hardship fund that addresses technology poverty as learning online should be available to all.
Our future lawyers are going to have to be tech’ savvy and the Online Campus and online learning (in general) present the opportunity to upskill in all kinds of digital skill-sets – from using meeting platforms to typing and reading e-books and using chat tools. The role ‘legal technologist’ is yet to be defined but will be growing in the sectors of law and business over the coming decades. The intersect between technology and law will be very relevant to areas of security and data protection particularly. These roles will be across the private and public sectors. Some of the work I’ve been doing with ULTRA has explored how these kinds of roles will change and how law firms shape their recruitment and personnel.
Technoethics have been at the heart of the Online Campus, which is a platform that we are still developing further. We are working on the ‘coach module’ which will be a personalised learning-space on the students’ Elite intranet. There will also be opportunities such as a space for ‘virtual coffee-mornings’ and subject-support drop-ins in the near to mid-term future. Good News boards and personal records of achievement are also elements that we hope to see evolve over the next year.
What I’ve loved about the Online Campus is the resilience, determination and willingness that students bring to the table.
If you are interested in joining our Online Campus as a virtual learner, please see our dedicated page: www.law.ac.uk/locations/online