Video-casting Seminal Legal Cases: A Student-centred Educational Community
The case method requires law students to analyse how judges have applied the law to particular people with particular legal issues. In most law schools, this is a didactic process with lecturers as the experts at the centre of the learning process. This project aimed to disrupt this process by facilitating and encouraging undergraduate students at the NUI Galway School of Law to teach each other about their favourite seminal cases in law. Utilising the latest technology, this project has re-invigorated the case method and piloted a new learning model by placing students at the centre of the learning process.
Staff-student workshops were organised to enable students to discuss the leading legal cases they find most interesting and significant. Interactive learning was stimulated at these workshops by staff who posed discursive questions and then helped students to thrash out key issues in a supportive environment. This format allowed for unstructured learning so that unplanned topics could be raised and discussed. Informed by this discussion and armed with ideas, students then used video cameras and an iPad to record short pithy case-notes. The videos were shared by the students in class and they will be uploaded to the electronic learning environment Blackboard as a teaching aid for other students.
The project is well underway at present. There were a number of consultations between staff and students to discuss how best to advance the project. These conversations have canvassed a number of issues, but focused particularly on which criminal law and company law cases are best suited to discussion and analysis in video format. The two cases chosen are R v Dudley and Stephens (1884) and Salomon v Salomon (1894). Dudley and Stevens involved a case of cannibalism following a shipwreck at sea and it established that necessity is not a defence to murder. Salomon documents a successful businessman’s fall from grace and it established that the company is an artificial legal person which is separate and distinct from its shareholders and managers. It is considered the cornerstone of company law.
In addition, workshops are ongoing and students are currently preparing two submissions for discussion in the next workshop. The first document outlines the facts of the case, the relevant legal issue at play, the conclusion reached by the court, and the reasoning employed to reach this decision. The second document outlines their ideas for executing the project. This specifies their plans to include animation, survey fellow students on their insights, sit in front of the camera to narrate the case, etc. It also outlines particularly interesting aspects of the case for analysis. These issues will be teased out in a supportive environment at the next meeting between staff and students (scheduled for two weeks’ time). Following this, when all the relevant legal and analytical issues have been addressed, another subsequent workshop will be organised to train students on the use of the iPad and the video-editing software therein. The IT officer in the law school, Michael Coyne, has kindly agreed to lead this session.
Our project, ‘Video-casting seminal legal cases’ has come to its conclusion. The students involved in the project completed the production of their videos and submitted them in March. At the end of the semester, we organised a showcase of the videos. The students and their peers were in attendance as well as many colleagues from the School of Law.The videos have since been uploaded to School of Law YouTube page.