The Faculty of Law (UP Law) hosted the launch of the highly anticipated book Technological Innovation (4IR) in Law Teaching and Learning: Enhancement or Drawback During Covid-19?, edited by Deputy Dean, Professor Charles Maimela at Javette Art Centre.
The book, published by PULP, emanates from the teaching and learning lecture series held at UP Law during the 2021 academic year. The series assessed the state of teaching and learning during COVID-19 to determine whether emergency remote teaching compromised or enhanced legal education's teaching and learning process.
The efforts culminated in the book speak to the fundamental role of lecturers as lifelong learners who respond to an ever-changing teaching and learning environment. This offering further contends that technological innovations in teaching and learning have yielded positive results for academics and students. Furthermore, it has improved the discipline of law post-COVID-19, as several lessons were learnt throughout the pandemic, including the importance of technology in online learning, while acknowledging that it cannot replace face-to-face learning. Universities such as UNISA, where all classes are conducted through distance learning, has made it a regular practice to use YouTube videos to improve student learning. Additionally, UP Law held a teaching and learning forum and discussed ChatGPT's ramifications, emphasizing that while it is a helpful tool, it should be utilized with caution. The pandemic further presented a chance to break down obstacles of adopting online learning and dealing with it in the context of equality and acknowledging that technology cannot be completely accepted while disparities persist.
In his remarks, Professor Maimela emphasised the significance of the publication of the book, as well as the faculty's commitment to continuous renewal, which speaks to and addresses the needs of a dynamic world. "This book exemplifies the Faculty of Law's ability to effectively respond to dramatic and unforeseen circumstances such as the pandemic". He further highlighted that the book was a collaborative effort between emerging and seasoned scholars, essential for succession planning in the Faculty of Law.
The Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Elsabe Schoeman, extended a warm welcome to attendees attending the celebration of a significant milestone and expressed congratulations to Professor Maimela on "the completion of this mammoth task". She further introduced the Vice-Principal: Academic, Prof Loretta Feris and highlighted that based on her experience as an established scholar with international standing and scholarly work, she was the best person to discuss the book.
Keynote speaker, Vice-Principal: Academic, Prof Loretta Feris, gave an overview titled, 4IR as a disruptor of the legal profession: How should we respond? In her presentation, she expressed excitement about the book as she highlighted that there was a time when the scholarship of teaching and learning was not considered a part of the legal scholarship. "Lawyers were not explicitly taught about pedagogy", she added. She described the book as a disruption because it responds to the beginning of unique moments such as COVID-19. "I don't think that you can be a good teacher if you're not opening yourself up to becoming a legal scholar and also reflect on our role as educators. This is, in essence, what this book does and contributes to legal education".
In Professor Feris' view, there are two critical lessons to be learned from remote teaching and learning. "Regardless of whether we are a university in South Africa or around the world, I do not think any of us were prepared to be forced into complete emergency remote teaching", she highlighted. She asserted that COVID-19 propelled the need for emergency remote teaching, which she described as an "important tool", but cautioned against viewing technology as more than a tool as it should not replace face-face education. Professor Feris briefly discussed the opportunities technology presents that can allow the continuation of the education project in times of uncertainty and suggested looking into ways technology and the 4th Industrial Revolution can serve teaching and learning. She cited Artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatGPT as disruptors before concluding, "We've learned that disruptions can be turned into opportunities."
The series was contributed by several academics from UP Law, as well as from the universities of KwaZulu-Natal, Johannesburg, and Free State, and officials from the DHET. These include Dr Freddy Mnyongani, Professor Martha M. Bradley, Ms Faith Mathibedi, Ms Jessie Phyffer, and Mr Felix le Roux.
Authors who attended the launch shared highlights of their chapters in the book.
Dr Keneilwe Radebe shared her chapter in the book from a "human perspective" as she highlighted that this experience led her to reflect on the students she is teaching and how they are more than just students as they are humans with emotions and capabilities beyond what one may think. "I learned that students can work more independently and can have an inquiring-led approach", she added.
Professor Anton van der Linde said the book allowed the opportunity to reflect on the impact of technology on education. "I examined how technology was used to facilitate instruction while still conforming to the three ways of teaching from the University of Pretoria (UP)". He continued by saying that to develop UP's hybrid teaching. He will continue using technology in his teaching.
Professor Rashri Babool-Frank conducted comparative research and found that students performed better prior to COVID-19. She highlighted, "As the times are changing rapidly, lectures must be continually updated." She also emphasized the need to learn ChatGPT's mechanisms, discover its methods, and develop a ChatGPT-integrated utility because students will use it.
Ms Kgopotso Maunatlala's takeaway was that online teaching was forcefully and positively spearheading teaching and learning during COVID-19. "While it has its challenges, technology and e-learning should be used as an auxiliary to contact learning rather than to replace contact learning", she added.
Professor Elsabe Schoeman concluded that while there should be an optimal use of technology, it should not be used exclusively because the human element is essential; this became an important element highlighted by all the authors who contributed to the book. "If technology can assist us to enhance that kind of engagement, I think we will have achieved a lot".
UP Law is extremely proud of Professor Maimela and all contributors of this book.
The book is available here for free download and on the PULP website.