The Law Society of Ireland - Educational Excellence with iPad.

With over two thousand students attending a combination of on-site education and professional placements, “learning on the move” is essential. The Law Society of Ireland’s Law School is a postgraduate institution with exclusive jurisdiction for the training and accreditation of those wishing to qualify as solicitors in Ireland. Trainee solicitors undertake a one-year professional training programme known as the Professional Practice Course (PPC) at the Society’s Law School campus in Dublin. They also complete an office-based traineeship across law firms and organisations throughout Ireland. By providing the educators and students with iPad, everyone is able to communicate, collaborate and innovate no matter where they are based.

“iPad enables the delivery of flexible online learning. The device is so slim and portable it provides excellent mobility for the students as they travel to and from the campus from all over the country”.
- Caroline Kennedy (IT Manager, Education, Law Society)

The challenge

Addressing the unique needs of the Law Society of Ireland’s Law School.

For the Society’s Law School, distributing iPad to every educator and student was as much about practicalities as it was innovation. As Caroline Kennedy explains “Coordinating students and lecturers within a huge organisation, is a challenge in itself…In the early days, everything was paper based for law students… if we needed to communicate an urgent update or if additional materials were added for a tutorial… the students wouldn’t have immediate access to a device with this latest information… If students didn’t log on to a terminal, they would completely miss out on these important announcements”.

Improving communication was therefore key, but the Society’s Law School also wanted to ensure that every student could actively continue their studies beyond its lecture halls and tutorial spaces. They considered other technological solutions to meet these needs as Caroline explains, “When we explored the range of available devices, battery life was an influencing factor, also the weight of the device and the ease of use on campus. We don’t have huge Information Communication Technology (ICT) rooms and with our student numbers increasing to over 400 students on-site, we needed to consider how do we facilitate the student’s technical needs now and in the future?”

Making sure their students left the campus with a high level of digital literacy was also a top priority as Caroline states, “We focus on developing the student’s 21st century technical skills and moving with the latest technology to do this… We want our students to have innovation and technical skills as well as extensive future-focused legal skills so that they can benefit from this knowledge in their careers”. Caroline goes on to explain that iPad ticked all the logistical and educational boxes. “The rate of educational applications that were being aimed at iPad, made the decision easy”.

The solution

Breaking down the barriers to learning.

The Law Society decided that iPad was the device of choice. After partnering with Select, the Law Society distributed iPad to every student and provided every educator, involved in teaching, access to iPad. Apple TV dotted around the campus enable lecturers to mirror their iPad screens and model ideas. Managed centrally by the Education IT Department, the embedment of iPad and Apple TV has been straightforward as Caroline can attest to, “It works. You take it out of the box, you set it up and the device works. Educators are given iPad with all the applications that they need downloaded and ready to use, they then go to the tutorial rooms, they connect through AirPlay, and work with the students that way”. This seamless solution was installed in partnership with the Select tech team, whose expertise and experience was truly invaluable to ensure a successful deployment. Caroline found that the collaboration was harmonious, “We were happy working with Select as they guided us along and overall, we were really impressed with the team”.

A digital workflow tool became a big part of the Law Society’s solution to help address the communication and logistical challenges. The Law School opted to utilise Moodle as their central online space for sharing information and uploading course materials. With just one app, the staff, students and educators can access all the information that they need wherever they are. Caroline explains “IT don’t have to go into each room and connect different devices. Everything is on iPad… It’s mobility and ease of use means that accessing Moodle is instant… We can now provide students with the most up to date information and they can take that to their tutorials”. Moodle combined with other simple Apple apps like iCal and Mail, allows everyone within the organisation to receive instant messages in an easily accessible way.

It goes without saying that iPad deployment of this size, is a huge undertaking. To support staff and students throughout the journey, the Law Society placed a lot of emphasis on professional development. Caroline explains that “There was a lot of work to do at the very start. We needed to up skill our students and our staff…. because they are the ones in the lecture theatres and in the tutorial room’s using iPad. Some elements are simple if you have a technical background, but it was important that we up skill our educators”. Through a mixture of face-to-face CPD and online training content (Select Academy), the educators and students have access to a network of support. What’s more, a dedicated Apple Professional Learning Specialist works in collaboration with the Law Society to provide an ongoing development plan. This means that the Law Society stays at the cutting edge as Caroline conveys, “We’re offering continuous CPD for staff in relation to new Apps and different approaches to using iPad for collaboration, accessibility and so on… We’re on hand always to assist them.”

The impact

Expected and unexpected positive impacts.

First and foremost, the communication and logistical challenges have been completely eradicated the Society’s Law School. Device access has resulted in easier information access. The technological continuity across the entire student body supports every individual, ensuring that each learner has access to the same high-quality applications and functionality ingrained within iPad. This could not have been achieved through a mixture of devices. Whilst these factors were to be expected, the school have experienced many positive impacts that were not necessarily anticipated. Through the powerful multi-media functions of iPad, students have forged their own success stories in many ways. From a learning point of view, Caroline details that the school didn’t expect “The level of collaboration that would come with using iPad and how the device would work well in tutorials… We use a huge amount of recorded content now… A lot of students use the video function on their iPad to record themselves presenting to then playback and critique themselves. The accessibility and multi-media functionality of iPad has made an impression on the personalised learning journeys of every student. For example, two severely visually impaired students on the PPC had a very seamless change over to iPad as they were able to access everything on iPad for the course via the Accessibility Features”.

More unexpected impacts can be observed on the teaching side of things. Caroline explains that the technology has made lectures and tutorials more “interactive” and “innovative”. She goes on to say that educators “Use Kahoot or allow access to a discussion form on Moodle. Educators ask students to watch a video before they attend their classes on site and when they enter the lecture hall it is discussed, thus creating a flipped and blended learning approach. In the past collaboration was passive, whereas now it’s very active”. Access to Moodle and an unlimited bank of educational Apps has opened more possibilities for the educators. In turn, knowing that the students are all working with the same Apple apps (such as iMovie, Pages, Clips and Keynote) they can expect to receive high quality content creation submitted from their learners. The ongoing Professional Development accessed via Select Academy and face-to-face training sessions, means that the educators are confident when exploring technological approaches to classroom practice and are comfortable receiving innovative work submissions.

Of course, the Society’s Law School also faced challenges that could not have been expected. By pursuing a 1:1 iPad programme, the organisation unintentionally provided their students and educators with a solid backbone for online learning. When the students could not attend lectures (due to COVID), the Law School already had a well-established system in place. Caroline found that the flexibility of iPad made a huge impact in this regard. “458 students were due to attend campus for training and because these students all had iPads, there were no stoppages or delays in their education. We switched to online learning, and they continued their course using Zoom and Moodle on iPad. That was a huge success… It was seamless for us”.

With the deployment of one device, the Society’s Law School was able to tackle every challenge from improving communication to providing a tool that can facilitate learning anywhere. In doing so, iPad has improved digital literacy across the board and provided the organisation with a platform to shape innovative new approaches to teaching and learning. This high rate of technological development has resulted in the Society’s Law School being awarded Apple Distinguished School status. Celebrating the success of the school’s iPad deployment is extremely important to Apple but it could not have happened without the leadership and vision of Director of Education T P Kennedy, the team of Course Managers and Course Administrators, the wider professional practice staff, associate faculty members and the IT team in Education. Through careful planning and hard work, the technological excellence of the multifunctional iPad, matches the educational excellence of the Law Society itself.

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