The substantive task for the LLM Child and Family law students registered for my module LW6611 – Family law clinic – was the contribution to and updating of the family law information hub website which I created in 2014/15;originally funded by the Irish Research Council. Given that my own abilities in the world of technology are very limited I was lucky enough to encounter Claire Fennell, Instructional Designer in the Office of the VP for Teaching and Learning. Claire completely demystified the world of websites and WordPress and very quickly we created the information hub – www.familylawinformation.ie
The students were given 2 tutorials by Claire, which included each student being given access to the site with limited editorial capacities, allowing them to directly update the website as necessary. The students’ responsibility for identified parts of the website required them to engage with the changing laws in the relevant area(s) of family law and they were tasked with ensuring that the updated information was made available to the public through the website. This also required ensuring that all relevant hyperlinks to state supports and services were included, and updated where appropriate. This allowed the students to take very real ownership of the content of the website. Additionally through peer-to-peer support the students developed an internal support system whereby they assisted each other through mutual proof reading and technological supports. My responsibility was to allocate the work and oversee all material posted to the website.
Once satisfied that the material was correct and up to date, I assigned responsibility for certain web pages to each student to ensure that the relevant search optimisation techniques were being utilised. Again, the students received one tutorial on the workings of search optimisation and then took responsibility for the updating and amending of their webpages as necessary.
By way of assessing their involvement more formally, each student selected a contemporary issue in child and family law and undertook to write a 1000 word blog, with each blog, when approved by me (following a number of drafts!) being published on the website. Relying upon this website as a tool for both learning and assessment presented an entirely new approach to the students, most of whom were in their 4th year of study. This type of succinct, accessible writing was a challenge for students but represented a very novel approach to coursework and assessment whilst providing contemporary commentary to the general public.
The use of wordPress to develop this website was surprisingly easy and has resulted in the development of a flagship piece of work of the Family law Clinic, which is accessible to the public, thereby representing an important aspect of community engagement by the Clinic. However additionally the use this technology has provided the LLM students with a novel approach to learning and assessment whilst allowing them to make a valuable contribution to Irish society. Do make contact with the Office of the VP for Teaching and Learning where you will receive all the support you need to make such a project accessible and successful!