Over 2015-2016 MLS faculty and students engaged in an extensive process of consultation and discussion about the desirability of moving to a system of making class recordings available to students in the JD program without limitations. Thoughtful and serious representations were made by people with varying views on this question. The overarching concern of MLS was (and remains) to provide students with the best quality legal education and the most favourable teaching and learning experience overall.
Following that detailed investigation and discussion in 2015-2016, it was decided that MLS would not move to a system of unrestricted access to class recordings in the JD program. MLS does, however, acknowledge the challenges that this may cause for some students whose circumstances mean that they may miss classes. In order to address that concern, arrangements are in place to allow students access to class recordings for special consideration reasons (see below).
The reasons for the decision not to make class recordings available generally to all enrolled students in a class remain as they were in 2015-2016. They are outlined below.
First, staff with experience of teaching in other law schools where recording of classes is routine, and who remember teaching into the LLB at MLS when classes were routinely recorded, have noted that it tends to lead to a reduction in the numbers attending a class – sometimes to a very substantial reduction. Some students have responded to this by saying that this should not be considered a problem – those who want to come will attend and those who do not should be free to listen by recording if they prefer to. However, the JD has been established as a degree which relies on a learning community in the classroom. MLS has kept class sizes limited on the basis that students should get to know one another and learn from one another as well as from their teacher. A reduction in the attendance of classes changes the type of learning community that MLS is trying to create.
Second, the JD is not taught through a traditional lecture and tutorial format. The JD uses seminar style teaching based on discussion and, where appropriate, small group work in class. This form of teaching is not conducive to being recorded. The experience of some faculty who have taught in environments in which recording is used as a matter of course is that there is pressure on teachers to teach in a manner which is suitable for recording – more lecturing from the teacher and less class participation in particular. Classes at a graduate level should be participatory and engaged in a way that makes recording of limited utility. Notably, class sizes are constrained deliberately in order to facilitate class discussion.
Third, there is a concern by some teachers and students that making recordings available in an unrestricted manner would inhibit both students and teachers from engaging as freely in intellectual exchange as they might in an environment where recording was not widely available. Students who might be nervous about putting their views to a class might be even more reluctant to do so if they know that their comments (including possible mistakes) might be heard by a much wider group. Teachers who brought elements of their experience in practice or knowledge from their wider networks into the classroom were not always comfortable doing so if the information that they shared might be available to a wider audience.
Finally, feedback from employers, including the legal profession, was (and remains) supportive of the current policy. A number have noted their concerns that where law students ‘dial in’ their legal education rather than participating fully in class, they did not have the same opportunity to build their oral and inter-personal skills as did those who had the challenge of participating in classes held face to face.
MLS recognises that for some students their medical or other recognised circumstances significantly impact upon their class attendance. Students in two categories may be eligible to access class recordings:
- Students who are registered for Special Consideration (ongoing support); or
- Students who are not registered for Special Consideration (ongoing support), but who miss a substantial number of classes due to:
- Medical grounds
- Personal circumstances (eg bereavement, illness of a family member, family violence, temporary carer responsibilities)
- Religious commitments (as defined below)
- Any combination of the above
Students with access to class recordings are prohibited from sharing these recordings with others. If a student shares the recorded material without the permission of MLS, they may no longer be eligible to receive class recordings.
How to apply
Students who are registered for Special Consideration (ongoing support)
Student should be aware that registration for Special Consideration (ongoing support) does not necessarily grant the student access to class recordings. Access to class recordings is a separate process and is assessed case by case, based upon the evidence provided by the applicant. Class recordings will be made available to students who are registered for Special Consideration (ongoing support) who can demonstrate that:
- Their capacity to attend classes will routinely be disrupted through medical conditions, carer, religious or other commitments for which they are registered, and/or
- Medical conditions, carer, religious or other commitments for which they are registered impairs their capacity to cognitively participate in classes i.e. significant concentration impairments.
To be considered for access to class recordings, such students must apply online, and provide evidence to support their application. Each application will be assessed against the above criteria. Please note that access to class recordings will be reassessed on a yearly basis.
Students who are not registered for Special Consideration (ongoing support)
Students who are not registered for special consideration (ongoing support) will be provided access to class recordings in limited circumstances. Class recordings will be made available to students who can demonstrate that:
- Medical grounds or personal circumstances (eg bereavement, illness of a family member, family violence, temporary carer responsibilities) or religious commitments will cause them to miss class for more than five (5) consecutive business days, or that
- Medical grounds or personal circumstances (eg bereavement, illness of a family member, family violence, temporary carer responsibilities) or religious commitments, although not meeting the criteria of five (5) consecutive business days, does result in a cumulative period of five (5) business days of missed classes over a period of 1-2 weeks. Evidence must be provided of the unexpected continuation of the relevant circumstances and/or their cumulative impact on class attendance.
To be considered for access to class recordings, students must apply online, and provide evidence with their application of their relevant circumstances and the impact on their attendance in class. Access to class recordings will be granted for the duration of the absence/impact and will be available for 10 business days or two weeks to enable the student to catch up on the classes missed.
One stream of most compulsory subjects will be recorded. There are some compulsory subjects, such as Legal Research, where for pedagogical reasons it is not appropriate to record. Electives are recorded, as needed. Students receiving recordings should be aware that they may not receive a recording from their timetabled stream.
Intensive subjects taught over a one or two week period, except for Legal Method and Reasoning (LAWS50023), will not be recorded. Where students enrol in an intensive subject offered alternatively on a full semester basis, and for which there are available recordings from the most recent semester of offer of that subject, they may be given access to these recordings. Students considering enrolment in an intensive subject who may experience difficulties in attending class should discuss their enrolment in the subject with the Student Academic Adjustment and Wellbeing Officer prior to enrolling to determine the best course of action in the circumstances.
All applications made by students for class recordings are treated confidentially.
Applications are not disclosed to the subject teacher, the coordinator, or other students in the subject.