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STL Moved to Online Teaching for New Semester During Covid-19 Outbreak

As the fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic continues, Peking University School of Transnational Law began the new semester with online teaching on March 2nd.

STL courses are offered using both synchronous (students and instructor simultaneously online) and asynchronous instruction (students and instructor not simultaneously online). Some courses combined synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Considering the current situation under Covid-19, online teaching will last for at least the first several weeks of the quarter.

The success of the transition to online teaching  required a level of energy, innovation and cooperation between all the different STL factions: staff, faculty and students. Dean McConnaughay emphasized that the transition would not have been possible were it not for “Dean Pangilinan and his colleagues in Academic Affairs, the efforts of our faculty in reconfiguring their courses to adapt to an online format, and the efforts of all STL students to participate in remote instruction with the same serious engagement characteristic of their participation when classes are taught in person”. The Dean further stated that “our goal is to continue to offer the highest quality J.D. and J.M. educational experience possible despite the challenges presented by Covid-19”.

Professor Campbell, whose current research specially concentrates on the changing nature of the legal services marketplace in light of technological and economic innovations, has long been fascinated by the possibilities of online teaching.

After one-week of experimenting with online teaching, he has flurry of ideas based on his experience. There are both advantages and disadvantages for online teaching, For example, internet could be unstable, especially because students are positioned all cross China, some of them may experience issues with audio quality or dropped connections. “To ameliorate, we are recording all classes, and students can download and listen to any difficult portions at their leisure”, said professor Campbell.

Some advantages become very obvious. “Zoom allows students to ask questions anonymously in the Q&A. This allows students to put things out there without losing face or seeming stupid, and it actually generates way more student commentary and questions than I get in a live class”.

Professor Mao Shaowei is using both synchronous and asynchronous instruction for his Advance Legal Research and Writing Class. Students should listen to his recorded classes before participating in online small group discussions with teaching assistants.  “It’s not easy to keep focused and be diligent in thinking when taking online courses in a totally different study and working environment from the campus. Students should take this challenge as an opportunity, because those qualities online courses require, such as concentrating, self-discipline and self-motivation, are also what a professional lawyer requires”.

For many STL students, this is also a very unique school experience. Xie from Class 2019 said, “professors are currently in different places, Thailand, Washington, and Shenzhen … especially for those in the United States, we have 13-hour time difference. When they deliver day-time classes for us, it could be late nights for them. However, professors never stop trying their best to give the most high-quality classes despite all those difficulties. Although it is online teaching, some professors still adhere to Socratic teaching and cold call students.”

All in all, the school’s administration along with its faculty and, of course, the students are all doing to their best to cope with this unpredictable environment created by the incursion of Covid-19 and everyone is determined to turn it into a fulfilling educational experience.