As classroom teaching has been suspended, universities and schools are increasingly making use of online learning to continue teaching - learning process all across Qatar.
Several students such as Sharifa Ahen, a first-year Juris Doctor student, at the College of Law at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) are more than one week into their distance learning experience. When Ahen received news of the discontinuation of all in-class learning, her disappointment was quite evident but now, that perception has changed.
“Online learning tools are not entirely new to me because online submissions are a core requirement of our law courses. But what was new to me is having to consistently use these tools remotely and coordinate with many users simultaneously,” said Ahen.
Along with eight other members of her Juris Doctor class, Ahen regularly convenes to deliberate on legal cases. The Constitutional Law, Legal Writing II, International Law and Property Law courses they attend are geared towards developing their instinct for approaching legal problems and gaining different perspectives. All courses have gone ahead as planned now that instruction has shifted online.
“I’ve learned to navigate the benefits and complexities of the online learning experience. I have had to shift my mindset from one that is more accustomed to skills such as being perceptive and able to read body language cues, to placing more emphasis on becoming an active listener. In the absence of physical interactions or visible responses, we’ve had to rely on and improve our anticipatory reactions and clarity in our communication.”
A huge source of frustration for Ahen was the cancellation of the Vis international commercial arbitration moot court competition, scheduled for April 2020 in Vienna, Austria. The competition was the highlight of her academic year and Ahen, along with her teammates, trained on a weekly basis in anticipation of this event since October 2019.
“On the international front, there’s a form of resilience made evident by global efforts to ensure continuity despite the circumstances. We knew that too when we were offered an opportunity to participate in the competition via online conferencing. And despite it all, I was also able to partake in the Vis Middle East Pre-Moot in Bahrain just because it had shifted entirely online. Before then, the blockade would have made our visas near impossible to acquire.”
For Ahen, unusual circumstances can present a learning curve for everyone involved. “There is a silver lining in everything if you look for it. As lawyers, we will be expected to handle situations like these in the future, where contracts may be abruptly terminated or public circulars need to be drafted.”
Ahen believes digital tools are an alternative for similar circumstances in the future. “Although I don’t believe online learning can permanently replace in-class learning, I do think it is a necessary alternative considering the current situation. It also allows for possible future flexibility once things go back to normal. Online learning allows for remote attendance in exceptional situations, which is especially relevant to our student body. What is happening today has clearly laid the foundation for contingency measures in the future,” she added.