There is a new format in terms of assignments for our law school. In the past, it used to be 5 assignments for each module with 3 quizzes. These 5 assignments usually had a deadline of 2 weeks. The assignment would be released on a Monday and would be due the following Sunday. I always felt that this was too long. Hey when I was in secondary school and junior college, assignments were due the very next day. Or at most perhaps in two to 3 days. Hence when I was told that assignments were to be handed up in 2 weeks, it honestly felt weird to me. I have seen some of my classmates asking for extensions because they participated in some event like maybe the law fraternity games. I participated in the games as well. For touch rugby. I just did my assignment earlier. We had 2 weeks to complete the assignment and participating in the games only cost us a day of an otherwise excessive 14 days to hand in an assignment.
Cue the changes.
Change number 1:
Assignments are due within a week. Deadlines were halved. I do not have the statistics but I do not think the faculty would see a marked increase in students failing to hand in their assignments or a reduction in the quality of the scripts that were produced. For me, due to my time constraint as my company is expanding and developing new business units, I have to complete my assignments in one sitting. This means that every assignment is essentially an examination to me. That is not to say that I do not prepare my notes ahead of time. I prepare them before every class and I edit them immediately after class. In the past, I would keep thinking that my assignment was not optimal and would constantly be referring to what I wrote and editing small bits and pieces of it. This was especially true for one of the criminal law modules, LAW309, and in one of the assignments, I scored one of the poorest marks in my class. Coincidentally that was the assignment that I made the most amendments throughout my time in law school. This semester, I have been doing my assignments within approximately a 2-hour window and handing it up. I would look at it again perhaps on deadline day but merely to spot typographical errors and unless there was a novel point that I missed and wanted to include, I would not majorly alter my earlier submitted script. My grades thus far are testament to my theory working.
Change number 2:
Timed assignments. This is where an assignment would be released at 10 am on a Saturday and we had to hand them in at 12 pm the very same day. This means completing the assignment within 2 hours. While this might seem daunting to many, it allows me, and I believe many others in our law school, the freedom of having the rest of the weekend off. The flip side, having to prepare for an assignment like you would an examination. But I do not understand the challenge as in a few weeks from that assignment, we would still have to prepare for our examinations. Moreover, there is no word count limit for timed assignments. I spend a great deal of time, in many cases over half the total time I spend on an assignment, editing my sentences to make them succinct and to the point so that I can fit within the word count. To me those were times I could have spent with my family or on my work but I was trying to analogise a certain legal concept to the fact pattern of the assignment within say an 800 word limit. Imagine if there were word limits to some judgements. I would not have to spend so much time ploughing through cases like Spandeck (I do not have to spell the case name out in full and law students and practitioners should know what I mean) to understand duty of care in negligence.
Change number 3:
There is only one quiz and it is timed. I have not completed this yet but I would think that this would be so liberating as it allows me to do over and done with what otherwise would regress into an exercise of deliberation and at times, discussions with my classmates over the possibility of a certain answer over another just because of the closeness and wording of the question. I will give my honest thoughts in just under 6 days time.
So what do we lose out on? I would say discussions with fellow classmates. I noticed that we as classmates only discuss when we have an assignment at hand. We do not sit down and discuss the Chan Yuan Lan framework for joint ownership in equity if there is no assignment to hand in at the end of the day. We should. Perhaps this is where the classes come in. While most of us are working, class participation and attendance should be made mandatory. I might fail to establish the fact that I am the most busy individual in my cohort but I think I would be able to prove the fact beyond a reasonable doubt that I should be one of the busiest individuals in terms of work and family commitments. My definition of “one of the busiest” would be within the top 25 percentile in my cohort. Yet I rarely miss class and this semester I had an instance (or two, I cannot remember), where I landed in Singapore from a work trip the very morning of a class that was supposed to happen in the evening. I also fail to understand the logic that there is no longer a virtual class and hence students are unable to turn up for class. When we signed up to this course, there was no indication that classes were going to be held virtually. Classes were supposed to be physical classes from the get go. I have yet to hear a student from the SUSS School of Law say that they chose this law school over the other 2 local law schools because the classes in our law school were held virtually. I never saw such representations being made to me when I applied. Hence the discussion of whether there should be at least one virtual class should never be a moot point.
If we truly believe that the law is something worth pursuing, then the rigours that come with the pursuit should be willingly undertaken. One of those rigours is having a robust discussion in class. I believe it would be shocking to many to know that I was never a very outspoken student in class during my formative years. Approach any of my classmates or teachers in my secondary school and junior college and they should attest positively to my statement. My time at NUS was similar and I got away with it even though there were actual class participation marks for almost every module. My thinking was that it was more or less math. Participation amounted to me scribbling my answer to the game theory question on the whiteboard and explaining what I learned from the textbook. There was nothing to challenge and nothing to discuss. It worked during my time in NUS. It probably did because it was not law. It should not work and it most probably will not work. My time is coming to an end in our beloved law school. In a matter of weeks I will conclude my journey as a year 3 student and enter my final year of studies. My only very minor gripe is that I would have liked more discussions in class. I enjoy it when tutors ask for whether a certain academic commentary is something that we agree with or whether we believe that the certain aspects of the law is developing in a favourable manner.
Perhaps class participation and attendance should be made mandatory with an attributable grade which would contribute to the final score at the end of the day. Flexibility should then be accorded to attendance and participation to take into consideration the various circumstances of working adults, some with families. I can perhaps understand if flexibility was accorded in this aspect rather than previous instances of my fellow course mates asking for extensions to assignments where there was a 14-day deadline.
Whatever the case, this semester feels so much better. The examinations are just around the corner! Study hard and stay healthy everyone!