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Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 1E - Paper 2

Keeping it real: Transmedia for online legal education

Session slides

Ms Emily Allbon - The City Law school, City, University of London
Mr Morris Pamplin - Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) City, University of London
Ms Ness Lyons - The City Law school, City, University of London

Our paper crosses all of these sub-themes: we’ll be sharing experiences of how we support distance-learning students on a new course, focusing in on the methods used to help them build skills and provoke them into thinking about legal problems from all angles. Our paper will look at how this is delivered in terms of technology and will also touch on those involved in its creation – the academic, the learning technologist and the scriptwriter/director.

There are been tremendous examples of simulated environments within legal education. At City we decided against the fully immersive approach, opting instead to create a transmedia universe: our own soap opera of inter-connected characters.

Transmedia offers a new approach to creating an environment conducive to simulated practice. It combines mixed digital, as well as physical, resources such as text, image, video, audio and html, to create a non-linear and multi-perspective experience which students navigate independently (Warren et al 2013). The City Law School, embarking on a new, fully-online LLB in Legal Practice, collaborated with the Educational Technology Team and brought in a professional writer (who was also a qualified solicitor – Ness Lyons) to create an extensive transmedia simulation which brings to life the issues experienced by individuals in their interactions with each other, and with judicial and legal processes. This approach was especially apposite in a distance learning context where students’ learning is completely self-directed and they can struggle to stay engaged in learning (Barron 2014).

The aims of our mixed-media story-telling approach were extensive; having the action set in a (fictional) place and building a series of characters who will pop up in different parts of the course gives them some sense of familiarity and continuity, which is often a challenge on a distance course. This also helps with the engagement – the variety of materials (video, audio, visual) and situations (TV/radio show, vlogs, WhatsApp message conversations, neighbourhood interactions, fight in a bar) keeping them interested. What this also means is that we have been able give students opportunities to think about the characters as potential clients, to build empathy and look at how information may be provided to them, getting practice at sifting what is irrelevant/emotional rhetoric.

This session will also look at the practical challenges of working collaboratively; the academic, the Ed Tech team and the screenwriter.

Although this concerns a distance learning law course, the principles are as pertinent for face-to-face teaching, perhaps as a component of a blended approach.  Similarly, despite the content being legal in focus, the areas we will be discussing around storytelling, narrative and the transmedia approach are key whatever the subject area.


Barron, C. (2014). “Engagement of Non-Traditional Adult Learners in Distance Education.” International HETL Review (4). Online at https://www.hetl.org/engagement-of-non-traditional-adult-learners-in-distance-education/

Gaba, D. M. (2004). “The Future Vision of Simulation in Health Care”. BMJ Quality & Safety 2004 (13): i2:i10.

Raybourn, E. M. (2013). “A new paradigm for serious games: Transmedia learning for more effective training and education” in Journal of Computational Science 5: 471-481. http://0-dx.doi.org.wam.city.ac.uk/10.1016/j.jocs.2013.08.005

Rowe, Murray and Westwood, “Professionalism in Pre-Practice Legal Education: An Insight into the Universal Nature of Professionalism and the Development of Professional Identity” (2012) 46(2) Law Teacher 120

SIMPLE http://simplecommunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/SIMPLE-FINAL-report.pdf

Steslow, D. M. and C. Gardner (2011). “More than One Way to Tell a Story: Integrating Storytelling into Your Law Course” in Journal of Legal Studies Education 28(2): 249-271

Warren, S. J., J. S. Wakefield, L. A. Mills (2013). “Increasing Student Engagement and Retention using Multimedia Technologies: Video annotation, multimedia applications, videoconferencing and transmedia storytelling”. Cutting-edge Technologies in Higher Education 2013 (6F): 76-94.