They say you don’t truly learn to drive a car until after you have passed your test, but can the same be said for newly qualified (NQ) solicitors and their legal practice? After all, you go home from the office one evening a trainee and arrive the next morning a fully qualified lawyer, buying your own pastry and latte en route now that those endless trainee breakfast meetings have ceased.
‘It is a really big jump,’ recalls Natasza Slater, who qualified into the intellectual property and commercial department at City firm Howard Kennedy last September. ‘When you are a trainee there is a safety net and you are not held out as an expert. Now I’m qualified, people come to me for my expertise in IP.’
Fortunately, employers are realistic in their expectations and do not anticipate that NQs will morph from novice to rainmaker overnight. Iona Sinclair is the learning and development manager at international firm Mayer Brown. She says, ‘we recognise the importance of becoming a technical expert, but we also realise that this is only one part of what is needed to become an excellent lawyer. Lawyers also need support and guidance in terms of developing their professional skills. We provide this support and encourage a balance between fee-earning and personal development.’
One of the biggest challenges on qualification is the increased responsibility. ‘From day one of my training contract it was hands-on work, so it hasn’t really changed in that way,’ continues Natasza. ‘You are just more accountable and you are expected to know more about your practice area. It is nice to be able to focus on one area of law now and develop my technical skills.’
The amount of responsibility given to NQs varies according to the type of work undertaken, the type of firm, and how confident an individual feels. Those who qualify into litigation are likely to be more closely supervised than transactional lawyers, for example, due to the contentious nature of their work; a small firm may demand more from an NQ due to the size of the team, particularly if a senior colleague is absent and the junior has to hold the fort; and some individuals will thrive on added responsibility in contrast to others who need slightly more support.
According to Leanne Maund, chair of the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) of the Law Society, the experience of newly qualified solicitors is extremely varied: ‘It’s quite clear from our members that there is a degree of inconsistency of experience and treatment during your first year of practice, from the level of support provided to more anecdotal things, like the changing attitude of colleagues. Overall, the perception of newly qualified solicitors is one of apprehension. Although they are doing the same job, they feel more responsible for their work now they are admitted.’
Mastane Williamson is a commercial litigator at Bristol-headquartered TLT and qualified six months ago. ‘You think you have responsibility when you are a trainee, but now it is a level higher. I have my own caseload, with greater independence and input, and now there is a lot more thinking involved: people ask me, ‘what do you think we should do next?’ Her caseload ranges from matters she is solely responsible for to big cases in which she is part of a team. She felt ‘one hundred percent’ ready for qualification: ‘I couldn’t wait to get going. When you’re in a team for six months during your training contract, you are quite ready to stay and I felt confident enough to get going. We get a lot of support here. There is a lot to learn very quickly, and it is a big jump, but there is plenty of help.’
As a litigator, Mastane does not have a ‘typical’ day, such is the varied nature of the job. There is plenty of drafting to be done, including witness statements and pleadings which she will handle herself, while other tasks include ‘sending umpteen emails’ to clients and the other side on a case. At least once a week she is out of the office, attending hearings or conference with her client and counsel – the barrister working alongside her team on a case. ‘In my team everything is checked, which is unusual for NQs,’ she explains, ‘but we are doing contentious work, so it is checked as a security blanket. It also makes the quality of my work better, especially if it is tweaked slightly.’
George Clarke is an associate at Herbert Smith Freehills who qualified into the firm’s corporate department last September. Since qualification, he has worked on two main projects, including the high-profile sale of retailer Homebase to Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers. Typical tasks included drafting the ancillary deal documents, negotiating with the other side’s lawyers, and taking charge of the due diligence report (a detailed investigation of every aspect of a business undertaken by a buyer before purchasing).
George explains that supervision is largely informal: ‘There are 13 partners in our department, so it depends very much on who you are working with, but you can go to their office at any time. However, the first port of call is usually one of the other juniors who has been through a similar situation recently.’
Learning for life
Thankfully, training does not stop the day that your coveted practising certificate is issued. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requires all solicitors in England and Wales to comply with its Continued Professional Development (CPD) programme, currently being phased out in favour of the SRA’s new Continuing Competence regime. However the majority of law firms, both big and small, also provide additional structured training in both technical and practical skills: you are the future of the firm and it is in their interests for you to be the best you can be.
‘We want good technical lawyers, but we also want people who can grow the business,’ says Hannah Milford, talent manager at Howard Kennedy. In addition to her firm’s ongoing legal know-how training, it has sessions on non-technical skills such as business development, networking and client care, which Hannah is currently expanding, particularly at junior solicitor level.
Dannie Spencer qualified into the banking department at national firm Shoosmiths in September 2015 and is based in its Manchester office. She outlines the comprehensive training at the firm for all levels of fee-earner: ‘Once a month we have a national banking training session which we all dial into, as well as an annual banking away day, where we all get together. We also get involved in the annual corporate away day as well as the corporate monthly training.’ The sessions are run by a mix of partners, who will typically lead on complex document training, the firm’s professional support lawyers and even the NQs themselves: ‘It’s a really good way to learn,’ Dannie adds.
Making the cut
Although the NQ market is currently buoyant, like everything else dependent on the economy, it is cyclical. Many of today’s NQs faced a ‘horrendous market’ when applying for training contracts four to five years ago, due to the backlog of deferred trainees caused by the 2008-2011 recession. But whatever the economic climate, the period leading up to qualification can be an anxious time. ‘The issue is that being a trainee is stressful, because all you can think about is whether you’ll get a job at the end of it,’ notes Leanne Maund, chair of the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division.
‘There is a bit of a misconception that if your firm doesn’t keep you on, then you are no good,’ says Natasza Slater, solicitor at Howard Kennedy. ‘But that is not the case at all – usually it is down to the business need of the team. For example, they might have taken on an NQ last year and are simply unable to take one on again this year.’
Hannah Milford, talent manager at Howard Kennedy, suggests trainees get proactive in standing out from the crowd as qualification approaches: ‘Time and again we see people who are dedicated and proactive really flourish here. It is something we look out for and this also makes someone looking for an NQ role really stand out: even if you didn’t do a seat in a particular department, if you demonstrate your interest in that area, for example, writing blog posts or delivering a training or knowhow session, these are good examples of the proactivity we really like to see and can get someone into an NQ job.’
Natasza offers this advice: ‘If you have a strong idea about the department that you would like to qualify into, it is worth making it known to the head of that department as soon as possible. Heads of departments are often in charge of their own budgets and taking on an NQ will be a budgetary consideration. Also, the department may be wavering about having an NQ so making it clear early on that you are interested will provide the department time and incentive to give serious thought to opening up an NQ position.’
Mayer Brown’s training structure is particularly impressive. ‘We run a development centre for NQ lawyers designed to assist delegates with the transition from trainee to associate,’ outlines Iona. ‘We recognise that this is a significant step and we want to ensure that newly qualified associates feel supported. The development centre focuses on what we feel to be essential skills and qualities: confidence, assertiveness and how to influence. It also covers practical information including risk and compliance pitfalls and how to avoid them, and law firm finances. The session is followed by a celebration dinner attended by partners and senior management.’ Alice Hill, who runs the development centre, adds, ‘As well as the development centres, associates have the opportunity to attend a number of standalone courses throughout the year. These range from individual coaching session to workshops on how to network, cultural awareness, legal drafting and negotiating skills.’
In addition to ongoing training, NQs are subject to continued performance reviews, similar to that experienced during a training contract, though less frequently and with fewer biscuits. In Bristol, Chris Allen recently qualified into the corporate and commercial department at Burges Salmon. He explains, ‘we have a dedicated HR person to chat things through with on qualification. After three months we have another catch up with HR, about whether we feel comfortable in our role, whether too much is being asked of us, or if we are worried about how we are doing, that sort of thing. We also get assigned a partner who we have a chat with two months into qualification, and then a more formal review at the end of January. Then there is a six-month catch-up, and of course you can approach them if anything crops up.’
At Herbert Smith Freehills, reviews are equally vigorous. ‘Formal reviews happen every six months with a designated partner in the group and a second partner that you can nominate,’ outlines George. ‘We’ve just had the performance review documentation sent around yesterday. It covers what you have done over the past six months and what you want to achieve during the next six months.’
Crucially, the purpose of performance reviews and training during a solicitor’s first year is not to identify high flyers, but to lay a solid foundation for a future career. ‘NQs are doing the groundwork for a couple of years, so we are not yet looking for partnership material,’ reveals Hannah at Howard Kennedy. ‘The first few years are about understanding the team and developing their legal skills – it can be a short, sharp, shock to suddenly be responsible for giving advice and as trainees approach qualification, they can get quite anxious about that. So it’s not about striving for partnership.’
The NQs interviewed all felt that their training contracts had prepared them well for practice. ‘During my training contract there was always an opportunity to take on increasing levels of responsibility, especially as the two years went on,’ says Chris at Burges Salmon. ‘There were instances when you were thrown in at the deep end, for example because a more senior colleague was busy, and you have to handle the situation yourself. But you realise that it’s not that difficult. We were always encouraged to take responsibility for our own work.’
So while there is undoubtedly an increase in independence, responsibility and expertise needed when you qualify, there is also a good deal of guidance, mentoring and training available out there. And you are more in control: ‘We are given laptops now and have the freedom to work from home once a week as part of the firm’s flexible working policy,’ enthuses George. ‘I haven’t yet taken it up much, but I plan to. So there is a better work-life balance.’ Now, that is surely worth the sacrifice of trainee pastries.
1. What are they?
EDpuzzle, eduCanon, and Zaption are interactive video assessment tools that allow instructors to create custom integrated assessments for the videos they assign for students to watch.
Interactive video assessment tools have the following capabilities:
- Search existing video on the Internet from sources such as YouTube and Khan Academy.
- Customize the exact video clip to assign, starting at any point and ending at any point to assign a specific “snippet.”
- Record your own voice over the assigned video for narration or to add additional information.
- Embed custom assessment questions (true/false, multiple choice, open format) into the assigned video at any point on the video timeline.
- Review individual student and course-level assessment analytics to identify the percentage of students who have completed the assignment.
- Students can create their own video assessment projects as a class assignment.
Some of the ways these tools are used to engage students include:
- augmenting face-to-face instruction
- enhancing blended classes
- use in flipped classrooms
- use with online learning
The team investigated three interactive video assessment tools: EDpuzzle, eduCanon, and Zaption. Each of the three tools is offered at a basic level for free and has incremental paid account options with differing features such as privacy options, types of questions you can create, and number of assignments that can be created. For example, the free version of EDpuzzle allows unlimited use and open-ended as well as multiple-choice questions, but to keep lessons private, the user needs to have a paid account. Most importantly, each of these tools collects student assessment data and compiles it into reports showing learning trends by class as well as individual student progress.
Perhaps the description of these types of tools can be best summed up by the following statement by Quim Sabra, cofounder and CEO of EDpuzzle: “In EDpuzzle, any teacher can use and share video lessons; make them personal, useful, and engaging; and get information from their students to be more effective at school.”
2. How do they work?
EDpuzzle allows users to search video services such as YouTube, Khan Academy, LearnZillion, National Geographic, TED, Veritasium, Numberphile, Crash Course, Club Academia, Vimeo, and TeacherTube directly in the interface. Users can also upload their own videos. Uploaded videos stream directly from YouTube and are not copied to EDpuzzle’s servers. Once a video is selected or uploaded, the user can specify a start/stop time for a section of the video if he or she does not want to use the entire length. After cropping the video, users can add questions or record their voice to add an audio note.
EDpuzzle allows questions to have formatted text (i.e., bold, italics, underline), images, subscripts, superscripts, external links, and math equations. Users can add formatted mathematical equations in either LaTeX or MathML.
With EDpuzzle, if a student is playing a video, then clicks on another tab in his or her browser, the video pauses, preventing the student from completing other tasks while working on the video assignment. This feature essentially prevents students from being tempted to divert their attention from the task at hand and thwarts their attempts to multitask while watching the assigned video.
The free version of EDpuzzle provides unlimited use—no limit to classes, videos, projects, students, etc.
With eduCanon, users can select videos from services such as YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube, and KhanAcademy, but there is no search functionality within the application. Currently, there is no upload ability for original videos from a user’s computer, only videos from the Internet. However, users can upload their original videos to YouTube and then use the video in eduCanon. The video then streams directly from the source such as YouTube; it is not stored on eduCanon’s servers.
eduCanon calls their video lessons “bulbs.” These bulbs can be customized by using a time code to specify start/stop times. Once videos are created, users can use the student preview on the “bulbs” menu to review their work before assigning it to the class. Creating a class and assigning bulbs to a class is not intuitive, especially the first time an individual uses the tool.
Zaption allows users to either upload a video or record a video using a webcam. These videos are uploaded to a personal YouTube account, upon the user signing in through the Zaption interface. Users can search public videos on YouTube, Vimeo, PBS, National Geographic, TED, Discovery, NASA, Edutopia, VSauce, Crash Course, SciShow, and CGP Grey. Users can then create a “tour” with the media. Tours are equivalent to a learning module where an instructor can ask students questions about the video and add other clips to load after students watch the first video. To note, a user can only add one video clip per tour with a free Zaption Basic plan. If the user wants to add more, he or she has to upgrade to Zaption Pro.
Regarding interaction, a user can add basic text and image slides, open responses, multiple choice, and check boxes. There is also a custom drawing tool which allows a user to mark up the video by drawing on different video frames, which could be useful for pointing out content in the video with circles or highlights. The following tools are only available with a Zaption Pro account, and were not tested: numerical responses, drawn responses, discussion, jump, and replay.
Instructors can use the analytics available through these tools to easily see which students have completed watching assigned videos and understood the concepts. Course-level analytics allow an at-a-glance view where the instructor can quickly see how the class is progressing with the assignment. For example, when using multiple choice questions, if 100 percent of the students watched the video and 100 percent answered the assessment questions correctly, there really is no need to delve further into the information available through the analytics provided.
However, if the analytics show that 50 percent of the class missed a particular question or set of questions, the instructor can drill down into the data to determine which individuals answered incorrectly and also look to see if there is a trend in selecting the same wrong answer, indicating that there is a common misunderstanding or misapplication of the information being taught. With the data available, the instructor can pinpoint the misconceived information and reteach the concept. Similarly, instructors can easily spot the student who consistently answers incorrectly and in turn can assign appropriate support material to improve the individual student’s learning success.
Zaption analytics allow an instructor to know which questions students answered correctly; it also gives him or her some idea whether or not students are engaged in the assignment. Students are able to give each tour a rating (one to five stars) and a user can also see how many viewers are either fast forwarding or rewinding the video while completing the assignment.
Examples of the types of analytics provided can be seen below.
EDpuzzle analytics screen shot 01 showing which students watched the assigned video and the grade they earned on the questions answered and graded. In this case, the grading for the open-ended questions was not completed, therefore although the report shows that two of the three students completed watching the video, the grades are all 0%. The report also includes an option to export grades to CSV, grade open ended questions, and to reset the assignment by student.
EDpuzzle analytics screen shot 02 showing the grading function for open-ended questions. Each open-ended question is shown with the response provided by each student. If the answer provided is correct, the evaluator can click the green check mark; if the response is not correct, the evaluator clicks the red X.
Raw data (exported as CSV) is only available for overview view, and includes student name, percentage of video watched, correct questions (out of total number), and grade percentage. Data is not available for open-ended question sets.
eduCanon analytics screen shot showing a question by question-by-question breakdown of the students and the answer they submitted for each question.
Raw data (exported as CSV) is only available for paid customers, so the team could not assess that feature.
Zaption analytics screen shot 01 showing the number of unique visitors who have started the “tour,” the average viewing time, the number of completed questions, the tour rating, the average skips forward, and the average skips backward.
Zaption analytics screen shot 02 showing each viewer (or student) by name, the number of responses submitted by each student, the date of the last submission, the total viewing time, the date last viewed, the total views, and the rating awarded by each student.
Zaption analytics screen shot 03 showing open-ended question responses for each student, the number of responses, and the date and time of the last response submitted. A word cloud shows the words used in each response.
Raw data (exported as CSV) is available and includes viewer name, user name, email address, user ID, fingerprint, IP address, text responses, and response date for text responses.
3. Why are they significant?
Using digital video as a learning tool is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for instructors to convey content to students. With instructors assigning online videos from sources like Khan Academy, YouTube, TeacherTube, TEDx, and others, as well as recording their own lectures and assigning the video as part of an online, blended, or flipped class, video content is growing pervasive. However, how do instructors know which students watched the assigned video as required for the class? Who watched the entire video, who simply clicked play and went on to something else while the video played on, and of those who watched, who was able to grasp the concepts taught in the video? Over the past year or so, a new set of tools has begun to emerge, allowing instructors to easily embed custom questions into assigned videos.
Interactive video assessment tools not only allow videos to be assigned for students to watch, they also allow for assessment of content comprehension to be embedded into the video at precisely the right moment. When the instructor feels it is important to be certain the concept is successfully covered, he or she can require that a question be answered before the student goes on to watch more of the video.
Perhaps the description of Zaption published on their website best describes the significance of interactive video creation tools: “Zaption helps educators turn video into a personalized, interactive learning experience. The result is an engaging ‘lean forward’ activity. With Zaption’s analytics, instructors get real-time feedback and actionable data to track progress towards learning outcomes.”
4. What are the implications for teaching and learning?
Faculty are purposefully adding video components to their lessons in an effort to engage students through the power of storytelling. Course videos can demonstrate processes or concepts that may be difficult to convey through text or lecture alone.
These interactive video assessment tools allow instructors to check for comprehension during the video presentation. Skillfully crafted questions and interactions can allow for timely formative assessment. This could be particularly useful for planning what to concentrate on during a flipped classroom session. Students can watch an assigned video before class time, and instructors can focus time in the face-to-face session based on the data seen in the analytics.
For traditional face-to-face classes, these tools can be used to augment the typical top-down lecture. Learning labs or learning stations might be designated within the classroom where students work independently reviewing video material and answering questions in the assessments. These tools can also be used as simple homework assignments that are ungraded but used as formative assessment to guide the scope and sequence of material covered in class.
In online courses, instructors can use interactive video assessment tools to improve the use of video as a way to convey course content. Watching video is inherently a passive learning mode. By instructors adding questions to the videos, students become more engaged in the learning process and the learning becomes more active.
The vast majority of educational video content on the web is in the English language. For teaching a course in a foreign language, instructors can use the voice-over tools to translate the video. For foreign language instruction, faculty can ask students to provide translation as a course assignment.
Students can also create their own videos with assessments as course assignments or to use as study tools.
5. What are the downsides?
Watching videos, no matter how entertaining or engaging, is primarily a passive learning activity. The addition of interactive elements may not necessarily lead to critical thinking. It is important for instructors to tie lessons learned from either the analytic data or the student work within these tools to higher-order learning activities to achieve deeper learning.
Currently, for two of the three of these tools, it appears that any content created by instructors becomes publicly available. Zaption keeps all content created by instructors private unless they share it in the public gallery or with other users and students. EDpuzzle sees the strength of their tool as being a platform to find video lessons that have already been cropped, have questions and comments, and are organized in folders. This makes it easier to find the perfect video for your class. The tool is intentionally open, much like a massive open online course is meant to be available for the masses. In EDpuzzle, content can be made private; currently, this is a manual process done by request. Marking videos as private in EDpuzzle may end up being available as fee for service; however, student created lessons are private.
6. Who is using them?
Currently, these tools are used primarily in middle and secondary school as free resources; however, higher education is beginning to find the tools just as useful.
- 70,000+ users
- 80% of users in K-12
- 20% in higher ed and others (hospitals, companies, etc.)
- 75% of users are from the US; the rest from 67 different countries
- 20,000+ users
- most are high school teachers
- seeing some traction in elementary and middle schools as well, thanks to a partnership with Edmodo
- 40% are K-12
- 20% are higher ed
- 40% are from other institutions including training orgs
- Zaption’s interactive learning tours have been viewed by over 25,000 people
7. Where are they going?
Video is becoming one of the most prevalent methods of conveying information for learning for all ages, particularly in the growing fields of online, blended, and flipped classes. Combined with the ability to integrate custom assessment questions and powerful analytics, interactive video creation tools are projected to become some of the most useful teaching tools on the horizon.
In 2015, the eduCanon team plans to release an enterprise version of its platform for corporate training and higher education.
The goal of EDpuzzle is to be the premier platform to find video lessons, with the added benefit of knowing up front that it already works for similar learners. EDpuzzle will most likely include a paid option for inclusion in a learning management system (LMS) and/or for privacy purposes.
Zaption is being used by teachers, trainers, and content publishers. This tool seems to have potential for use in large-enrollment courses such as MOOCs.
In the Penn State community, there is a need for tools that enhance the growing use of video in face-to-face, online, blended, and flipped courses. Instructors want to know who watched assigned videos and who grasped the concept(s) covered in the video.
If Penn State were to pursue one of the three services, the investigative team would recommend a pilot exploring and assessing each tool in a classroom setting. Privacy and LMS integration are areas of concern when launching a tool such as these to be available University-wide. To ensure ease of use and reliability, content would need to be displayed in the LMS and any assessment data would need to be available within the LMS environment.