"Senior Law Lecturer | Programme Director for Master of Laws programmes, Taylor's University; Recipient of GOLD Award for EMAS Award 2020; Top 12 Wharton-QS Shortlisted Applicant for Reimagine Education Awards 2020"
"Dear Puteri Sofia, you are currently the Chief Project Officer with Centre of Industrial Revolution and Innovation (CIRI), Senior Law Lecturer and Programme Director for Masters of Laws Programmes at Taylor’s University. Impressive titles though...Please tell us more about your educational background particularly the main driving factor behind ... “WHAT LEADS YOU INTO STUDYING LAW?
/Call it my grandfather’s legacy – When I first saw my grandfather’s barrister’s wig and his black robe in 1996, I knew that I was heading in that direction. I was so sure that I dared to quote in my classmate’s year book then, “if you need legal advice in 10 years, look me up”.
My late grandfather Dato’ Tunku Mukhtar bin Tunku Yaacob studied law in London in the early 1960s and was called to the Bar in 1963. When he returned to Kedah, he served as Magistrate, Deputy Public Prosecutor and State Legal Adviser for Kedah and Perlis before he retired in 1976. He then served as the Chairman, Board of Detainees in Penang for two terms.
My father, Amirnuddin Mazlan was very instrumental in helping me map out my educational journey to get there. He and my mother ensured that my siblings and I received good education and supported us all the way. Each year they would take us to the education fairs where we would be exposed to what the world has to offer and what we needed to do to better prepare ourselves. That landed me at Taylor’s College to pursue South Australian Matriculation Programme after Form Five. I later graduated with a Bachelor degree in Law from University of Tasmania, earned my Masters of Laws in Commercial Law from Monash University and am currently pursuing my PhD locally.
Since my younger sister and I were the only grandchildren who studied law, I inherited my late grandfather’s barrister’s wig and his black robe. I’m sure he would have been proud that when I was called to the Bar in 2011, I donned the same robe that he wore when he was called to the Bar two generations back!
"What is CIRI in the first place? What are the main duties and job scope being the Chief Project Officer?"
/In answering the call of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for a collaboration between industry and academia for greater innovation and industry-relevant research and development, Taylor’s University established a new research centre, ‘Centre of Industrial Revolution and Innovation’ (CIRI) under the Faculty of Business and Law, which draws membership from researchers around the world. This is what CIRI offers:-
· CIRI members will have access to webinars, workshops and conferences that warrants the most sophisticated information to produce useful and cutting-edge knowledge;
· An opportunity for CIRI members to promote their research work in scholarly journals, books, book chapters and other scholarly publications;
· A platform for CIRI members to learn best practices from research experts locally and internationally;
· Accepts research grants or consultancy projects from various organizations for the purpose of producing research papers, reports or analysis;
· To collaborate with local and international experts in enabling healthy exchange of ideas between faculty, scholars and industry to enhance research opportunities, academic excellence, real-world problem solving, knowledge creation and dissemination.
CIRI is active in searching for new areas to shed light on and bring to the attention of the industry, academic community and the public at large, with a focus on rigor, relevance, and actionable implications. CIRI ensures that its research venture is empirically, conceptually, and analytically performed in order to carefully study the evolving business atmosphere, explore business challenges and propose the most relevant, viable and actionable method to the business community.
"Awards define the recipients’ credentials. On behalf of the audience, please highlight the key awards you have received to-date."
/When I was in Form Five, I studied at a boarding school, Sekolah Tinggi Wadi Sofia in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Every month, my mother would post me letters which ended with quotes to inspire me. This particular one spurred me on:
“When a task has once begun, do not leave it till it’s done; Let the labour be great or small, do it well or not at all.”
Those two lines taught me about the pursuit of excellence. Those two lines earned me:-
· The Taylors University Exemplary Meritorious Award Staff (‘EMAS’ Award) in 2017 (which means a lot to me being first recipient in the history of Taylor’s Law School to receive the award)
· The Gold Award and Most Innovative Award from University of Malaya in 2017
· The Gold Award in IUCEL Conferences in 2018 and 2019 and
· The President’s Award for Transformative Teaching and Learning from Taylor’s University
I have been with Taylors University for 9 years and there was never a dull moment here. As a lecturer, I was in search for growth and Taylors University not only provided the opportunity but also the support to continue learning and to keep innovating the methods in teaching law.
Inspired by my work environment and my students, we kept going, and won the Gold Award for the EMAS Award in October 2020, for our latest innovation, the ‘LawleyPop’ app to introduce alternative assessment for English Legal System and English Land Law. This also speaks volumes of team work. This project was a collaboration between two schools namely Taylor’s Law School and Taylor’s Design School, particularly two individuals, Mike Choong and Razif Mohamed who helped bring this project to fruition.
At the international level, my project on “Redesigning Legal Assessment with Augmented Reality and Gamification” was shortlisted as the Top 12% among the 1,500 applicants worldwide, for the Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Awards 2020. This nomination is very significant to lecturers around the world as it is considered as the ‘Oscars of Education’. Although we didn’t win, the experience to be on the same platform as other innovators around the world was truly eye-opening and inspiring for me.
"Industry transformation is always related to technologies adoption and solutions deployment. We often heard about technologies namely IoT, A.I, AR etc... How did you apply Augmented Reality into the law studies framework? Gamification is something unique to us and we are delighted to understand the implementation of it."
/"We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another. In its scale, scope and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.” Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, had stated that in his article “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What it Means, How to Respond” in 14 January 2016.
We are already seeing emerging technology breakthroughs in various fields including robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotech, Internet of Things, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, etc. happening and directly or indirectly affecting our lives. Thus, we now have a choice of innovation or obsolescence.
I was a law student before but imagine my dilemma – I loved studying law but I dread learning law because of how it was taught! When I became a law lecturer I was determined to break this paradigm and make law a joy to learn. What I did was to stimulate students’ minds through creative-thinking, by challenging them to tread beyond their comfort zones to arrive at a particular solution, instead of regurgitating the law. That led to the introduction of Augmented Reality (AR) in the physical and online classroom to empower students to spark innovative solutions from outside the classroom.
With AR, students will get a composite view of the real world overlaid with a 2D or 3D computer-generated image. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the application of AR was done during tutorial sessions where students will receive a docket containing a riddle which they had to solve in groups. Students were required to walk around the campus and approach various people to ‘crack’ the riddle. Upon finding the correct answer to the riddle, students will receive another docket containing a legal issue on a topic that they have not yet learnt in class. Hence students needed to find an image around campus which will provide the computer-generated image of myself explaining the law relating to the legal issue.
Upon viewing the video, students will then need to provide solutions to the legal issue to the member of the public who will rate their explanation of the law. This is an interesting activity for the students as it will assess students on a number of levels – students’ ability to work in teams, to work under pressure, to exercise empathy, to use latest technologies in researching the law, to develop confidence in approaching and advocating the law to the members of the public.
The COVID-19 pandemic had of course disrupted how students can learn law using AR. This was when I collaborated with Mike Choong and Razif Mohamed from Taylor’s Design School who had lent their assistance in developing the ‘LawleyPop’ app and embedded elements of AR into the custom-made mobile applications. Instead of applying AR in tutorial session, it was incorporated into students’ assignments where students will need to download the app, pass the first stage of the ‘security’ check by completing the activities before students can receive a secret pass code to unlock the second stage. Students will need to scan the secret pass code using their mobile app where an augmented 2D image will appear on students’ phone. This will unlock the second stage where students will need to attempt a second set of activity before they can have access to the assignment question. The aim of the activity is for the students themselves to gauge their own understanding of the law before they can actually receive the assignment question.
Now apply this technology to legal practice. Since AR can superimpose virtual elements over real-world items, imagine a contract where components of the document are overlaid with links to additional resources, references to similar documents, pop-ups with best practices, etc. This would provide true just-in-time learning directly within the workflow at the exact point of need, mixing knowledge management and learning in a true real-time application.
AR technology has the potential to transform the law school experience. We are at the brink of what I think is going to be a revolution in the way we train our students. There are so many possibilities on how we can mould our future lawyers using emerging technologies appropriately and creatively. These are exciting times – and the possibilities are endless. I am mindful that it will take a while before AR or VR establishes a foothold in law schools. Even for myself, I incorporated AR with zero-budget and therefore the use of AR is limited to certain extent. However, I am confident with time when the cost of AR becomes more affordable, there will be more legal educators experimenting with AR / VR technology.
I am also mindful of the sea of change sweeping the legal profession. With the existence of artificial intelligence, there is a growing gap between emerging technologies and the law. Hence the need to cultivate innovative thinking to enable the students to be better equipped to address this gap.
Towards this end, I have also incorporated gamification into learning law. Whilst the students are still at law school, they are provided with a safe simulated learning environment to explore various solutions, ideas and technologies. Then, when they face the real world they are ready to create an impact.
Gamification does not mean designing video games for students to play at home. It has nothing to do with PlayStation or the use of game consoles. It is about incorporating game mechanics into our lessons. For example, when people play any type of games, they want to be immersed in the storyline and gather as many points possible and ultimately win at the end of the game. The same concept applies to gamifying learning.
What I did was introduced a point system in my online classes where the students earn points by participating and asking questions. By gamifying the lessons, students will become more interactive because they know they will be rewarded for their active contributions in class. They will also be able to keep track of their own performance in class throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, the students will be able to see their overall points acquired and they will also be awarded for their performance in my class.
To make it even more impactful, I would secure awards in the form of sponsored merchandises. In these challenging times, Malaysia Competition Commission (‘MyCC’) had offered internship opportunities in 2021 for the top 5 performers in my class. The MyCC, being one of Taylor’s University’s MOU partners, responded positively on the innovative approach to teach law using AR and gamification. The MyCC provides an example how a regulator can take cognizance on the importance of modern learning which will produce quality graduates.
"In business, everyone talked about Covid19 post pandemic. We believe it is the same in educational segments. Kindly share with us the effects and transformation in between; how did you adapt into the new teaching/ lecturing environment?"
/At the institutional level, Taylor’s University was well-prepared! Following from the SARS pandemic in 2003, Taylor's University was impacted when classes had to be cancelled. As a preventive measure to safeguard the students’ health and minimise future disruptions, Taylors University made a strategic decision to invest in online facilities and trainings to equip all lecturers with skills to deliver lessons online. These facilities were utilized when Malaysia was hit by the haze and events that necessitated campus closure. Riding on this initiative, Taylor’s Law School had even allocated one week in each semester for blended learning where all teaching and learning would take place online for the entire week. All lecturers had to improvise their course content, learn new tools and application, explore new resources and go with the flow.
On a personal level, I discovered that when it comes to online learning, there is no “one-size that fits all”. Despite the gamifying approach that I embedded into online learning, it impacted different students and different cohorts differently. In the last semester, when we had to suddenly shift to online learning in an ad-hoc manner, students had benefitted from my teaching methods that I implemented in class. They were generally actively engaged in discussion, well-prepared for class and looked forward to the end of the semester for the results of the top 5 best performers in my classes.
However, my biggest challenge was having students who, although small in number, were not enthusiastic, did not want to participate and questioned the unconventional approach in learning law. However, I managed to overcome this through being open with them, explaining the bigger picture and how it will assist them in the future.
I truly believe that when we put our minds into something, anything can be done no matter how impossible it might seem at first. When dealing with a new initiative, everyone has to play their part and keep an open mind. The key is to consciously overcome the resilience and unfounded fears and move out from the comfort zone. Only then can we learn and grow.
Online teaching offers versatility, convenience, enhanced learning and interaction and of course, reaches out to more audience. Yes, I believe in online teaching and I stand witness that online teaching works!
"We are equally honoured when we got to know you are one of the recipients in the upcoming event better known as Empowerment Movement. How do you define empowerment in terms of educational aspects? What is your vision in year 2021?"
/This year, marks my ninth-year teaching law. What I have learned throughout this duration is that life is a continuous learning journey even for myself. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work for an institution that provides the freedom for lecturers to explore beyond the conventional teaching pedagogies. This has enabled me to experiment various methods to shape the law students. By providing them the tools to be critical thinkers, creative problem solvers and by recognizing their potentials and opportunity to excel, they had demonstrated that they were capable of taking on the responsibility to become the best that they could be. That’s empowerment!
In empowering the law students to tap on their creativity to continually explore new ideas, it is possible for a century-old profession to shift the paradigm of legal education to become innovative and adaptive. I would have never expected students to be comfortable in using AR or gamification in learning law but they have displayed that they can shine and thrive despite the ‘challenges’ that they had to overcome.
My vision for 2021 is to continue to transform the law school experience and bring the law education to a new high. It is also my vision is to mould our future lawyers using emerging technologies appropriately and creatively with V.I.C.T.O.R.Y - that is for them to have Vision, Inspiration, Creating own opportunities, Tenacity, Optimistic, Resilient and Yearn to Excel, so that they will have the impetus to propel themselves towards the direction of their dreams, whatever the challenge.