Using Online and Face-to-Face Simulations in Human Rights Tertiary Teaching: A Comparative Analysis
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Learning environments and delivery modes in tertiary education have experienced rapid changes in the past 15 years. A key development has been the increased use of information technology and offering tertiary education online. This paper explores whether simulation exercises used to teach international human rights law at a postgraduate level in a face-to-face setting could be adapted for online teaching. It presents findings from a simulation of a United Nations (UN) human rights treaty body review used in both face-to-face and online settings. As a pedagogical tool, simulations are an active learning technique which seek to recreate real-life scenarios in the classroom in order to engage students and promote learning. They have also been identified as an important way of bridging the ‘knowing–doing’ gap. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data from student surveys and peer reviews, this paper found that face-to-face and online students generally perceived that a range of skills had been developed from their participation in the simulation. Further, on average, there was a weaker but general agreement that participation in the simulation contributed to personal and professional goals and development in the area of human rights for both online and face-to-face students. These results are significant, suggesting that despite the differences between face-to-face and online learning environments, online simulations can be used to foster students to engage and connect, and to create online learning communities. However, group work was raised as a particular challenge for online students. Solutions to this and the need for further research are discussed.
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