LLS Staff Seminar #8: Teaching Law in the 21st Century: Blending Narrative, Simulation and Multimedia for Enhanced Cognition

In the eighth La Trobe Law School Staff Seminar for 2015, Professor Des Butler, Queensland University of Technology, will discuss the use of technology in teaching law in the 21st century.


For generations legal education reflected the philosophy once expressed in 1893 by English jurist AV Dicey, on the occasion of his inaugural lecture as Professor of English Law at Oxford University, that nothing “can be taught to students of greater value, either intellectually or for the purposes of legal practice, than the habit of looking upon the law as a series of rules.” Over time lectures used as a means of delivering rule-based content to a largely passive audience generally came to be supplemented by tutorials in which students were asked to consider theoretical questions and/or give advice regarding the legal positions of fictional participants in short disconnected text-based problems. This paradigm became the predominant means of legal instruction in law schools for decades.

In more recent times this traditional approach has been under sustained assault. First, several seminal reports criticised the sole focus of legal education on content – what lawyers know – at the expense of skills – what lawyers do. Then, with changing needs and desires of students and the advent of the digital age making ready available a wide range of technological tools to enhance learning, the traditional approach has increasingly been seen as thinking belonging to a bygone era. There is now abiding pressure for modern academics to adopt approaches to legal education that effectively combines class time with technology and to involve students in more active learning experiences.

This presentation examines an approach to learning and teaching that eschews the traditional approach and in its stead blends elements of narrative, simulation and multimedia in a manner that is both challenging and stimulating, and which better reflects the age in which we now live and teach.


Des Butler is a Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, QUT, where he served as Assistant Dean, Research (1997-2002). He has developed technology-based programs for enhancing the learning of law since 1990 and has now created or led the creation of 17 separate teaching innovations. He has received numerous awards for his work, including an Australian Award for Teaching Excellence and Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence and Distinguished Teaching. He is the only person to have been twice awarded the LexisNexis/ALTA Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Teaching of Law, having won the inaugural award in 2008 and again been the recipient in 2014. He was awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Fellowship in 2009 and in 2015 QUT named him its David Gardiner Teacher of the Year.


Date: Wednesday 19 August 2015

Time: 12.45am to 2.30pm

Venue: HS1 Meeting Room 204

Cost: Free

RVSP: Registration is required on Eventbrite

Marc Trabsky