First group on blended-learning education ready to defend their clients

 LEARN|RIGHT congratulates the first group of criminal defenders who has passed their exam on the new education. We have assisted the National Defender in Greenland in the process with the development of a curriculum and the planning and implementation of the education through an online learning management system with weekly e-learning topics in between the face to face courses in Nuuk. 

Huge congratulations to the newly educated candidates who after almost one year’s education passed their exam 1st of November 2019 on the new criminal defenders’ basic education. The National Defender in Greenlandare now able to nominate the candidates to become authorised criminal defenders at Greenland’s 1st instance courts. Here they will be ready to support their clients in criminal cases and contribute to a well-functioning justice system and access to justice in Greenland. 

There is reason for the candidates to be proud, it has not been an easy journey they have been on. As an outset, judges, defenders and prosecutors at Greenland’s 1st instance courts do not have law education, but are ordinary citizens educated in special designed practical education programmes. Thereto comes, that their defence job typically is carried out as a subsidiary occupation next to the defender’s primary occupation. This means, the candidates will carry out the education beside their main occupation and will have to take holiday or unpaid leave to participate in the face to face courses. And then the education is unpaid. 

Strengthened educational framework and contact to learners
It has been a positive surprise how well the online learning platform has worked as a unifying factor for an education spread over time and geography. The learning platform has contributed with an overview of and a common thread by collecting all information and communication in one place concerning e-learning, face-to-face courses, in-service training and exam at one place. It has indeed been a virtual classroom where candidates and the team behind the education, could tap into and be present together independent of where and when they were logged in. 

The candidates have been able to follow each other’s progression and answers and has appreciated the ongoing feedback on assignments and the helping hand from the other side of the screen on the way. We have on our side ensured regular and foreseeable feedback as well as done our best to answer quickly to inquiries and to cheer and motivate along the way. In the team behind the education we have from both Denmark and Greenland continually been able to follow the candidates progress in the e-learning and e.g. when they were assigned by the courts to carry out the 10 in-service training cases they were to handle.

The weekly wrap ups have contributed to driving the education forward and tie together an otherwise very scattered and individual education. As part of the wrap up of each week, the candidates wrote their main learning points and gave feedback to the content and form. Afterwards we as co-organisers wrapped up the week with their main results, what they found difficult and as well as introduced to the following week.

Challenges: Broken sea-cables and language 
The distribution of sea-cables and flat-rate internet in Greenland has made e-learning a far more attractive means of learning in a country where great distances between cities makes face-to-face learning cumbersome and expensive. But it has not been without problems. 

Along the way, several breaches of Greenland’s sea-cable supplying the internet traffic made the learning platform either slow or unavailable to the candidates. It sometimes delayed their work on the platform and at one point it transformed the e-learning into a letter course with content and assignments sent back and forth over e-mail.

Another challenge has been how to assist the candidates in carrying out their legal cases in Greenlandic. In Greenland the legal language is both Danish and Greenlandic and while most documents are presented in Danish, most legal cases in 1st instance courts are conducted in Greenlandic. Candidates in the programme are bilingual, but that does not necessarily mean that they know the terminology used in court. To reinforce that, in an education with primarily Danish-speaking teachers and developers, we created a version of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Criminal Code where the provisions are found side by side in the two languages. Also, we developed a series of videos in Greenlandic and held role plays in Greenlandic with interpretation. In addition, the candidates have submitted several written pleas in Greenlandic on the learning platform. What the candidates have most appreciated in this regard, however, have been videos of pleas in Greenlandic presented by experienced defenders, on case descriptions, to which the candidates themselves have previously submitted their own plea.

The Education of Criminal Defenders in the future
With so much material developed, the National Defender can easily build on the learning platform in future education.

For the time being, we have developed the basic education e-learning into a knowledge bank for the authorized defenders. Here they can look up their questions as needed, and we can use the bank as part of the ongoing in-service training.

Perhaps e-learning on the learning platform could also play a greater role in the abbreviated education for criminal defenders targeting graduates with a specific relevant background, as it has proved difficult to bring these candidates together in the face-to-face courses.

Finally, we look forward to reuse the learning platform and develop it into more basic education programmes in the future, so we can say congratulations to even more blended-learning trained criminal defenders.