eLaw Journal: Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, Vol 17, No 1 (2010)

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Legal Education and E-Learning: Online Fishbowl Role-Play as a Learning and Teaching Strategy in Legal Skills Development

Kathy Douglas, Belinda Johnson


Online role-playing provides the opportunity for law students to engage in authentic learning activities. This paper describes and discusses design options in online learning that may be used to teach the theory and practice of selected legal skills, such as negotiation/mediation and legal interviewing.  The paper outlines four online ‘fishbowl’ models of role-playing where students can consult theory and then interact in an online role-play.  In these design choices students can interact in an online role-play or simply observe other students in role online.  All students are involved in the critique of interventions and choices made in the fishbowl role-play through the use of online tools. This approach has pedagogical benefits as the opportunity for reflection before choice of action in a role-play is often not possible in the faster paced classroom environment.  In this paper the authors provide detail of four models of online fishbowls that may be used in a blended learning design, where role-plays are played out in the class room as well as online or solely in the e-learning environment.  Additionally, options in the use of online tools, such as discussion boards, wikis and blogs, to play out and debrief the online role-plays are discussed.


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