Kevin A. Hinkley, J.D., visiting professor of political science and pre-law advisor, has approached the challenge of remote learning with characteristic thoughtfulness and reflection.
“In transitioning to remote learning, my foremost priority has been to ensure that every student has the opportunity to excel as we continue to pursue the learning objectives in each course I'm teaching,” he said. “And I'm committed to doing everything possible to accommodate students' needs during this uniquely challenging situation.”
Professor Hinkley uses video lectures to recreate the classroom experience to the maximum extent possible in the remote-learning environment. In them, he highlights key concepts, poses questions for students to consider, and offers his analysis of the Constitution, federal and state laws, Supreme Court decisions, and other readings, as he would in class.
He has also looked for ways to facilitate collective analysis, discussion, and collaboration within the class, he said. To that end, he has invited students in each of his courses to post responses to the week's readings to a discussion page, where they can also offer constructive comments on their classmates' responses.
“The virtual discussion has been remarkable,” he said. “I've been deeply impressed by the thoughtful, positive feedback students have provided to their classmates, and by the thought-provoking and insightful ideas that students have contributed to each discussion. To take just one example, students in Mental Health Law have focused attention on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting persons with mental illness, and they've offered creative solutions aimed at promoting access to critical mental health services—for instance, through expanding telemedicine and remote counseling.”
One of his biggest challenges, he said, has been redesigning hands-on learning projects, like his Civil Rights course’s culminating moot-court exercise, to fit the online environment. He was able to redesign this activity, which consists of simulated briefing and oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, in a way that allows each team of student-advocates to collaborate remotely and participate in oral arguments by video conference.
“I know that the students will be able to adapt effectively,” he said, “and I'm thrilled to see them stepping into the shoes of legal advocates taking on a real-life civil rights case!
“As a faculty member, and as a Niagara University alumnus,” he continued, “I have been inspired beyond words by our students' commitment to learning and by the feeling of community that binds together the entire Niagara University family.”