It seems comical to start this series questioning whether one needs education, and the whole purpose of SOCLI is to deliver education. Compulsory and optional education are of course two different things.
The aim of SOCLI (the Society of Learning and Information) is to provide online education for free or at minimal cost. Everyone should have the right to learn and gain an education irrelevant of their circumstances, and SOCLI hopes to provide the support and information needed to do this.
At the moment, SOCLI is concentrating on the provision of supplementary guidance to individuals of secondary school exam level age, which is ideally around 15 years old and above. There is future scope to provide materials and information to individuals who are younger, but the content would need adjusting, so it is easier to digest by someone below the age of 15. This stage is work in progress, so please watch this space.
As times goes on SOCLI is also planning to also provide formal accredited courses. The content of SOCLI is currently certified within, but the ultimate goal is to expand and provide formal accreditation which means that diplomas and degrees can be offered, supported by a governing body. This will also mean the expansion in growth as more tutors are welcomed to meet demand, and investment can then be made into the software providing a more seamless design and infrastructure, that tests the course content in the form of quizzes for example.
The UK recently had a general election, and one of the parties (Labour), suggested during their campaign, that if they won, they would significantly reduce university fees. I am a firm believer that if you are a skilled professional, you should not be ashamed to charge for your services, and this also goes for lecturers and teachers. I doubt education of university level will ever be inexpensive, and while some establishments could perhaps revise their pricing plans, universities are still businesses.
However, back to the main point, do we need qualifications?
It is beneficial to have qualifications, but you also need the experience to climb the ladder, and online courses help achieve this. Many cannot take a break from work to re-educate and gain further qualifications, and online courses should not cost the earth. The downside of online courses for some is that they can take longer to complete and they require more discipline.
My personal experience was renewed earlier this year. I am a serial course taker at heart, my core qualifications are in law. I have a law degree, and law masters, and I recently went through the mind-numbing experience of applying to universities to find one to support my PhD. Let’s just say the process has reminded me of a quote (actually, it is a slight paraphrase), from the first Jurassic Park film, which I hope will become clearer by the end of this:
Alan Grant: I have a theory that there are two kinds of boys. There are those that want to be astronomers, and those that want to be astronauts. The astronomer, gets to study these amazing things from a place of complete safety, but they never go into space.
I don’t remember the process ever being this hard years ago when I did my other degrees. Granted, this time around, I chose a topic that was hard to assess, but as I mentioned to one university, it is a topic that is currently so embedded in the modern legal system, there is no avoiding it, and it is set to evolve at an expediential rate. Hence the quote above, you may have university personnel with years of experience supervising these courses, but how many have actually gone into space?
I’ve lived in space for nearly 20 years, my solar system is the legal sector, predominantly dealing with eDiscovery (or electronic evidence). While most of my qualifications are in law, I also have my fair share of technology credentials, which is crucial when dealing with this line of work.
My topic of choice for my PhD is an amalgamation of the two, known as legal technology, and it is clear that the UK universities are not ready for it. However, it is quite rare in the legal sector to involve yourself in a PhD, but like many I choose to develop my skillset and qualifications for personal achievement, not necessarily to develop my career.
My proposal detailed the review process of electronic evidence, the privacy concerning digital communications and other data, and the continued challenges surrounding the dissemination and disclosure of digital data in court proceedings. While this thesis was going to highlight industry specific technology, the focus was on the law regarding the disclosure of electronic evidence (Civil Procedure Rules). The CPR has recently adopted changes to cope with the severe demand on legal teams regarding the number of documents they need to review, and the volume of digital communications will only increase especially as more apps akin to WhatsApp are developed.
Universities should be teaching this element in their courses as standard, as today’s solicitor is going into a technological world, and while they may not be qualifying into litigation, criminal or corporate law, they may well hold training seats in such departments. As time goes on, the digital data scope will not just be limited to these departments, and expansion is already being seen in the industry.
Other departments use alternative forms of technology like data rooms to carry out they work sufficiently. Unfortunately, the day of just reading the law for a lawyer is over.
There were three universities I applied to, that appeared to offer the right course to fit around my work and family, unfortunately none of them could assign a supervisor who knew enough about the subject area to accept me. It did take a few emails to establish this as I was initially met with a canned response. Remember, you are always entitled to know why you were not accepted at a university or job – if you are curious just ask.
Another route is to get my thesis published and maybe gain an honorary degree, however I may still encounter the same problem.
Aside from the painful application process, I find it disappointing that so many universities claim to have the best research facilities, courses and tutors under one roof, yet they cannot find a supervisor for a topic such as this. Research should help the sector as well as qualify and educate new talent. This also leads to me to wonder how many brilliant individuals are still being refused entry, because the university has not moved with the times?
For me, until the universities have caught up with the industry, my alternative route is to be published independently, and this is not a stray from reality at all, I am a professional after all, or gain my qualifications from an overseas establishment. The good thing about the UK is that you do not need to be a doctor of law, however it would have been a nice round-up to my current set of qualifications, not to mention unique.