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Time Passages*

December 15, 2022

Victoria Watkins

As I reflect on 2022, what strikes me is how uneven the experience of time passing, or time passages, is. Time can crawl or stand still. And then suddenly, we’re propelled into a future that we barely understand. And repeat.

Earlier this year, Luke Heald, OsgoodePD’s Manager of International Programs, devised a simple, yet clever game for a team social event. He chose events that had occurred during the pandemic, either newsworthy or significant to the team only, and asked players to put those events in chronological order. You will likely not be surprised to hear that this task was difficult.

For many of us, the passage of time seemed to collapse during the peak of pandemic restrictions. Entire years disappeared into sameness, day after day, and it seemed like time was standing still. There was a “BP” era and there would be an “AP” era, with a time gap in between.

In 2022, we started to emerge out of that time gap, and the events that create shared memories and mark the passage of time in our personal lives – the first days of school, graduations, weddings, funerals – resumed, for the most part. At OsgoodePD, we had a series of post-pandemic “firsts” – the first in-person Osgoode Internationally-Trained Lawyers Day (OITLD), the first in-person convocation, the first in-person AND online Intensive Trial Advocacy Workshop, and the first in-person Professional LLM orientation. The option of in-person LLM classes and CLE programs returned, and while we provided both in-person and online options, for the most part both instructors and learners chose the online option. Whether that continues is an open question.

My hunch is that like remote work, when the option is provided, synchronous online teaching and learning is preferred by most adult learners, most of the time. It’s here to stay. At OsgoodePD, we’ve been at the forefront of online learning in professional legal education since 2000. We thought that online learning was the inevitable future. We also thought it would be years before we would see adoption of online learning at this scale, if ever. It feels like a leap forward in time.

Pandemic adaptations such as remote work and “most of the time” online learning aren’t the only forward leaps set to shape 2023 and beyond. The recently launched ChatGPT has awed users on its ability to generate sophisticated written answers to questions in various areas of expertise, using AI. ChatGPT and what follows will bring non-trivial changes to many domains, including legal education, law practice, and perhaps lawyer licensing (Apparently ChatGPT has passed a practice MPRE Bar Exam in the US!). The implications and potential of this powerful tool are still sinking in at only the surface level. At least for those of us who weren’t paying attention, ChatGPT accelerates the arrival of the future.

As 2022 tips over into 2023, no doubt there lay ahead of us an uneven experience of time, which like an accordion will sometimes feel compressed and sometimes feel expanded beyond a regular rhythmic beat. At OsgoodePD, we remain committed to adapting our degrees and programs, and how we deliver them, to the needs of our learners, instructors, and community.

From all of us to you, the very best of the holiday season, and health and happiness in the New Year. Our wish is that 2023 is a year that you remember well, and for all the right reasons.

* A salute to Al Stewart’s 1978 song.