Created with BARBRI

How one law school is embracing technology to bring SQE success

Avatar photo

By Sophie Dillon on

BARBRI’s Jody Tranter discusses how the law school’s innovative approach helps create bespoke learning experiences for its students

“My whole career has been in education,” says Jody Tranter, BARBRI’s Head of Learning & Product. The core of her career has been focusing on using data to create improvements in legal and professional education. “Even before AI and data-driven approaches,” she says, “analysing what’s working well to create improvements was at the heart of my role”. So, when her former employer Altior was acquired by BARBRI in 2019, the move “fit seamlessly with my skillset, because BARBRI is very data and technology driven when it comes to providing what students really need to be successful”.

Talking innovation in legal education, Tranter explains that this ethos is embedded in the core offering at BARBRI. “Technology is really at the heart of what we provide because we have always been a fully online provider,” she tells Legal Cheek Careers. “Our technology feeds into our course design and enables us to fully personalise each learning programme, allowing each student to have an individualised learning experience”. In this vein, for Tranter, legal innovation is about capturing the ability to adapt new forms of learning to fit all types of aspiring lawyers.

Jody Tranter, Head of Learning & Product at BARBRI

But how is this really showcased at BARBRI? Tranter gives us the details. “By leveraging over 50 years of experience in legal education, our learning platform is designed so that all of the content that students need is there, at the point at which they need it,” she says. “This way, our students can consume that content in a way which is suitable for them.” She tells us that this is really where the technology-focus at BARBRI comes in.

“Our learning platform guides each student individually, by for example, guiding students on how many hours to spend on each topic per day and how many tasks to do”. This platform self-adjusts its timetabling depending on whether students want to block out certain times each week for other commitments, she explains. “If a student falls behind their personalised schedule, our platform will also guide them on which tasks to focus on, by assigning them the tasks that are more impactful to their learning first.” BARBRI sees a diverse array of students, from solicitor apprentices to those qualified overseas, non-law graduates and more. These course design features are one of the ways that BARBRI tailors its content to suit individual needs.

This personalisation is key when it comes to preparing for the Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE), we’re told, because it’s no misnomer that the SQE is not a walk in the park. “They’re very challenging exams,” Tranter begins, “but it’s not a challenge to succeed if you’re well prepared”. She says the US Bar Exam has consisted of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) for a number of years  — a similar structure to the SQE1 exams.

Find out more about SQE Prep with BARBRI

“In the UK we’re adjusting to this style of examination, and this shift is what is more challenging. Students and providers should understand that assessing students in this way is so different to other assessment formats and requires a different type of learning and preparation,” Tranter says.

BARBRI’s experience preparing students for the likes of the New York and California bar exams has helped build its reputation in preparing students for this style of assessment. “We’re always looking at how students score on exams, which parts of each exam have students performed well on, which parts have they found more challenging and how is each student doing individually,” says Tranter. By running statistical analysis in the background, BARBRI determines whether its learning methods are statistically sound.

“We’re able to utilise and analyse that data to improve and personalise our courses. For example, in a typical lecture scenario, you can never fully understand and analyse individual student comprehension. But at BARBRI, we’re lucky to have the data-capture technology to help each individual student succeed on each course and prepare them fully for the exams,” she tells us. This helps BARBRI to target the support that each student needs to succeed, whether studying full-time or part-time, a law graduate or a non-law graduate, or have additional learning needs.

“The learning science we put behind the scenes, in terms of how people best learn, has been built into each programme to get the best outcome from each student,” Tranter explains.

LegalEdCon 2024: Final release tickets on sale now

Tranter is quick to reassure that even though technology and innovation may be “at the heart” of BARBRI’s offering, this doesn’t mean that students forego interactions with individuals. In fact, she stresses, individual contact and feedback is really at the root of its SQE offering. “Each student has access to a learning coach; an experienced person who they can reach out to at any time and make an appointment with,” she says. “So, if students are struggling with their mental health or need some extra support, they can reach out if and when they need it.” She says, “this support is really about helping to keep students motivated and on-track. This combination of personalisation and tech innovation is the key to success for BARBRI students.”

Emphasising that feedback and interaction with learning coaches is one of the unique selling points of its SQE courses, Tranter takes us through how this is structured: “For SQE 1, students receive instant feedback on their MCQ practice questions but also opportunities for live feedback and discussion with our Learning Coaches. Similarly, for SQE 2, we provide extensive amounts of individualised feedback on their skills assessments.” Tranter stresses that feedback is ultimately key to success in the exams because it provides the opportunity for both BARBRI and the student to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and work towards the assessment with those in mind.

Find out more about SQE Prep with BARBRI

On the theme of personalisation, we’re keen to explore with Tranter how the law school is approaching diversifying their offering to different learners. She highlights that the fundamental issue is that everyone will be taking the same assessment, but each individual’s path to that final assessment will vary. “With a huge array of students doing SQE preparation with the provider, it’s important that its courses are tailored in terms of accessibility to allow each type of learner to thrive”, she says.

Diving deeper, Tranter explains that “we’ve built all of our content with accessibility in mind, such as providing students with the ability to customise font colour and sizing options, text-to-speech technology etc”. For students with additional needs, “these facets are built into the tech from the start”. She further stresses the importance of homing in on developing the skills and techniques needed for students with additional needs to feel more confident tackling the exams. “To that end, we run workshops and strategy sessions to help all students learn those crucial exam techniques and to support students in adopting successful learning approaches that suit their learning preferences”.

Without giving too much away, we ask Tranter whether she can give us an insight into what BARBRI plans on covering at LegalEdCon2024. “The key thing for us is diversity, and how important it is to individual students and the profession as a whole”. She says, “the SQE was created to open up access and help to support more diversity in the profession, so we’ll be touching on the way we design our courses to support this ultimate goal.”

BARBRI will be speaking at LegalEdCon 2024, Legal Cheek’s annual future of legal education and training conference, which takes place in-person on Thursday 16 May at Kings Place, London. Final release tickets for the Conference can be purchased here.

Find out more about SQE Prep with BARBRI

About Legal Cheek Careers posts.

Related Stories

LegalEdCon 2024: First batch of speakers announced 

Law training experts join influencers, academics and mental health charity leader at Legal Cheek's annual in-person conference

Apr 17 2024 7:55am
careers SQE Hub

‘I studied law for the first time when preparing for the SQE – and I wouldn’t change a thing’

Legal Cheek Careers sits down with US law firm trainee Ellen Swarbrick to talk SQE, career change and TCs

Oct 9 2023 11:17am
careers SQE Hub

‘Securing an SQE scholarship helped me realise my solicitor dream’

Legal Cheek Careers catches up with BARBRI winner and trainee solicitor Nitesh Rewatkar

Jul 4 2023 11:59am