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November 16, 2007

Does U.S. News Measure What Law Students Care About?

According to Michelle Weyenberg in Law School Rankings at Math's Mercy, National Jurist (November 2007), the answer is "no." Of concern to students but missing from the USNWR rankings are such factors as

These certainly are the sorts of concerns one regularly hears from law school students but I'm not sure the quality of teaching can be measure unless a standardized teacher evaluation is implemented by the ABA/AALS but the other factors can be quantified.

In a comment to Paul Caron's TaxProf Blog post about this article, Michael Livingston questions the assumption that law students are in a good position to evaluate the quality of law schools. I think the point is that law student opinion of their schools is not a factor included in USNWR. Why not include a student review component along with the peer review and bench and bar review components? [JH]

Also posted on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

November 16, 2007 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 15, 2007

Another View of Wikis in Classrooms

Hillary Burgess sends along a description of her own long experience with using Wiki in classrooms. Note the kind offer to help Wiki newbies at the end of the note. Anupam Chander

Wiki - Paperless communication with students.

By Hillary Burgess, Adjunct Professor, Rutgers School of Law - Camden

What Wiki Is:

If you’ve ever visited wikipedia, you’ve seen wiki software in use. Wiki software is one of the fastest growing technologies used by fortune 500 companies.

The software allows users to create and revise documents using any standard Internet browser. It also saves a copy of every version you create, so it’s great for policy manuals in the work force, shared group projects, and drafts of course papers. Most wiki software is freeware, so it’s the right price for all budgets!

Benefits Of Wiki:

I’ve used wiki technology in my classroom for several years. (Eg. http://prof.hillaryburgess.com/ then click courses.) I’ve found it very helpful for me and the students, so I thought I’d share how I’ve used it in my courses.

I keep all of my important course documents available on the wiki. By putting this information available on the web, students have access to it whether or not they have their syllabus or assignment schedule in hand. On the first day of class, I give students a one-page document that tells them how to navigate to the course page, read the syllabus, and locate the assignment schedule. This one page document saves the university the paper and photocopying expenses of the syllabus and assignment schedule, too. Plus, as we modify the assignment schedule over the course of the semester, I don’t have to re-distribute; students just check the online version.

Because the basis of wiki is being able to modify documents from any web browser, I don't have to have any fancy software to create sound web pages or modify the content of my web pages. As such, I can develop my courses from any computer with an Internet connection and a web browser.

I have students post their papers to my wiki. I’ve found numerous advantages to having students post papers online. I have papers due at times not linked to class, so I avoid students skipping class and rushing in 2 minutes before class is over to turn in their paper “on time.” Also, when students are off-campus the day an assignment is due, there’s no reason for extensions or early submission, students just turn the paper in from wherever they are. (I even had a student submit work from Italy one time.) Finally, I have a LOT less to lug around and can grade papers anywhere I can find a private computer with Internet access.

I give students feedback on the wiki. I protect the feedback/grade page so that only the individual student can see the feedback, though my in-line (margin) comments can be seen by all. Giving students feedback becomes easier, too. I put my margin comments right in their text, but I have a standard feedback page that contains all of the comments I’ve ever given to any students. I reuse these comments and customize them as needed, deleting the ones that don’t apply to the current student's paper. Since we tend to give the same or similar advice over and over, I’ve found this common feedback page allows me to provide extensive, thorough, and detailed feedback in less than 5 minutes per student (not including reading and commenting in-line).

Another advantage is that I am introducing students to a technology that many have not had experience with, but very well could as they begin their careers. That said, most students have read entries on wikipedia already, so they have some familiarity with wikis. Some students have even edited wikipedia's pages! Since wiki literally allows students to “write” web pages, I’ve also built up the technical aspects of their qualifications for their resumes. And since it's the fastest growing technology in fortune 500 companies, knowledge of how to use this technology could give them an edge.

I’ve found that the students adjust to using a wiki very quickly and many of them come to rely on the convenience of having course documents available and turning in papers online. Some students are more resistant, but I just keep reminding them that they are building their resume and learning a technology that they might be expected to use in the work force.

The software is easy to install and fairly easy to customize. I allow everyone to see my course documents, but only students in a class can see each other’s work (they work collaboratively), and only each individual student can see his/her private feedback and/or grade. These security measures take some work, but are fairly easy to understand.

A question I get a lot is, “why not just use WebCT?” The main argument against WebCT is that students will NEVER use WebCT software in the business world, so we are making students learn a technology that doesn't translate into business skills. As much as possible, I try to keep all learning connected to a learning objective that translates into knowledge or skill-building students could use in their future careers.

Other Applications for Wiki:

I’ve used the software in my doctrinal courses (both undergraduate and graduate) in keeping with my philosophy that “every class is a writing class.” (hat tip The College - U Chicago) I’ve also used the software with my writing courses, primarily because of the version tracking and document compare (with any version) features. Also, every time wiki saves a version, it provides a time and author stamp - very useful for grading full/no credit assignments.

Finally, I can see how it would be an excellent tool for ASP, both as a repository and as an interactive tool. It would be easy for faculty to post sample exams and sample answers (either emailed to you to post or posted directly) without having to use the network department. Faculty could comment on sample answers - what made them good, for example - without a lot of document exchange. And, all of the information could be accessed online.

Wiki could also be used interactively for tutors to help at-risk and 1L students. The students could post briefs, outlines, etc. online and the tutor could give feedback. (Though, I would still recommend that tutors meet with their students!) Students could also use the technology (with permission) to facilitate sharing study group documents (though I'm not a big fan of study groups divvying up outlines since students learn and review the material best by outlining themselves) and even for chat-group style questions about the material. Obviously, the interactive piece would only be useful for students who are already familiar with the technology.


If you’re interested in wiki, you can visit my site ( http://prof.hillaryburgess.com) for samples. If anyone is interested in incorporating wiki technology into your courses, I can walk you through the installation process and/or offer tips that I’ve learned over the years to make the process more efficient.

November 15, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Understanding US News Law School Rankings

Link: SSRN-Understanding the U.S. News Law School Rankings by Theodore Seto. Loyola (Los Angeles) prof Theodore Seto has written an important study of the US News methodology, which should raise many cautions among those who rely upon the study.

This Article explores in detail the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings. Its descriptions, analyses, and conclusions are based primarily on U.S. News' published descriptions of its 2006 computations, telephone conversations with U.S. News' staff clarifying those descriptions, and a spreadsheet I have written that approximately replicates those computations. The Article's goals are relatively modest: to help prospective students, employers, and other law school stakeholders read the U.S. News rankings more critically and to help law school administrators get a better handle on how to manage their schools' rankings. In addition, the Article suggests ways in which U.S. News methodology might be improved. It does not, however, purport to offer a systematic critique of either the U.S. News rankings or ranking in general.

Part I describes both U.S. News' 2006 methodology and problems involved in replicating it. Part II is intended to help prospective students, employers, and other law school stakeholders read U.S. News' results intelligently. Prospective students and others trying to understand how to use U.S. News' rankings in their decision-making may wish to focus on this part, although a reading of Part I may also be necessary to understand some of the technical details. Part III addresses the problem of managing rankings. Part IV, finally, suggests ways in which the rankings might be improved.

Anupam Chander

November 15, 2007 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nominations for CALI Board of Directors Due By November 28, 2007

From CALI:

The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) is seeking nominations of qualified and enthusiastic individuals to fill vacant positions on its Board of Directors. If you know of someone who would like to contribute to the research and development, strategic planning and governance of CALI, then consider nominating them for the CALI Board of Directors. It would be a good idea to clear it with the person first to make sure they want to be nominated. Self-nominations are acceptable. Nominations should be accompanied with the phone number, email address and institutional affiliation of the nominee. Also, please send along a current CV or a link to hmoe page/bio for the nominee.

Directors are required to attend two meetings a year (June during the CALI Conference and January during AALS). In addition, Directors serve on committees at the behest of the President of the Board and work on other projects and issues relating to the governance, strategy-setting and promotion of CALI’s mission and activities. Directors terms are for three years at which time their service is evaluated by the Nomination Committee along with other nominees. Service on the CALI Board is voluntary and gratis. Travel expenses for the Board meetings can be covered by CALI if institutional support is unavailable.

The list of all nominees will be submitted to the Nomination Committee who will determine a slate of candidates to be presented to the CALI Membership at the Annual Luncheon held on Thursday, January 3, 2008 during AALS in New York, NY All nominees will be contacted during the first week of December. Nominees who are chosen by the nominating committee are required to attend the CALI Board meeting on Saturday, January 5, 2008 in New York, NY.

CALI is a dynamic and forward-thinking 501(c)-3 non-profit corporation with big plans and big ideas. Qualified Directors should have knowledge and experience that they can contribute to the ongoing research and development of CALI’s mission. If you have any questions or wish to submit a nominations, contact John Mayer, Executive Director at 312-906-5307 or jmayer@cali.org. Visit the CALI website at www.cali.org to learn more about CALI’s activities.

-- Joe Hodnicki

November 15, 2007 in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wikipedia in Law Schools

Beth Simone Noveck has a new piece, "Wikipedia and the Future of Legal Education," in the Journal of Legal Education (Mar. 2007) promoting the use of Wikipedia and Wikis generally in legal education.

She compares Wikipedia to a "multi-author treatise," and notes that it allows experts who do not know each other to collaborate.  She also notes that Wikipedia can be updated more quickly than printed texts, and that Wikipedia allows for discussion and debate on a particular entry to be recorded alongside the entry.

She argues that Wikis encourage "the public exchange of reason," and teaches students "the democratic value of deliberation."  She argues that Wikis allow for an engaged mode of learning.

There's much to Noveck's argument.

Of course, students should not rely blindly on any source, printed or virtual, edited or un-edited.  (I'm sure Noveck would agree with that statement.)

Noveck encourages students to participate in creating Wiki entries, and I think this is an especially useful suggestion. 

Should professors bar students from using Wikipedia as an authority in their writing?  Does it matter whether the writing is intended to be a submission to a court?

Anupam Chander

November 15, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 14, 2007

Unusual Law School Drama...

Monday was the first day of my Criminal Practice class, which almost entirely consists of teaching the nuts-and-bolts of criminal advocacy, largely through the use of simulations.  For the past few years I have collaborated with Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard of Baylor's theater department, who turned me on to what may be the best play ever about criminal practice, Susan Glaspell's "Trifles."   The play involves a criminal investigation, and wonderfully frames the themes I use throughout the practical aspects of the course.

In the past, I have had the students read the play and then discuss it with Dr. Toten Beard.  For this quarter's session, though, DeAnna had something really great in store-- she somehow roped her colleagues into actually performing the play for the class.  It made the story meaningful in a way it hadn't been before, and the theater professors did a great job with it.  We really had an outstanding cast, too, including  Stan Denman, Chair of Baylor's Theater Department, whose acting was described by the New York Times as exemplifying "economy and grace."

The actors, in fact, seemed quite intrigued with the idea of performing at the law school, and the students understood the point of the exercise more quickly and deeply than in the past.  While such cross-discipline adventures have their risks, they also can provide new angles from which to view our work and the law.

-- Mark Osler

November 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

University Business Webinar Tomorrow: Is classroom technology working?

Enhanced Classroom Teaching & Learning: How do we know it’s working?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 2pm, EST

This University Business web seminar is free to attend but pre-registration required. For more information and to register, please visit www.universitybusiness.com/webseminars

-- Joe Hodnicki

November 13, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack