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March 21, 2008

Report on Tech "Experiment": Teaching from home

posted by Elmer Masters

With permission from Prof. Jonathon Ezor of Touro Law Center, I wanted to share this post from the teknoids mailing list. Prof. Ezor made good use of available technology to hold classes that would have otherwise been canceled.  This provides a reasonable prototype that other schools can look at for developing distance ed applications.

From the Teknoids post:

I thought the Teknoids community might be interested in the below report I
sent to our faculty and deans regarding an experimental effort that allowed
me to teach my Cybercrime class from home twice this week, after various
family illnesses made it probable that I would otherwise have to miss the
class.  Special thanks to Touro's IT professionals (including frequent
Teknoids participants Peter Stanisci and Matt Perna, along with their
colleague Rich Quinn) for their enthusiastic, last-minute help in making this
work.  {Jonathan}

---------------------------cut here--------------------------------

To my colleagues:

As promised, I am reporting back after my experiment teaching my Cybercrime
class from home.  Although I had initially only planned on doing so once, on
Monday, I ended up having to do so again this morning as well (again on very
short notice--kudos to the IT department), so my report is based on two days
of experiences.

In short:  It worked.

More specifically, it worked adequately, particularly given how little
advance planning had gone into this impromptu experiment.  We used two pieces
of software: the free audio/video chat program Skype (http://www.skype.com),
and a free Skype add-in called YugmaSE (http://www.yugma.com) which allowed
me to share my computer screen and/or a window (in this case, a PowerPoint
presentation) with the students via Skype.  Peter Stanisci and the IT staff
had already built a rolling computer setup with an attached video camera they
call the Kramer Cart (after Lynne Kramer, who used it first to record her
trial advocacy students), which had Skype installed on it.  They added the
YugmaSE software and brought the cart into the classroom, pointing the camera
toward the students and using the room's screen and projector to show the
Kramer Cart's computer display.  They connected the entire setup to the
Internet.  On my end, I was running Skype and YugmaSE from home, connected to
my home Internet router, with my own Webcam and microphone.  At the start of
class, we established a standard Skype connection (audio and video), then
started the YugmaSE software and set up the screen sharing on both ends.
Once I began the PowerPoint presentation, the students were (from what I've
heard) able to see the slides and hear me clearly (I turned off my camera
while showing the presentation, to save on bandwidth).  Although the
classroom lights were out to make the screen more visible, I could see the
students fairly clearly, and hear them as well (although it was easier to
hear them when I was wearing headphones, versus using my laptop's own

It was not entirely bulletproof.  During the first day, the PowerPoint
connection froze and had to be restarted in the classroom, although I was
able to continue the lecture and discussion portion.  Today, it was my
computer that crashed (probably because I hadn't prepared it appropriately
before starting), and the students had to wait for 5 minutes while I called
the room via telephone and rebooted my machine.  The students also had to
bunch themselves together a bit in their rows to fit the camera's field of
view.  That said, this very cobbled-together, free setup saved me from having
to reschedule two classes, and I accomplished real teaching.

I would not recommend this solution for everyone; it requires a reasonably
high level of technical sophistication by the teacher, and needs an IT person
in the room just in case.  It does, though, give us a backup for certain
situations, and shows a method that (with the right, non-free resources)
might scale up to reliable ways to do this.  Beyond that, it was just fun to

I welcome your feedback, and would be happy to show you the software on my
office laptop.  Thanks for your collective interest.  {Jonathan}

Prof. Jonathan I. Ezor
Assistant Professor of Law and Technology
Director, Institute for Business, Law and Technology (IBLT)
Touro Law Center
225 Eastview Drive, Central Islip, NY  11722
Direct: 631-761-7119  Fax: 516-977-3001
e-mail: jezor@tourolaw.edu


March 21, 2008 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 20, 2008

Why some rankings don't change

With the start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament today, it's intriguing to ponder why basketball rankings change so much while law school rankings change so little.  One explanation, of course, is that the personnel on a college team change much more frequently than the faculty at a law school.  Another may be that in basketball there is a dynamic way to effect change (upset victories) while in law schools continuing reputations may overwhelm all else.  But does this account for the full measure of relative stasis we see in the law school rankings, which seem unaffected by innovation?

Another distinction may lie in what law schools do-- serve as the conduit for ideas, from teachers to students (teaching) and from those teachers to the rest of the world (scholarship).  A Duke University Engineering Professor, Adrian Bejan, thinks he has an answer:

Like branching river channels across the earth's surface, universities are part of a relatively rigid network that is predictable based on "constructal theory," which describes the shapes of flows in nature, argues Adrian Bejan, J. A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

"This hierarchy is here to stay," Bejan said in an interview. "The schools at the top serve everybody well because they serve the flow of ideas. We're all connected."

This theory makes more sense than some I have heard when applied to law schools.  It does seem that scholars at top-ranked schools are better at getting ideas into the flow of information, whether because of ability or access or both. 

-- Mark Osler

March 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2008

Harvard's Move--Why Don't More Graduates Choose Public Interest Jobs?

Jonathan Glater reports in the New York Times that Harvard Law School has offered to eliminate third-year tuition if a student promises to work five years in the public interest (clerkships included):
Concerned by the low numbers of law students choosing careers in public service, Harvard Law School plans to waive tuition for third-year students who pledge to spend five years working either for nonprofit organizations or the government. The program, to be announced Tuesday, would save students more than $40,000 in tuition and follows by scant months the announcement of a sharp increase in financial aid to Harvard’s undergraduates.
Glater reports that only 10% of current graduates from Harvard Law go into nonprofit organizations or the government:
From 2003 to 2006, as many as 67 and as few as 54 of the 550 students graduating from Harvard Law went to work for a nonprofit organization or the government. That translates to 9.8 to 12.1 percent of the graduating class. A vast majority of students have chosen to join law firms, where they can earn well over $100,000 a year immediately after getting their degree.

Dean Kagan rightly worries that many may be choosing lucrative law firm careers because of the debt load they carry. And this move is certainly clear and helpful in reducing debt .

There are, of course, concerns other than finances that might motivate graduates to choose private law careers, at least in the first few years, over public interest careers, even if they might prefer to work in the public interest:

(1) Training--public interest and government careers may not offer adequate training because they may lack the resources--and the economies of scale--available to large law firms.

(2) Lack of jobs--for every job in the public interest, there are a score of private sector opportunities; there simply are not enough public interest jobs for everyone interested in taking on such jobs.

(3) Long term livelihood--public interest jobs may not provide sufficient income to enable one to support a family, especially so in major metropolitan centers of the country.

Many schools, including Harvard, already have in place loan forgiveness programs by which the institution repays your debt for the years you spend in public service after school. UC Davis and Yale have particularly generous programs in this regard, and I'm sure Harvard's loan forgiveness program would equal them.

I wonder if this move would actually save Harvard money by reducing interest repayment charges for graduates choosing public interest careers.

Stanford Dean Larry Kramer offers this comment:

“This is an interesting move,” Larry Kramer, dean of the law school at Stanford, said of the Harvard initiative. Compared with other loan repayment assistance programs, Mr. Kramer said, “It’s unclear whether it is more generous.” It may be, he said, that loan forgiveness over a longer period of time may encourage more students to go into public service and stay there. He added that it would take time to see how students reacted to the program.
Anupam Chander

March 19, 2008 in Money. money, money | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 18, 2008

Boston College Law School Announces First-Year Curriculum Changes

From the press release:

Two years ago the School semesterized the first-year calendar, and shortened course offerings in Torts Contracts, and Property (the first two courses from 5 credits to 4, and the latter course from 6 credits to 4). The faculty also added Criminal Law as a required course in the spring semester. 

After recent lengthy meetings, the faculty made two further changes that were recommended by the Educational Policy Committee: to start the second semester one week later in January, and to eliminate [Introduction to Lawyering and Professional Responsibility] from the first year curriculum and to allow first year students to take a 3 credit elective in its place.

See also the School's eBrief for background, Spotlight: Curriculum Reform. -- Joe Hodnicki

March 18, 2008 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

AU WCL to Host Conference on Innovations in the First-Year Law Curriculum

American University’s Washington College of Law will host the conference “Innovations in the First Year Curriculum” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, March 21, 2008 [Details]

Sponsored by the WCL's Integrated Curriculum Program, Office of Academic Affairs and Office of the Dean, the conference is free and open to the public . It will bring together academic leaders from the Washington College of Law, as well as those from Georgetown, Howard, Indiana, New York, Northeastern, Rutgers, Seattle and Washington & Lee universities, the universities of Maryland, Michigan and Minnesota, City University of New York, and William Mitchell College of Law, to discuss some of the changes in theory and instruction related to the first-year law school experience.

The panel discussions and short presentations will explore recent developments, including integrated and transcurricular teaching, the inclusion of clinical or practice-based instruction, reconfiguration of first-year legal writing programs, first-year electives and other innovations. -- Joe Hodnicki

March 17, 2008 in Conferences, Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack