One of the programs presented at this year's CALI conference in Chicago was on creating web-based interactive exercises on legal research. Gretchen VanDam and Fred Barnhardt from the Chicago-Kent Law School Information Center and Petal Kinder, from Monash University both demonstrated some wonderful exercises they had developed to teach legal research skills. Also part of that conference was a presentation on CALI's new approach to lesson development, which breaks down topics into small pieces upon which a short-form (15-45 minute) lesson, (a/k/a "lessonette", a term now trademarked by CALI) may be built. Following that program, a group of law librarian attendees had dinner together, and talked about ways we could create these sorts of exercises without each of us "reinventing the wheel."
CALI has been soliciting and paying law school faculty authors to develop exercises for the first year law school subjects, but their emphasis is on the "substantive" courses. Criminal law was done last year, and Property is the focus for this year. For more information on this effort, the topic grids and the concept of the lessonette, I refer you to the Topic Grids link on the CALI website: http://www.cali.org/fellows/grids/OriginOfTheGrids.html. In the present timetable, it will be several years before Legal Research comes up in the rotation.
We don't want to wait that long! One of the diners in the group (and yes, it was a great meal, too!) was Tory Trotta, our immediate past Section Chair, who felt strongly that the Academic SIS should take this on as a project in conjunction with CALI. Thus was this project born!
The steering committee for this venture is: myself as chair, Nancy Johnson, Tory Trotta, and Sally Wise. John Mayer from CALI and Liz Kelly who is on the CALI Board are serving as consultants. The group is currently focusing on developing the "topic grid" for Legal Research. Deb Quentel of the CALI staff had a preliminary draft prepared and we are working to flesh it out. The current plan is to have a draft of the grid prepared by the end of October which will then be circulated via the ALL-SIS and LAWLIB listservs for comment and suggestions. We hope to finalize a working version by the AALS Conference at the beginning of January.
Once the grids have been established, we will be inviting those librarians and faculty who are interested to submit one-page proposals for computer/web-based training materials for specific topics in the grid. Proposals will be reviewed by the Steering Group and CALI's Director of Curriculum Development, Deb Quentel, and CALI will pay authors of accepted proposals a $250 deposit and $750 upon completion of the exercise! Accepted authors sign a contract with CALI to produce the exercise, and CALI will provide technical and authoring assistance. CALI has a limited budget, so we will only be able to go ahead with about 25 exercises this year, but that will be a great start!
There are still many details of substance and procedure to work out, but CALI will be posting information about this project on its website by the end of October. Interested section members who might wish to comment on the topic grid or author an exercise should stay tuned to the listservs, the CALI website, and this newsletter for further information. You may also contact me directly with specific inquiries: email@example.com. Thanks.