AALL Spectrum Blog

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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
2/17/2015 1:57:18 PM

A Different View: Teaching Basic Legal Research to Library Students

This semester I have the pleasure of teaching Basic Legal Research to several graduate level Masters of Library and Information Science students in a mixed mode course offered at St. John’s University.  In taking up this course, however, I have found that teaching basic legal research to library students presents a whole different set of challenges, issues, and problems (as opposed to teaching legal research to law students) that are not necessarily addressed by the law library community.  Some of the challenges involved are endemic to education in the 21st century as a whole: things like, teaching methodologies; how to integrate technology in the classroom; how to keep students engaged; how to get students to participate in online classes; drafting effective assessments; and meeting course objectives and goals.  However, other challenges are distinct to this type of class.  In this case, the most difficult obstacle being--How do you structure a class when you have some students with no experience and others with an outright expertise in the law?  This large discrepancy in students’ background levels is quite common in today’s economy and occurs when you have a class where some students are barred attorneys with J.D.’s , some have had experience as paralegals or with state agencies, while yet others have no experience with the law whatsoever.  

Almost a month into the semester, I have no real answers to this challenge only a few small insights. First, interestingly enough, there is little in the way of materials and guidance that is specifically designed for legal research instruction for library students, even though 22 American Library Association accredited schools offer law library concentrations.  Second, because basic legal research at the library school level appears to be more about process, research materials for law students are helpful but need to consistently be altered in order to incorporate information science methodologies and strategies.  Third, tiered lesson plans seem to work best where introductory level students are given a basic foundation but extra information, tips and/or tricks are included (but not tested) for advanced students in order to keep them interested and engaged. Last, basic-level students should be given access to multiple reference materials for supplementary or recommended readings in order to help make things like definitions, citation, and basic legal concepts more accessible.

Taryn L. Rucinski
Branch Librarian, Southern District of New York Libraries
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Posted By Taryn Rucinski at 2/17/2015 1:57:18 PM  0 Comments
7/15/2014 3:03:23 PM

AALL Session Review: F3 Making a MOOC: Instruction Beyond Boundaries

Kyle Courtney; Harvard Law Library
Loren Turner; University of Florida College of Law
Jennifer Wondracek; University of Florida College of Law (she was sick and unable to present, but contributed to the presentation)

MOOCs (Massive open online courses) are not a thing of the future or the next big thing, but are in fact happening now. This very interesting and helpful session walked us through MOOCs and the challenges that librarians face when helping create MOOCs.

Kyle spoke first about copyright and IP concerns when it comes to creating a MOOC. These large online classes present new challenges such as the challenges to fair use in a large online class. Fair Use does not quite cover 3rd party materials like it would in a traditional classroom. Syllabus readings may not be available, and ephemeral and aesthetic resources (background art and music, film clips for entertainment) are more likely to be challenged under Copyright Law. Kyle spoke at length about how he and his team of "Copyright First Responders" deal with MOOCs at Harvard. They work to gain permission from publishers to use chapters (permission is often not forthcoming) and look for open access alternatives or another article that would be on-point for the topic. Fair Use continues to play a large role in the use of materials, but this new territory means that more oversight from librarians is required. One thing that Kyle said that I really enjoyed was that "librarians are managers of legal risk when it comes to copyright", which I think is an ideal way to empower libraries and their roles in academia moving forward.

Loren then walked us through the process of actually creating a MOOC. At the beginning of the entire session, we watched two promotional videos for MOOCs that Harvard and Florida had created. The branding of the MOOCs and the obvious inclusion of librarians in their production suggested that MOOCs can be used to generate interest and use for libraries and for law schools in general. Loren had a 9 step process that she very helpfully and thoroughly went through:

1. Check university policy for MOOC creation and select the MOOC provider you want to work with.
2 Assemble committed and interested faculty. Loren emphasized the 'committed' aspect of this step.
3. Agree on course objectives and goals.
4. Create the videos, research assignments and syllabi. This step is the most involved and also provided insight to how Coursera (the MOOC company Florida worked with) creates their videos. Loren explained how there is a Coursera studio at Florida with a Green Screen and Teleprompter that makes the videos more professional.
5. Determine the Course Certificates and Satisfaction goals. Coursera, as a for-profit company, offers a level called 'signature track' for certain classes that lends more respectability to the certificate for a cost to the student.
6. Launch the Course.
7. Watch the Discussion Forums. Florida's MOOC had 72 pages (!!!) of discussion topics, so hiring student assistants to monitor and track these boards was crucial. They would forward pertinent questions to the professors.
8. Solicit student feedback. Florida's feedback was largely positive.
9. Archive the course.

Access to the resources for students across the globe has proven tricky, as economic sanctions on countries such as Iran mean Coursera must seek special permission to 'send information or services' to that country.

Kyle wrapped up by talking about how there is plenty of space for librarians of all stripes in MOOCs, whether in front or behind the camera. Law librarians are in an especially unique place, since much of the primary content is public domain, making the law MOOCS potentially easier to create and avoid some of the Copyright pitfalls.

MOOCs are an exciting and interesting recent phenomenon that show no sign of going away. I plan on taking a MOOC this summer, and would encourage others to try it out as well. While MOOCs may never replace a traditional course, they can serve as great ways to market your library or school, educate users you wouldn't normally reach, or simply create something original. I'm looking forward to trying out my MOOC, and this session certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. 

Posted By Kris Turner at 7/15/2014 3:03:23 PM  0 Comments