Some tips on using Zoom or other video conferencing apps for your newly online class

When the semester started who knew it would finish as an experiment in moving legal education online quickly and in an emergency? I certainly didn’t see it coming but here we are.  In person classes are not going to happen again this spring and everything is moving online. I hope law faculty are getting all of the support they need from their local IT staff but even the best staff might not have the time to get into some of the nuances of teaching online. In this brief post I just want to mention a few things to keep in mind that might ease the transition to to online learning and teaching.

While I’ll be mentioning Zoom, there are are other equally useful video conferencing tools being used by law schools and universities for online learning and teaching. Many of the features mentioned generally are available on most video platforms, so if your inline course has a synchronous video component you can use these tips.

1: Practice, practice, practice

Get the software setup well ahead of your first class, figure out how it works, run through starting and finishing a class a few times. For Zoom, definitely download and use the desktop client that’s available for Mac and Windows. Flip through the settings and try different things. This is a powerful tool that is built to be easy to use at a “let’s just get this meeting started” level. Getting more out of it takes some practice.

2: Start with video off and audio on

When setting up a Zoom session you have the option of whether or not to have everyone’s video on or off at the start, same with audio. Allowing students to not use video is a good idea because some students may not be comfortable sharing their surroundings or looking into a camera for the entirety of class.

As for audio, have it turned on to start so everyone can say hi and then students can be muted if necessary.  I think everyone’s natural reaction when joining a conference call is to say “Hi!” and if they’re muted it causes a moment of confusion that’s easily avoidable.

3: Use a headset with a microphone and encourage students to use one too

Nothing will wrecks an online class faster than bad audio. A good headset is not expensive and relying on your laptop’s built in microphone and speakers is going to go horribly wrong at some point. Using a basic headset with microphone is going to avoid the vast majority of audio quality issues and good audio will keep the class moving forward.

4: Expect technical difficulties

Things will go wrong. Connections will drop. Screens will freeze. Sound and video will stutter. The Internet is a wild and woolly place where stuff happens. The most important thing you can do is keeping moving forward and …

5: Record EVERYTHING!

Zoom has a feature that will automatically record everything including saving chat logs. Turn it on. Then when students have tech issues you can just share the recording with them. I have heard that some schools aren’t planning on recording everything. I think that’s a mistake. Recordings of your class will be a very valuable asset for your students.

6: Over communicate with your students

They’re as new to this as you are. They may be familiar with some of the tools, but this is probably the first time they’ve taken a full course load of law school classes in a completely online setting. Let them know what to expect and when to expect it. Reassure them that you’re going to get through this together. Make it as smooth and comfortable as you can.

I know a lot of law faculty aim to make students uncomfortable and keep them on edge. Now really isn’t the time for that. We all have a lot on our minds beyond the walls of academia and it’s important to acknowledge that. Students can learn and faculty can teach the law in this new online world but it will be easier for both if everyone knows what to expect and everyone is treated with kindness.

As always, if you have any questions just drop me a line: elmer at teknoids.net

 

Overview of creating an Online Course with WordPress and LMS Plugins

Creating online courses in WordPress is easier than ever with the help of some amazing LMS (Learning Management Systems) plugins. It’s a great business model, considering the low startup costs, profits, ability to share your knowledge, and flexibility. What’s that? I think I hear the school bell ringing. So, let’s get to it… Here’s a bit of what I’ll be going over: Why even launch an online course using WordPress? Do you need an LMS plugin? 3rd party sites (and why they’re probably not best) Creating online courses in WordPress

Source: How to Create an Online Course with WordPress and LMS Plugins :: wpmudev

Good overview of the pros and cons of building a course using WordPress and some third party plugins. Key thing to remember is that you’re still responsible for all the content, WP + plugins just give you a framework to offer the course in.

How We Helped Our Reporters Learn to Love Spreadsheets :: NY Times

How We Helped Our Reporters Learn to Love Spreadsheets https://open.nytimes.com/how-we-helped-our-reporters-learn-to-love-spreadsheets-adc43a93b919

This is how the NY Times answered the “should reporters learn to code” question. Turns out a little tech fluency goes a long way. There’s something here to emulate in legal education and the practice of law.

Disruptive Leadership in Legal Education | Best Practices for Legal Education

Disruptive Leadership in Legal Education | Best Practices for Legal Education https://bestpracticeslegaled.albanylawblogs.org/2019/01/11/disruptive-leadership-in-legal-education/

TOME Initiative Looks to Create OA System for Peer Reviewed Academic Monographs

Peter Potter, director of publishing strategy for the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, was appointed by the Association of Research Libraries as visiting program officer to advance TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem).

LJ: How does the TOME model work?

Peter Potter: TOME is an initiative to create a system whereby academic books can be made available open access. It’s an attempt to create, from the bottom up, a group of institutions and presses working together to ensure that payment is made on the front end of publication, rather than publishers having to rely on sales income. At the moment we have over 70 participating university presses, [and] 13 participating universities.

The press gets the up-front money. If a press is participating, they’re agreeing to publish this book in an open access format. That doesn’t prevent them from turning around and selling the book, which they can do. If there are print sales or ebook sales that they can generate, they should continue doing that.

Contribution from a university is a minimum of $15,000 per monograph. We figured that after this five-year pilot we would come back and revisit that amount to find out if that is actually enough to make this worthwhile for presses. We understand the $15,000 is less than what it typically costs to produce a monograph—Mellon did a study a few years ago in which they said it’s actually well over $20,000. But the idea is by making a book open access you’re not cutting off sale possibilities. The $15,000 jump-starts the book’s availability, it enables the press to go ahead and publish the book [in print format], and then they will see sales that will supplement that.

One of the things that’s important is that these are university press peer-reviewed books. We want it to be clear to provosts and department heads and deans that these are not second class books—they are books that a university press would have published anyway on the basis of quality. We didn’t want the sales potential of the book to get in the way of that. Sometimes decisions get made for a monograph based upon “we don’t think we can sell enough copies,” and this is a way to try to address that problem on the front end.

Source: Peter Potter on Funding OA Monographs

This approach of essentially paying upfront for the book has worked quite successfully for nearly a decade for CALI eLangdell Press. eLangdell Press books are distributed freely with a Creative Commons license that allows faculty to remix the work to tailor it to their course needs. CALI eLangdell currently offers over 30 casebooks and  supplements in over a dozen areas of the law. DUring the Fall 2018 semester eLangdell titles were downloaded over 12,000 times, providing law students with over $1,500,000.00 in value.

New Paper From Indiana U Law Faculty Shows Significant Law Student Satisfaction With Online Classes

This is the first article to provide empirical data on the effectiveness of distance education in law schools since the ABA this summer approved increasing the total number of credits that law students could earn through online classes from 15 to 30. Our data, composed of law student surveys and focus groups, reveal not only the success of distance education in their experience, but also the methods that are most effective for them.

— Dutton, Yvonne and Ryznar, Margaret and Long, Kayleigh, Assessing Online Learning in Law Schools: Students Say Online Classes Deliver (October 1, 2018). Denver University Law Review, Forthcoming; Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Research Paper 2018-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3242824

This article is important for 2 reasons. First, it provides an excellent survey of the state of online education in American law schools including information on what schools are providing online courses (hint: lots) and how those courses are being taught. Second, it provides solid empirical evidence of the success of online classes in an ABA accredited law school with the course being taught within the scope of the accreditation rules.

This is a must read for law school Deans, faculty, librarians, and technologists.

Future of Independent Law Schools Is in Peril | New York Law Journal

It’s hard out there for an independent law school.
The number of law campuses that aren’t attached to larger universities is slowly dwindling amid closures and mergers, and several stand-alone campuses are fighting for survival. The seven-year downturn in legal education, which appears to be coming to an end, hit independent law schools especially hard because they can’t tap into university funds to tide them over in lean times. Many independent law schools also experienced sharper enrollment declines than their university-affiliated counterparts.

Future of Independent Law Schools Is in Peril | New York Law Journal

New Blog on Leadership for Lawyers, Law Students, and Legal Educators | Best Practices for Legal Education

New Blog on Leadership for Lawyers, Law Students, and Legal Educators | Best Practices for Legal Education https://bestpracticeslegaled.albanylawblogs.org/2018/05/02/new-blog-on-leadership-for-lawyers-law-students-and-legal-educators/

Syracuse Law receives waiver from ABA to offer first accredited online JD

Syracuse University College of Law’s Online J.D. program is the first real-time, ABA-approved online juris doctor program in the United States.

The Online J.D. | The first fully interactive online J.D. http://theonlinejd.syr.edu/

Syracuse Law is my alma mater, and they’ve been working hard to get this waiver. This is a great step forward for legal education as it finally gets a much needed blast of innovation.

Drexel Law Prof. Michael Poulshock is using Gituhub to manage materials for Spring 2018 Legal Decision Technology course

This popped up on my Github feed recently. Looks like Prof. Michael Poulshock is taking a shot at using Github to manage materials for his Legal Decision Technology course being taught in the Spring 2018 semester at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. The course itself looks pretty interesting, according to the syllabus:

This course explores how legal decision technology can be used to expand public access to legal information. Students will learn about cutting edge legal decision technologies, hone their statutory interpretation skills, and build interactive apps that answer specific legal questions.  This is a hands-on, lab-style class, but no prior programming experience is required.

The course is going to make use of tool called Oracle Policy Modeling which I had not heard of before but seems interesting. Heck, I’m even going to download a copy and take it for a spin.

Always great to see law professors taking advantage of interesting tool in the courses they teach. Maybe Prof. Poulshock will head to CALIcon18 in June to talk about the course and how it went.

The Github repo is at https://github.com/mpoulshock/Drexel-Legal-Decision-Technology-Spring-2018