Day 2, CALI conference: Building the Casebook (Gene Koo, John Mayer)

by Paul Maharg on 20/06/2008

Session on the future of the casebook, headed up by Gene and John Mayer, based around the CALI e-Langdell initiative, built on Druple. One of the motives behind this is the attempt to create distributed authorship — more, better, faster. Can it work?

Of course — it’s the open-source, wikipedia model, really. The factors for success include organic communities with a culture of sharing; material that is easy to share and modify, dedicated leadership committed to excellence and openness; and of course technology that works. It takes a rip – mix – learn approach to building the casebook. As to platforms, the project is pretty agnostic – books (the production of which will be cheaper than the normal process of publication), laptops, Kindle, etc.

There were thoughtful questions and issues raised. Reputational issues were key, as were different interpretations of legal issues, and different ways of teaching and learning. John raised the issues of different learning styles and approaches to learning that this method allows.

Key question — what reward? Gene commented that it makes it easier to teach; and a recognition system is built into the approach, so that use of resources can be counted, as per SSRN. Gene’s idea of the ‘negative space’ around a casebook is interesting — the sense that something is missing from a casebook, that as teachers we would like to see there. And that of course is a motivation too.

But of course the e-Langdell approach can go well beyond the book — Patrick Wiseman’s session, earlier, shows that homegrown, individual syllabi are powerful teaching & learning tools. How much more powerful to have a community approach to this? I said earlier in my blog posting that Patrick showed how important evolution was to content development. Let me qualify that earlier comment by pointing out that a community approach can of course speed up the process exponentially…

How about taxonomic approaches? The taxonomy would be that of the CALI sessions plus a tagging system as per web 2.0 apps. Neat solution, because the latter will encourage community use.

Monetising was a problem for one delegate, whose institution worked with court feeds and AV, and marketed to firms (if I’ve got that right).

Tough questions, great answers. I think the approach has a lot going for it, not just in the US but the UK as well. We have similar needs in our teaching resources.

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