Since the dawn of time, law school has been recognized for its high stakes, stressful exams and conservative academic culture.
After Connected Casebook dipped its toes in the realm of law education, this is no longer the “case.”
With Connected Casebook (by Wolters Kluwer), law schools are able to pull material from digital platforms without the help of integrators. This allows law schools to mix information from digital textbooks, traditional textbooks, and provide law students digital note taking abilities. Plus, it enables students to participate in law simulations for a taste of the real world of law.
Alfred Brophy, Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina says he’s been using an earlier version of this product for the past couple of years, and that he is going to incorporate the most recent version of Connected Casebook in his classrooms for his property class this coming spring.
He also says that his students enjoy being able to access their digital work materials from the internet, rather than flipping through pages of a book.
“Students purchase the online access for a year, and they get a loose leaf version of the casebook, which is the textbook of the class, with cases statutes and notes that help you pull everything together,” he says. “Students love it. It gives them the chance to have something that is full-text searchable. They can have it on their laptop and they don’t have to carry the whole casebook around.”
Aside from having digital access to coursework, Brophy says that Connected Casebook has all essential law-classroom tools rolled into one entity.
“The nice thing about Connected Casebook is that it brings everything together,” he says. “One package, one price.”
Within Connected Casebook, students and professors have access to three main components:
Read component – contains the ebook versions of law textbooks, which students can use to read, search, bookmark and annotate notes. Students can also take self-assessments to make sure they understand the material.
Vikram Savkar, Vice President and General Manager of Wolters Kluwer Education, says that this component is much more in depth than the ebooks found on a Kindle.
“It’s a rich ebook experience we’ve designed around law students,” he says. “Students can highlight in six colors for case studies, use note taking tools, annotate, research information, and do it through tablets and desktops.”
Study center – enables students to access videos and explanations of law concepts, questions, and practice exercises, and take assessments to check their understanding.
“As a student reads a passage, they can do a practice essay, simulations, etc. Everything is right there,” Savkar says.” It deepens their knowledge as they go and measure how they are doing.”
Outline tool – helps students build their year-long outlines using the annotations and notes from the digital textbooks. Once students have selected which information they would like to include in their work, the outline tool enables them to edit and export it into an organized outline.
“We’ve made [the outline tool] much more efficient by incorporating that into the ebook,” Savkar says. “As students read, they’re taking notes and building their outline, and can export that to Microsoft Word.”
Before Connected Casebook, Brophy says teaching materials for law school were carried over from the “pen and paper” era, including bound casebooks and a gradual graduation to electronic opportunities.
Click here for a tour of Connected Casebook’s features.
“I started teaching in 1994, right as the internet is starting to come online,” he says. “For years I’ve been using a property book, a typical bound case book that got updated every four to five years. Over time, it migrated over to using a blackboard website that had casebooks and PDF’s of additional cases.
Students could use the bound volume, new or used, but they increasingly liked having the electronic version.”
In today’s law schools, Savkar says students expect to have access to learning materials and professors electronically.
“Today’s law students are “digital natives,”” he says. “They’ve grown up with a high volume of feedback in every phase of their education and in their personal life, from phones, peers, teachers, and particularly in their undergrad classes. They’re used to getting law tutorials and scoring through [electronic sources.]”
Plus, the platform offers law simulations to give students a feel for real-world law, such as lessons on drafting a contract, so students are ready after they graduate.
“People want to learn law more like the way they’re going to end up practicing,” Savkar says. “Large law firms are almost entirely digital at this point. They all have libraries where they have print books, but nobody uses those. Digital products for lawyers are pretty advanced, they are pretty powerful. This is what law students are thrown into as soon as they leave school, but nothing in traditional law school prepares them for this.”
Through Connected Casebook, students have the option to stick with traditional textbooks, or purchase the Connected Casebook program access to ebooks, along with a rented hard copy of the textbook.
Brophy says that the digital platform offers students cheaper options, especially with the cost of textbooks climbing each year.
“The electronic version is significantly less than the full bound casebook,” he says. “Students can do full text searching, which makes it easier for them to copy and drop stuff into their notes. It works out really well.”
Brophy also says that he thinks solutions like Connected Casebook will eventually decrease the cost of law school altogether.
“I think we’re going to see the cost of legal education go down because one of the things we’re going to have is the best of the lectures available on the internet,” he says. “I think a generation of MOOC’s will take over, and we’ll have fewer teachers. I think one of things we’re going to see are changes in cost, reduction, and production of knowledge in school.”
Even if his prediction of law schools’ futures is accurate, Brophy says solutions like Connected Casebook will still continue to boost learning in law students – the world’s “lawyers-in-training.”
“It pulls everything together and makes the lives of students easier and lets them focus on learning,” he says. “It delivers content in a way that it’s at their fingertips and they can pull it up any time they want. I think it’s a good thing.”