Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Adjunct Law Professor Requires Students To Participate On His Blog

Barry Law School Professor Marc John Randazza states on his class syllabus that is posted on his blog/web page:

Overall Participation will be 10 points (out of 100) for class participation and 10 points for blog participation. Exceptional participation in either department can make up for some a deficiency in the other. So, if you are a “quiet person,” you may want to hit the blog pretty effectively.

This raises some important issues. Is posting on a blog the same as class participation? Will students compete with each other for the most blog postings? Should we encourage this? Is the professor simply trying to increase his traffic? What if students do not have access to the internet?

Any comments or thoughts?

Please post once as typepad holds posts for approval.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein


UPDATE: Jan. 7, 2008

I neglected to post a link to Professor Randazza's blog so here it is

I have not been able to distinguish between the professors in class blog and his own blog, but I do take Professor Randazza at his word that he maintains a separate class blog.

The first commentator read the purpose of my posting totally wrong. I actually commend Prof. Randazza for using his blog for academic purposes. Simply because a Prof. raises a question, does not indicate that they disagree. After all, thats what we Profs do.

Last week, I went to several presentations at the AALS conference on the use of blogs by law professors. The academy is somewhat suspect about their use-I'm not. I just wish I had more time to prepare a blog like this professor does.
Mitch Rubinstein

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I think you may be overreacting. Marc is a First Ammendment rights lawyer and is getting his students positioned in marketing, the good, the bad and the ugly of internet, privacy, reputation and the like. It think it is highly progressive and interactive and should be applauded. As for your questions re: drive traffic to his site? Please. And what if students don't have access to the internet? I don't know of any law student not carting around their laptop typing away and ignorning their torts professors. But even if the isolated student does not, the law school provides it. Don't knock creativity and forward-thinking activities which engage the students in practical experience.

Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel | Jan 6, 2008 1:25:15 PM

The previous post misses the point. Mandatory posting by a professor does not lead to creativity and forward thinking. Take it from a student that has been in classes with required posting (on a Lexis web-course)... it lead to a horse-race for just how many times a student could have their name shown for posting (usually consisting of links to New York Times articles, which does not require analytical thinking... (that took 2 seconds without thought; OR student posting without actually anything substantive to say).

Encouraged participation/posting is always a good thing... Mandatory leads to nothing but drivel. The more voluntary, the better, thought-provoking posts there will be.

Posted by: Sujan Vasavada | Jan 6, 2008 9:12:53 PM

With respect to the question "Is the professor simply trying to increase his traffic?"... it may smell petty, but I don't think that Prof. Rubenstein was being as petty and small as the statement might suggest. I'll speak in his defense. It appears that he just didn't really read beyond the passage he quoted. We are all busy, and sometimes we miss details that make us seem foolish later on... so, for as long as I live in the same glass house, I'll cast no stone at Rubenstein.

I would encourage him, and others, to read beyond what he quoted. If you do so, you can readily see that while I maintain a blawg of my own, The Legal Satyricon, my *course blawgs* are always separate sites. The only traffic generated by the assignment would be traffic flowing to the site for the class.

As far as anyone who does not have access to the internet goes... I considered this when instituting my policy. I decided that since every law student has free internet access at the school library, but no student gets free pens, it would be more economically inclusive to make the internet the medium of communication for the class. That way, students who can't afford ball point pens can still participate.

I'd be interested to know how other professors handle the issue of students who don't have pens or paper. This could be a crisis for those who don't use the internet.

(ask a silly question...)

I have had luddite students who were a little uncomfortable with the web *before taking my class*. One of the reasons that I like to use this as a teaching tool is that it forces those students to come into the light of the 21st century. Picture a student who doesn't even know what a blog is... they are going to be in deep trouble when they have to file something with CM/ECF. I'd like to think that I open my students' horizons a bit.

As far as it becoming a horse race, that is a valid topic for discussion. When I give credit for blog postings, I don't give much weight to posts that are simply links to other sites. Take a look at my grading policies. They are posted in a tab above where you found my blogging policy.

When using a blawg as a teaching tool, the horse-race mentality is a side effect that will occur if the professor is lazy about provoking interest in the subject matter. As a professor, you get the same student karma that you put out. If you teach like Ben Stein, you'll get students who post "just for the credit." If you engage them and make them want to write, you'll get discussion that will go on, and that will foster great debate among the students.

Even better, it allows the classroom experience and dialogue to continue well beyond the class period. When you have 40 students in a class for 3 hours a week, you really don't have time to get into everyone's interests. This allows me to have a dialog with those students who want it.

I usually do a blog participation grading cut-off about 2/3 of the way through the semester. It is both telling and uplifting to find that most of my students continue to offer comments even after they no longer get any benefit.

While that makes me happy, it makes me even happier when I see students start with a blog comment, and wind up with a senior paper topic.

Posted by: Marc J. Randazza | Jan 7, 2008 9:33:37 AM

I did notice one thing here... your title says "Adjunct Law Professor Requires Students To Participate On His Blog."

Once you see how inaccurate that statement is, I trust that you'll edit it. MY blog is The Legal Satyricon. The students participate on their own course blogs.

Posted by: Marc J. Randazza | Jan 7, 2008 9:45:39 AM

Having taken several of Prof. Randazza's courses - and being subjected to the harsh policy of blog participation - I can attest to the burdensome nature.

First of all - the Internet access. How true. Fortunately I was able to reverse engineer a One Laptop Per Child machine and hook it up to my old Huffy 10-speed. With my wife pedaling for an hour or so I was able to complete the assignments.

Ok, seriously. This method of class participation made classes so much better than had it been missing. It gave us a chance to fully flesh out comments and ideas that may have been started in class but were cut short due to time limitations.

If you scroll down and look on the right side of Prof. R's main blog, you will see links to the separate class blogs. A student could go the entire semester without looking at the main blog and still get credit for participation (and spare themselves "the gaze" from the banner).

I encourage you to check out some of the posts on the class blogs - find posts by "blevinsj" - they were excellent. I read them, and I wasn't even in that class.

One of the more surprising/exciting things to come out of the blog that I kept was that I received comments from the interested parties to the posts I made. This not only trained me to think before posting (a skill we could all use), but it also encouraged me to write more engaging and interesting posts.

All in all - I was very happy with the system.

Posted by: K. Wimberly | Jan 15, 2008 7:09:12 AM

Blogging has forced me to analyze and write quickly in order to ensure topical posts are timely published. So I think this is a great idea because it will likewise force students to analyze and write quickly.

On the cynical side, I'd like to respond to Sujan Vasavada's comment above that this policy will lead to competition among students to post more than others. If so, this is excellent preparation for the "real world" of big law firms, where "face time" and billable hours count for plenty. Might as well teach it early!

Posted by: Greg May | Jan 24, 2008 12:24:58 AM

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