Wednesday, July 3, 2019
This summer, the AALS Section on Technology, Law & Legal Education is presenting a series of webinars on technology and legal education. Now I look forward to every Wednesday, wondering what I will learn each week. Sessions range widely, from hackathons and biotech to formative assessment and access to justice using technology. You can watch past webinars on demand and sign up for forthcoming live webinars by visiting the Section's web page. While I have learned fascinating things from each webinar, I found two webinars touching on IT security and law students to be especially compelling.
As a population our law students are far less technologically savvy than we would expect, according to Cumberland Law's Grace Simms, in an a wide-ranging presentation on "Teaching Tech to Law Students." Two of the most obvious shortfalls are failing to appreciate how social media can affect their personal marketing & job prospects, and failing to grasp the importance of security measures and backups. The back-up problem rings especially true in my experience. For example, although our students have free access to OneDrive and receive back-up reminders from a variety of media, invariably every semester at least one student experiences a major meltdown when upon realizing, only after their computer self-destructs (whether from a hard drive crash, an unfortunate drop in the parking lot, or simply wearing out from obsolescence), that they have not backed up their legal writing projects, case briefs, and outlines. Far less critical, but a time-waster day after day, is the fact that many students have only the most superficial understanding of the capabilities of word processing programs: this not only makes day-by-day writing a more laborious process but also can cause many finished pieces to look amateurish. Inspired by Professor Simms's presentation, I'll be tweaking lesson plans in my fall Skills Lab to include micro-practice sessions on doing backups, creating quick access toolbars, assigning keystrokes in Word, and other simple technology to enhance the daily tasks of law student life.
Lincoln Memorial's Sydney Beckham, himself a former hacker, delved deeper into security threats and safety measures in "Hacked! An Examination of Cyber-Threats and Techniques to Thwart Them." The bad news is one out of every three Americans is affected by a cyber-threat every year. The good news, since 95% of security breaches are caused or exacerbated by human error, is that most cyber-threats can be prevented or mitigated by taking prudent, and often amazingly simple, security measures. While many institutions must take sophisticated measures like two-factor authentication, most individuals can protect themselves with relatively simple practices such as:
- Backing up important data using thumb drives, external hard drives, or cloud storage
- Setting antivirus protection for automatic updates
- Updating operating systems frequently
- Covering the webcam when not needed for active use
- Using a microphone lock on phones and computer when not needed for active use
- Using strong passwords and usernames, and not sharing them between accounts
- Using the cellular hotspot provided by a personal cell phone rather than public wifi when sending personal information in a public place
- Limiting social media posting of information that might be used for security questions
A compelling point was the need to constantly reinforce IT security messages through live interaction with law students. Like Professor Simms, Professor Beckham stressed that many law students are not aware of IT security issues and solutions. Information sent through e-mails and video sources, he suggested, is overwhelmingly ignored. To be effective, information should be conveyed live and in person. Moreover, to pack the most punch, it shouldn't be conveyed only during Orientation: rather, repeated live messaging by different faculty and staff is the best way of helping law students to become security aware. It sounds like a good idea to add a question about backups and security to my checklist for meeting individually with students. (Nancy Luebbert)
Friday, January 25, 2019
One of my students just showed me his Legal Board which creates shortcuts for common legal symbols, words, and more. You can buy either a full keyboard that includes the Legal Board function keys or you can buy the smaller Legal Pad version that includes just the function keys and can be plugged into your laptop. The student sang the praises of the product for the time-saving on footnotes, citations, and more when he is writing papers. The website is:Legal Keyboard. (Amy Jarmon)
Friday, December 21, 2018
Inside Higher Ed had an interesting post this week on having a strategic plan for connection and visibility through social media for academic/professional presence. Given the article's categories of online presence, I would be somewhere between Curious and Beginner - I use Linkedin a bit and I post regularly to our Office of Academic Success Programs facebook page - but am not sure I aspire to sophisticated use. However, for those who want to think strategically about using social media for a greater professional presence in our academic world, I thought the article laid out a logical approach to clarifying a plan. The link is Optimizing Your Social Media Presence. (Amy Jarmon)
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
If you are a soon-to-be-first-year law student, you may find that it takes you several weeks to get acclimated to all of the new technology lingo used in law school. You'll be expected to quickly familiarize yourself with several new websites and research platforms. To help you get a jump start, I’ve created a list of the most common technology resources you'll encounter in your first few days of law school.
Legal Research Databases
Westlaw and LexisNexis are the two most popular web based legal research databases--essentially Google for lawyers. While these research tools require costly subscriptions for lawyers, law students get to use them for free. Each company's site has its own strengths and weaknesses (i.e. think Walmart and Target), and I encourage you to become comfortable using both services, because you never know which company your future employer will prefer.
To get started, you'll need a registration code or password from your law school. While you are waiting for the registration code to arrive, you can watch tutorial videos online to become familiar with the basics of Westlaw and LexisNexis. Both companies have even more training videos available after you officially login.
Classroom Management Tools
TWEN (accessed via Westlaw) allows professors to post materials for download, assign quizzes, and send class announcements. You will need to affirmatively register for each of your courses using the "add course" tab.
E-Campus (a.k.a. Blackboard) has the same features as TWEN, but you are typically automatically enrolled in the course.
Star or Banner is used by many schools' registrars for course registration, add/drop, and grade dissemination.
Supplemental Study Materials
Barbri, Kaplan, and Themis are three of the most popular bar preparation companies. Each company also offers first-year and second-year study materials, including outline books, lecture videos, and practice exams. Your law school may have a business relationship with one or more of the bar preparation providers. If so, be sure to take advantage of any free resources the company provides. I caution you, however, against paying out-of-pocket for anything extra. You can usually get enough free resources through your law school, such as from the Academic Excellence Center or library, that paying out-of-pocket is unnecessary.
CALI is a non-profit organization offering practice quizzes and tutorial videos for virtually every law school subject. CALI is free to all law students. You just need a registration code from your law school to get started.
Many students report that Quimbee is helpful during the first year, but Quimbee will cost you extra. Quimbee, like the other supplemental study resources mentioned above, provides case briefs, outlines, lesson videos, and practice questions.
Finally, many new law school textbooks come with a registration code, granting you access to free online study resources. Check the inside cover of your textbook for more details.
Other Technology Tasks
In addition to familiarizing yourself with these new resources, you may also want (or need) to go online and complete these other technology tasks:
Configure your computer to access the law school's wireless internet
Create an account to print at the law school or library
Set up a calendaring system (paper or digital, your choice)
Learn if your school offers free software downloads to students, such as Microsoft Word or security software
Set up a backup storage solution for all of your files, such as the free version of Dropbox
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Last week I posted about The Future of the LSAT, including LSAC’s collaboration with Khan Academy to provide free online LSAT prep to everyone. This week I am taking Khan Academy’s LSAT course for a test drive.
Registering for the course was simple. I just needed to input my name, date of birth, and email address. Then I selected LSAT prep from the list of available courses. Once I was officially enrolled, Khan Academy provided me with an overview of their 4 step system:
“1. ... Take a mini-test or a full practice test, and [Khan Academy] will identify the skills you should focus on to improve your score the most.
2. ... Unlock your personalized practice plan. Based on your score goal, schedule, and starting skill strengths, [Khan Academy] will craft a unique practice plan with lessons and exercises at just the right level.
3. ... Step-by-step lessons and explanations will help you understand the questions and concepts on the LSAT, and official LSAT practice tests develop the test-taking and time-management skills you’ll need to reach your goal.
4. ... Your practice plan is divided into stages that start with focused skill practice and end with a LSAT practice test. As your weaknesses turn into strengths, you’ll see your test scores rise towards your goal.”
Because I was strangely curious about how I’d score with 15 years of legal analysis under my wing, I opted to take the 3 hour full-length exam instead of the 70 minute mini-diagnostic. The diagnostic exam—comprised of four graded sections—did not have an official timer (you had to time yourself), but did let you skip between questions within each section and highlight passages in the reading comprehension section. I get the impression that the system may allow for timed tests, however, because under the personal settings tab I was given the option to adjust the testing timer for time-and-a-half or double-time.
I found completing the diagnostic exam online slightly more difficult than a pencil and paper version because I could not engage in active reading techniques or quickly cross-out obviously wrong answer choices. Unsurprisingly, I’ve heard the same complaint from law students who are studying for the multiple-choice section of the bar exam using primarily online resources. My experience this week, combined with my students’ feedback, reinforced a growing concern that I have about LSAC’s decision to explore a digital LSAT exam.
All that aside, at the conclusion of the diagnostic exam, I received my overall score, as well as my score on each particular section. I was then given the option to create a personalized study schedule based on (1) my upcoming LSAT exam date and (2) my target score.
I selected a test date three months away (September) and a target score 9 points higher than my diagnostic score. With that information, the program suggested that I complete 10 full-length practice exams and study approximately 2 hours per week to reach my goal. I could also opt-in to receive automatic email reminders to help me stay on track. My personal study plan included “sub-goals” and very specific target areas on which to focus my efforts (e.g. reading comprehension passages dealing with science), based on my diagnostic performance. This project chunking and mini-goal setting system is definitely a fantastic skill to teach aspiring law students and a welcome feature in the program.
Regardless of whether I opted to complete the diagnostic exam, I could click on the “lessons” tab at the top of the page to instantly access the full repository of available handouts, videos, and practice problems. Click here to Download List of Khan Academy's LSAT Lessons. The 1 to 10 minute lecture videos stream via an embedded You Tube player and include closed captioning, if desired. The quick guides and handouts had helpful tips, but were entirely online. I also received “energy points” for each goal achieved and activity completed, in the same vein as a video game.
Overall, the Khan Academy LSAT program appears to be quite robust—especially given its zero dollar price tag. I would recommend this website to law school hopefuls. (Kirsha Trychta)
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
The LSAT is changing.
The Law School Admission Council announced four big changes to the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in 2017.
First, LSAC is increasing the number of test administrations. Beginning in 2019, LSAC will offer six tests each year instead of the standard four. Presumably to soften the transition from four tests in 2017 to six tests in 2019, LSAC quietly added a 5th exam to the calendar for 2018. Registration is currently open for the newly added fifth test, which will take place on July 23, 2018.
Second, LSAC has begun to conduct Digital LSAT field tests. LSAC is exploring the possibility of transitioning to a computer-based exam, instead of the traditional paper-and-pencil version. The results of the first field test, which was conducted in October 2017, have not been made available to the public yet.
Third, LSAC eliminated the maximum-of-three-tests-in-two-years restriction. Applicants may now take the LSAT exam as many times as they would like, limited only by the frequency of test administrations and cost.
Lastly, LSAC partnered with Khan Academy to offer "free personalized LSAT prep for all." The Khan Academy LSAT program launches this week (June 1, to be exact). I plan to enroll and test-drive the program. Look for a follow-up report soon.
Meanwhile, in April 2018, the American Bar Association's Standards Review Committee of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recommended eliminating the LSAT requirement altogether, allowing law schools to focus on other admissions credentials. The committee's proposal was then considered by the section's council at their May 11th meeting, and after some small changes, the council adopted the committee's recommendation. The changes to Standards 501 and 503 would eliminate the requirement of a “valid and reliable test” as part of a law school’s admissions process. "Significantly, the Council also adopted a new interpretation ... that would establish a “rebuttable presumption” that recognizes the centrality of a valid and reliable admissions test in law schools’ admissions policies and practices. It provides that a school whose admissions policy and process were called into question by the Council would presumptively be out of compliance with the revised Standard 501 if it did not include a valid and reliable admissions test as part of its policy.” The Council's recommendation will now be forwarded to the ABA's House of Delegates , who could consider the issue as early as this August.
LSAC's President responded to the May 11th ABA vote with a short press release, stating that LSAC "anticipates that most law schools will continue to use the LSAT in the admission process because of its proven validity and reliability for predicting success in law school."
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Yesterday Steven Foster mentioned in his blog post entitled SWCASP Takeaways that I built a lightboard at my law school. Here are the details, should you wish to do the same.
First, for those who don't know, a lightboard is essentially a glass dry erase board used for creating video recorded lectures and presentations. You stand behind the glass and lecture, while drawing on the glass board in front of you. The setup allows you to write on the board without having to turn your back to the audience. You may be thinking, but isn't the text backwards to the audience? Yes, it is! But, through either a specialized camera setup involving a mirror or using post-production software, the images on the glass can be "flipped" so that they appear right-ways to the video viewing audience.
If you'd like to create a lightboard of your own, I recommend buying the frame online and then having the glass cut locally. We purchased our frame from New Revolution Tools and are happy with the product. We chose a 4 x 6 frame, on casters, with built-in rope lighting ($1,600). The frame came with blueprints and dimensions to help our local glass cutter fit the glass to the frame. While some lightboards use real glass, we opted for a more cost-effective clear polycarbonate glass, a.k.a. plexiglass. At just over $500--and one-fifth the price of real glass--the polycarbonate glass allowed this project to stay on budget.
You will also need:
- a video camera,
- a mirror or image reversing software,
- additional stage lighting,
- a dark colored backdrop curtain or wall paint,
- lightboard markers ($20),
- a microfiber cleaning cloth to avoid scratching the glass ($10), and
- white vinegar/water cleaning solution in a spray bottle ($5).
The entire project cost us about $2,500 because we already owned a video camera and some stage lighting. Additionally, I secured a $2,000 technology grant from our larger University, which brought the out-of-pocket departmental cost down to about $500.
The lightboard permanently stores against a wall inside a small classroom in the library. The classroom tables can be moved out of the way for filming. (See photo below.)
We plan to use the lightboard in a variety of courses, including enhancing our existing online LLM program, creating a few new online summer courses, and developing an on-demand academic support video library. For the ASP library, I plan on asking students and professors to record 2-10 minute videos addressing both skills and substantive topics. In the skills category, my wish list already includes case briefing, outlining strategies, study tips, and accommodations FAQs. On the substantive front, I hope to have a short video that discusses one particularly difficult case in our criminal law textbook, tips for drafting a question presented, and some flowcharts and mindmaps, to name a few. All of the videos will be housed on a private WVU Law You Tube channel.
If anyone would like additional information on the project, please feel free to reach out to me. (Kirsha Trychta)
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Some (or perhaps, most) law students get tired of reading judicial opinions every single day. I have found that giving students the option to listen to audio files or watch movies in lieu of reading a case helps to create some variety and spices up the learning process. For example, last week my Criminal Procedure students had the option to watch the 1980 movie “Gideon’s Trumpet” or read Gideon v. Wainwright and the corresponding notes in the textbook. I included both the audio and textbook options expressly on the syllabus. About half the class opted to watch the movie while the other half read the case; importantly, the whole class was able to engage in the discussion. Similarly, next week students will have the option to read the portion of the textbook discussing jury selection or to listen to More Perfect’s “Object Anyway” podcast.
Even if you don’t teach a substantive law course, the audio files can be helpful to aid any student who is struggling to connect with the written material. Earlier this semester a high-performing first-year student stopped by my office concerned that she had lost her fall semester spark. In the fall semester, she was excited about law school and thus enthused to work hard. Her hard work paid off, earning her very high grades in December. But, when she returned in January, she just couldn’t connect with the cases and material like she had done before. The spring semester courses of Constitutional Law and Property weren’t peaking her curiosity the way the fall semester courses of Criminal Law and Torts had. After chatting with her for a few minutes, I could tell that she needed a new way to engage with the material. I suggested some legal podcasts, especially ones that would give her the story behind the litigation. She needed to be able to relate to the parties on a more personal level, and I thought a well told story about the litigants could help. After just a few podcasts, she has already reported that Con Law has become more interesting to her now that she’s “getting to know” the justices’ personalities and she enjoys learning what happened to the litigants before and after the lawsuit.
If you’re interested in introducing an audio option to one of your courses or academic support arsenal, consider:
Oyez “is a multimedia archive devoted to making the Supreme Court of the United States accessible to everyone. It is a complete and authoritative source for all of the Court’s audio since the installation of a recording system in October 1955. Oyez offers transcript-synchronized and searchable audio, plain-English case summaries, illustrated decision information, and full text Supreme Court opinions. Oyez also provides detailed information on every justice throughout the Court’s history and offers a panoramic tour of the Supreme Court building, including the chambers of several justices.”
According to More Perfect’s creators “Supreme Court decisions shape everything from marriage and money to public safety and sex. We know these are very important decisions we should all pay attention to – but they often feel untouchable and even unknowable. Radiolab's first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, connects you to the decisions made inside the court's hallowed halls, and explains what those rulings mean for "we the people" who exist far from the bench. More Perfect bypasses the wonkiness and tells stories behind some of the court’s biggest rulings.”
Legal Talk Network is a podcast network for legal professionals with hosts from well-known organizations and brands in the legal community. Over 20 different active podcasts cover important legal news and developments, including access to justice, law school, industry events, legal technology, and the future of law. The most relevant podcast within the network is the ABA Law Student Podcast, which covers issues that affect law students and recent grads.
In addition, Learn Out Loud offers numerous legal podcasts and audio files for free download. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, January 29, 2018
Academic Support is a great community with how we all share ideas and try to pick each other up. The outpouring of support is invaluable, but I have to admit it sometimes makes me feel like I lack enough knowledge to help students. I hear about all the great new ideas at AASE that others are trying based on research and books read about cutting edge neuroscience research. I listen amazed at great new ideas, and I wonder where everyone finds time to both read the research and formulate ideas. My typical day races through my head with teaching, student appointments, committee meetings, and class preparation followed by images of evenings and weekends filled with coaching youth sports, which is much more fun than reading learning science. Extra time didn't seem to exist in my schedule.
Professional development is critical to progress for both me and my students. I recently discovered a way to continually develop daily without missing my other obligations. Since I don’t listen to much music, I decided to listen to new literature while commuting to work. I live in a suburb of OKC, so my drive is about 20-30 minutes each way. Many of you have much longer commutes, which is an even bigger opportunity to grow. Audiobook apps are abundant, s0 I spent a few days looking through the options like audible and audiobooks.com. This was a new commitment for me, so free apps were the most appealing. I decided to try the free OverDrive app. OverDrive is connected to library systems across the country. It allows users with a library card to check out audiobooks from local libraries. They may not have every audiobook, but depending on the library, the selection is pretty good.
Downloading the app was the first step. The next step was to create a habit of listening. My library checks out books for 2 weeks before deleting them from the app. Committing to 20-30 minutes would be necessary to make it through the book. I constantly tell students getting better requires little decisions and discipline each day. Practice exam writing for 30 minutes a day or adding in small substantive reviews throughout the week make a difference. I needed to take my own advice. Turning off ESPN radio and committing to professional development would be difficult, but I decided to listen to at least 1 book.
OverDrive made a huge impact on my development. I started last October, and I am still listening to new books. While reading an entire book during a busy day may seem daunting, listening to a book for 20-30 minutes while driving home isn’t difficult. Since October, I listened to Grit, How We Learn, Make It Stick, Eureka Factor, Learned Optimism, and some of Chazown. For general business leadership tips, I listen to Craig Groeschel’s Leadership podcast. It is specific to leading a business (he leads one of the largest church organizations in the nation), but many of the tips are helpful in leading students. I am on the waitlist for Power of Habit. I hope to listen to it this semester.
Professional development is hard to fit into our schedule, especially since many times, immediate benefits don’t flow from reading new research. However, students are engaging new technology at a rapid pace. We have to stay ahead on new information to help our students succeed, which is worth the 20-30 minutes driving home. Not only that, you may be the presenter with great ideas at future conferences from the small amount of time spent each day.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Join your ASP colleagues on Friday, March 9, 2018 at UNT Dallas College of Law for a one-day conference focused on innovative ideas for supporting the current generation of law students. The conference theme is "Assisting the Modern Law Student: Academic Support in Changing Times."
The conference will kick off on Thursday evening with a welcome dinner at 6:30 p.m. at Wild Salsa, sponsored by BarBri. A block of rooms has been reserved at the Hampton Inn and Suites at 1700 Commerce Street, directly across from the street from the conference. Rooms can be reserved using the link included in the registration form. The tentative schedule for Friday, March 9 is below.
8:45 a.m. Registration and Breakfast at UNT Dallas College of Law
9:00 a.m. Scrapbooking for 1Ls: A Hands-On Approach to Legal Synthesis with Preyal Shah and Jessica Haseltine, UNT Dallas College of Law
10:00 a.m. Emerging Adults with Rebecca Flanagan, University of Massachusetts School of Law
11:00 a.m. Helicopter Professors with Emily Grant, Washburn University School of Law
12:00 p.m. Lunch at UNT Dallas College of Law
1:00 p.m. For Technical Assistance, Please Press 9 with Kirsha Trychta, West Virginia University College of Law
2:00 p.m. Law Success after Year One: Using a Mandatory Skills Curriculum to Tackle Bar Passage Rates with Zoe Niesel and Mike Barry, St. Mary’s University School of Law
Friday, January 26, 2018
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning invites proposals for conference workshops addressing the many ways that law teachers are utilizing technology in their classrooms across the curriculum. With the rising demands for teachers who are educated on active learning techniques and with technology changing so rapidly, this topic has taken on increased urgency in recent years. The Institute is interested in proposals that deal with all types of technology, and the technology demonstrated should be focused on helping students learn actively in areas such as legal theory and knowledge, practice skills, and guided reflection, etc. Accordingly, we welcome proposals for workshops on incorporating technology in the classrooms of doctrinal, clinical, externship, writing, seminar, hybrid, and interdisciplinary courses.
The Institute invites proposals for 60-minute workshops consistent with a broad interpretation of the conference theme. The workshops can address the use of technology in first-year courses, upper-level courses, required courses, electives, or academic support roles. Each workshop should include materials that participants can use during the workshop and when they return to their campuses. Presenters should model effective teaching methods by actively engaging the workshop participants. The Institute Co-Directors are glad to work with anyone who would like advice on designing their presentations to be interactive.
To be considered for the conference, proposals should be one page (maximum), single-spaced, and include the following information:
- The title of the workshop;
- The name, address, telephone number, and email address of the presenter(s); and
- A summary of the contents of the workshop, including its goals and methods.
The Institute must receive proposals by February 15, 2018. Submit proposals via email to Professor Sandra Simpson, Co-Director, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conference is self-supporting. The conference fee for participants is $450, which includes materials, meals during the conference (two breakfasts and two lunches), and a welcome reception on Monday evening, June 18, 2018. The conference fee for presenters is $350. The conference workshops will take place all day on Tuesday, June 19, and until the early afternoon on Wednesday, June 20. Gonzaga University School of Law is hosting a welcome reception on the evening of June 18, 2018, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Barrister Winery, located in the downtown area.
Presenters and participants must cover their own travel and accommodation expenses. Local hotel accommodations and additional information can be viewed here: Download Call for Proposals Gonzaga Summer 2018. (Kirsha Trychta)
Monday, January 22, 2018
Ever had a law student who fails courses because of time spent video gaming? I have seen it occur.
The BBC Future article discussed in today's other post mentions WHO's classification of video gaming as though it is finalized. Here is a post in Inside Higher Ed explaining more about the proposed classification and the controversy around it: here. (Amy Jarmon)
BBC Future is running a series of articles this month on social media and the pros and cons of its use. Today's posting looks at concerns over possible "social media addiction" and the difficulties with defining it. More studies are needed. The link is here. (Amy Jarmon)
Saturday, January 20, 2018
In case you missed his post while you were on the semester break, you may want to read Scott John's December post "The Road Less Traveled" which was awarded a Top 10 Blog Post award by Texas Bar Today. The link to the post can be found here. Congratulations to Scott on scooping another Top 10!
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
If you're not responsible for grading exams, then you may find yourself with a few "free" days in December. If that's the case, then this might be a good time to create or revamp a brochure outlining your law school's academic support programs and services. The brochure can not only serve as a handout for students, but also remind your faculty colleagues of available resources. (See Amy Jarmon's 2007 blog post "Working with Faculty Colleagues.")
To get a jumpstart on the task, you are invited to use my school's brochure as a template: Download Academic Support Trifold Brochure Template. Although we used publishing software to create the original brochure, I've provided a Microsoft Word version here for ease of use. Of course, you'll need to swap out your school's particular program information, but I suspect that the big picture layout can remain the same for most schools. Your school's public relations or technology department may also be able to lend a helping hand with logos, branding, and formatting. (Kirsha Trychta)
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
During the first week of class I asked my students if they had any lingering questions that weren't resolved during Orientation. Several students inquired, "Where is the student lounge?" Admittedly our student lounge is somewhat difficult to find, with the entrance tucked between two vending machine on the second floor. I gave them directions and then jokingly described the student lounge as a place that only appears to those law students who already know of its whereabouts—which incidentally helps keep the room secreted from non-law students looking for a cool new spot to relax. Students aptly pointed out that I had also inadvertently described a key aspect of the Room of Requirement, a magical all-purpose space that featured prominently in the latter-half of the Harry Potter series.
[Sidenote: For those non-magical folk who aren’t familiar with Harry Potter, the Room of Requirement “only appears when a person has real need of it – and always comes equipped for the seeker's purpose. Any purpose.” For example, the Room of Requirement took the form of a bathroom for the headmaster when he was most in need, a training facility for Harry and the other members of his Army, and a storage room for many other students wishing to hide certain nefarious objects.]
The Potterheads were right, but if I had to pick the real Room of Requirement within the law school, it would undoubtedly be the Academic Excellence Center, especially in October. We never know who is going to walk through our door or what issue, question, or request they might bring with them. Just last week we fielded questions about academic advising, studying for midterm exams, debriefing after midterm exams, outlining, time management, moot court, legal writing, seminar papers, mental health resources, financial aid, new attorney swearing-in ceremonies, and summer employment, just to name a few.
I believe that my colleagues, while supportive of the Center, really don’t comprehend the varied roles that academic support professors play in the law school at any one time. To better capture the ever evolving list of activities within the Center, we recently installed a Survey Kiosk. The kiosk is actually an i-pad mounted on a chest-high stand near the door to the Center. The i-pad is locked using Apple’s Guided Access feature so that visitors can only access one webpage, namely a survey link.
We then created a 15-second survey that heavily relies on the use of skip logic. We now ask everyone to complete the survey following their visit to the Center. We also posted the survey link to our Facebook page, just in case someone forgets to complete the questionnaire before leaving the Center. The survey allows us to quickly capture the following information about each visit:
- Visitor’s class year (prospective student, 1L, 2L, 3L, or graduate)
- Who they visited within the Center
- Whether the meeting was a walk-in or by appointment
- Nature of the visit, i.e. the topic that was discussed
- Overall usefulness of the meeting, rated on a Likert Scale; and
- Any additional comments
In just two months, we have received roughly 200 real-time responses. This data has already allowed us to track which days of the week and weeks within the semester generate increased foot traffic, how well the Dean’s Fellows and Peer Writing Consultants are connecting with their classmates, and the types of services being most utilized. Unsurprisingly, 1Ls continue to make-up the bulk of our client base. But, we anticipate a sharp increase in 3L foot traffic in the spring semester, when the 3Ls turn their attention to applying for and sitting for the bar exam.
This real-time kiosk system will replace our end-of-the-semester evaluation, which historically has suffered from low response rates. The data should also be immensely helpful when we are tasked with completing annual Faculty Activity Reports and Performance Reviews next summer. Previously, we relied on a much less empirical system, consisting primarily of fuzzy memories, email inbox search results, and painstaking calendar reviews.
All-in-all, the Survey Kiosk has been a successful experiment, thus far. If you’re interested in doing something similar at your institution, you can purchase a basic i-pad and stand for under $1,000.00—making this an ideal project to submit for a technology grant, especially in light of its relatively low cost and easy implementation. Finally, we are also happy to share our survey setup with you; just ask. Unfortunately, we can't post the survey link here for you to view, because all of your curiosity clicks will create false responses in the data. (Kirsha Trychta)
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
The short period after the bar exam ends, but before Orientation begins is a good time for a much needed recharge. If you are responsible for bar preparation at your school, then you are likely exhausted right now—and for good reason. I work at a school with roughly 100 graduating students. Between January and today (day 1 of the bar exam), those 100 students resulted in:
- 500+ bar exam related emails;
- 28 bar preparation classes;
- 360ish practice essays;
- 1 Bar Examiner’s presentation;
- 49 individual student appointments;
- 7 spring semester faculty lectures;
- 4 summer workshops, and
- countless drop-ins and phone calls.
I suspect that most bar support professors' schedules look quite similar. Needless to say, we have all earned a break. Much like our students plan post-bar exam adventures, we too should plan time to relax. Take a trip, finish that novel, spend a few computer free days on the couch with a furry friend, or—as in my case—go to a conference on the beach in Florida.
After the mental batteries are recharged, use the remaining time to eliminate a potential long-term stressor before the school year begins. Start by identifying one specific thing that sucks up more time or energy than it should during the school year. Then devise a plan to fix it. The time spent now removing the annoyance will pay dividends indefinitely into the future.
For example, I used to complain about how much time it would take to establish a mutually convenient time to meet a student or a colleague … all the back-and-forth emailing. So, last summer I committed a whole day to eliminating this one problem. I started my quest like any good scholar: by watching a You Tube video. I learned how to make my Outlook calendar visible, in real time, to anyone. After a few simple key strokes, I successfully published my very own calendar webpage. I then posted a hyperlink to the webpage calendar on my TWEN page, in all my course syllabi, and in my formal email signature line. I also drafted a special second “signature” in Outlook that read: “You can view my calendar here. Just let me know what day/time works for you.” Between the widely available calendar links and the quick-insert response language, I rarely engage in the tedious scheduling-based-email-exchange anymore. This one simple fix not only saved me time during the year, but also reduced my inbox clutter.
When I get back from my conference in a few days, I plan to find a way to reliably track long-term bar passage data that does not involve a bunch of Excel spreadsheets, a filing cabinet stuffed full of state bar examiners’ letters, random LinkedIn searches, and a pot of coffee. If anyone has any suggestions, please send me an email. I’d love to hear it! (Kirsha Trychta)
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Hat tip to Steve Black, my colleague here at Texas Tech School of Law, for telling me about Ankiweb to make flashcards. You can build flashcards on your computer and share them with your other devices. The link to the website is Ankiweb. (The phone app is also available through the Google Play Store for Android phones.) (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, November 20, 2016
This semester I decided to add Facebook and Twitter to our outreach efforts with law students to provide information about study and life skills as well as announcements. I try to write two or three Facebook posts each week that are a bit "meaty" but not too long. We always tweet a quote of the week and study tip on Twitter as well as links to the Facebook posts. I could not have tried this new marketing method without the able assistance of my Sr. Business Assistant, Emily Rapp, who takes care of all the technical aspects.
Please visit us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TexasTechLawAcademicSuccess) and Twitter ( https://twitter.com/TTULawOASP). I would welcome suggestions from those of you who have been using these tools for longer! (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Much has been said about the positives of banning laptops in the classroom. Proponents of the ban position have pointed to studies that support handwriting over typing notes.
The Chronicle of Higher Education contained an article this week that does not buy in to the studies and takes a more moderate approach: No, Banning Laptops Is Not the Answer.
In that article is a link to a May blog post on The Tatooed Prof that also supports a different approach to classroom technology: Let's Ban the Classroom Technology Ban.