By Sandra Simpson from Gonzaga University School of Law
Necessity is the motherhood of invention. Recently a colleague, Heidi Holland, found herself in need of an inventive idea to help her make up a class she missed due to sickness. The class she needed to make up was teaching the students how to research in the Code of Federal Regulations. In the past, Heidi tried lecturing on it. Boring, she thought. She had also in the past tried taking the whole class (15 students) to the library and doing a hands-on activity. This proved to be too unwieldy with that many students. Her solution for the last couple of years had been to divide the class into small groups and take each small group through a hands-on lesson. This was working well until she had to miss class on Friday. Thus, she decided to videotape herself doing the research in the library with our IT person following her around the library with a camera.
Prior to watching the video, Heidi posted on TWEN 10 different Code of Federal Regulation fact patterns one of which the students must choose and research. Heidi picked one fact pattern to video and then she took the students through that fact pattern, showing them how they’d research it using the actual books. A separate answer sheet for the example fact pattern is also posted to TWEN, so if the students get lost, they can use those answers to find their way through the research. After they watched the video, then they can start researching one of the other fact patterns on the worksheet posted to TWEN. As an added bonus, students can watch the video as many times as is necessary.
Brilliant! I have always struggled with “lecturing” about research. It bores the students and has no practical implications for them until they see the actual books, which typically happens when they are alone in the library with no one to help them. This idea has broad implications, for doctrinal teachers, as well. For instance, if a civil procedure professor can walk her students through the lecture on joinder of parties via a video podcast, the professor could then save class time for an in-depth discussion of the cases. I can also see doctrinal professors using videotaping to go over a sample answer for a test. In this way, the professor can assign a sample question with which the students can practice writing an answer. Rather than spending class time to go over the sample answer, a professor could videotape himself walking through a sample answer. There seems to be endless uses for this technology.