Technology that Counts: Tools that Improve the Quality of Legal Research Instruction

Jane Larrington, University of San Diego School of Law
Anna Russell, University of San Diego School of Law

 Recent discussions about legal education highlight the importance of skills-acquisition in law school. Legal research is among the most important skills for law students to acquire. As legal research instructors, we know how difficult it can be to foster development of those skills.

Traditional methods of teaching legal research have focused on in-class lectures and demonstrations followed by out of class assignments. In this presentation, we explain how to turn the traditional teaching model on its head with the help of technology.

Using video capture technology like Echo360 and screen-capture tutorial technology like Adobe Captivate, introductory lecture and basic demonstration of content occurs before class. Students come to class prepared with background knowledge and a basic understanding of the research methodology.

Class time then turns to putting basic knowledge into practice as students work through hypothetical research exercises, i.e. actual skill-acquisition. Students work on their own or in small groups. The instructor monitors progress and engages students with screen-share technology like TeamSpot. As students encounter individual research issues, the instructor can share a student’s screen with the rest of the class and offer advice and strategy in the moment. This puts the proffered strategy in context for students, which fosters learning.

This shift in teaching methodology has several added benefits. In addition to focusing class time on skills-acquisition, it keeps students engaged and focused in class. And it keeps content fresh for instructors. It also trains students to seek a basic understanding of a new area of law on their own. They make better use of their instructors’ expertise as they work through higher order levels of learning. This pattern sets up future attorneys with a learning model they can replicate as they encounter unfamiliar types of legal materials, areas of law, or research tools.

This presentation will take attendees through the process of redesigning legal research curricula, matching specific course content to specific technologies, and evaluating the impact on student learning.

Schedule info

Time slot: 
22 June 13:00 - 14:00