Lessons from CALIcon14 @ HLS
Aaron Dewald has online modules for law school down to a science—literally. Dewald is the Associate Director of the Center for Innovation and Legal Education at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. He works on TheFirstYear Project, an effort to develop online videos for the 1L curriculum. He’s also a Ph.D. candidate in learning science, and knows the potential and the pitfalls of blended learning. Dewald says, “Knowing a few simple things about what blended learning can and cannot do, as well as how to properly design the online portion, can lead to a very successful blended course.”
Many educators tell us that there’s never enough time in their courses to use case studies – too many cases to review, too much information to deliver. Using Dewald’s blended learning approach, you can be more efficient with how you transfer information to students, providing them with well-thought-out, replayable lectures that help ensure that your students get a well-structured baseline of knowledge. This may free up classroom time for more participant-centered learning, like case studies and problem solving workshops.
Last month, I sat in on Dewald’s presentation at CALIcon, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction’s annual meeting of the minds. Here are Dewald’s tips for creating online modules that work:
- Combine the verbal with visual. With more retrieval cues, students are more likely to remember the information due to a more robust “encoding.”
- Less is more. Text and talking use the same “verbal” channel of processing information, straining the students’ cognitive load. With voiceovers, it’s better to minimize the words on-screen. Likewise, superfluous content or attention-grabbing animations can distract from the key information.
- 10 minutes, max. Short videos encourage brevity, minimize distractions, and hold students’ attention; often they’re easier to produce as well. Break complex lessons into multiple short videos.
- Write a script. Many educators lecture off the cuff, but multimedia presentations need scripts to be coordinated, concrete, thoughtful, and concise. According to Dewald, novices need these features to build a strong, stable knowledge base.
- Talk like Toy Story. Online lectures need animated narrators, so use more inflection. Don’t worry, says Dewald, the finished product sounds less ridiculous than one might think. Learners can tell when you’re bored, reading, or both.
A version of Dewald’s CALI presentation, an example of online learning in its own right, is available on YouTube. Dewald also explains the learning science behind effective presentations and the project timeline for creating online modules.
TheFirstYear.org is looking for law school professors who want online modules for their first-year courses. You write the script, and TheFirstYear Project will create the video. Email aaron.dewald [at] law.utah.edu for more information.