Last Monday at CALI, I attended a fascinating session on interactive, online casebooks. Professor Steve Bradford from the University of Nebraska Lincoln College of Law presented his thoughts on what an online casebook should look like:
- It should have plenty of hyperlinks, leading to primary and secondary materials cited in the text, interactive tutorials (such as CALI exercises, of course!), multimedia files (oral argument audio files would be a natural here);
- The content should be highly malleable -- instructors should be able to change the organization of the casebook contents to meet their own individual teaching agendas, and they should be able to turn off hyperlinks when it suits their pedagogical needs;
- Students should be able to highlight and take notes in digital form.
Sounds pretty exciting, but is anyone doing anything to make online casebooks a reality? I learned that the answer to this question is a resounding "yes."
First, CALI announced at the conference that they are partnering with Harvard's Berkman Center to create a "new educational resource sharing platform." The venture will establish the Legal Education Commons -- known as eLangdell -- "where law faculty can share and use openly-licensed course materials to offer students free or low-cost course packs, casebooks, podcasts, and video." The venture will also concentrate on developing "innovative teaching tools to advance practice skills like client interaction, negotiations, and trial advocacy."
Thomson West is also entering the field with their new Interactive Casebook Series. According to promotional materials, West's interactive casebooks will feature the following:
- Simultaneous print version and electronic publication (user may only access e-version by purchasing print book), with a searchable text that can be highlighted or otherwise annotated by users;
- Electronic version includes extensive hyperlinking to Westlaw versions of legal materials, Black's Law Dictionary, supplementary online resources, and internal cross-references;
- Layout departs from the traditional, all-text casebook format through use of marginalia/text boxes, diagrams, and color/border segregated feature sections for hypotheticals, references to scholarly debates, or other information.
I find West's insistence on packaging the online and print versions of casebooks in this series pretty annoying, but at least they're working on moving casebook publishing into the 21st century. If you're interested in seeing an example of West's venture yourself, you can view one of the chapters of Spencer's Civil Procedure, the first book in the interactive series.