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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Saving Time and Improving Performances with On-Line Content

A few posts ago, I wrote about my plan to teach a summer trial advocacy class without lectures of my own, relying instead on the Stetson ARC for lectures. I am now convinced that this is a great way to maximize the use of classroom time. One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching advocacy is time: there is never enough of it. I've felt for a couple of years now that in-class lectures are not the most valuable use of time, but I've continued to use them. It is, after all, what I've always done. I've also found that students seem to be uncomfortable making the leap between what they read in their advocacy book and a courtroom exercise, without some type of lecture or explanation in the middle.

Now I have my students watching the lectures online before they come to class. They show up to class with substantive questions based on the reading and lecture, and they come prepared to work on the assigned advocacy skill. We are able to spend our time in the classroom actually practicing the assigned skill. For the first time, because I haven't had to worry about time for the lecture, I have enough time to help coach several students to make meaningful improvements in class. In turn, when we hold our second meeting of the week--a graded performance session on the same skill we worked on the first session--their performances seem to be remarkably improved.

Although I am using the ARC, it is by no means the only available method for delivering content outside the classroom. A few years ago, one of the adjuncts in our trial program suggested putting together DVDs with supplemental lectures and demonstrations that our students could use. For a school with a low budget, such as ours, this would be a cost-effective way to create content not found on the ARC, or to showcase some of our adjunct faculty and their unique skills in a way that would not be possible otherwise. The DVD was a good idea, and I may still do it. In the meantime, it's nice to be able to use the ARC as a starting point.

I will write more about the results of this summer's class in future posts, but for now I have to say that I'm very excited about what I'm seeing so far.

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