Deborah Maranville and Carrie Gaasland
Deborah Maranville and Carrie Gaasland
School of Law
University of Washington, Seattle Campus
Using Catalyst Tools for 'Metatalk', Feedback, and Context
Deborah Maranville, professor of law and director of the Unemployment Law Clinic, usually teaches in the Clinical Law Program. When she went back to teaching analytical skills in Civil Procedure I, a more traditional first-year class, she wanted to:
- Communicate information about what she is trying to do (what she calls "metatalk")
- Provide feedback (not getting enough is a common law school complaint)
- Do experiential, applied work (to provide context for the rules that govern civil disputes)
To help meet these teaching goals, Maranville turned to the Catalyst tools in Autumn 2002.
Creating a Course Web Site with SimpleSite
Maranville and Carrie Gaasland, senior secretary in the Clinical Law Program, developed a Web site so students could easily retrieve course handouts, view the assignment schedule, and to link to other resources. "Our first course Web site wasn't well organized," admits Gaasland. They used SimpleSite, the Catalyst template-based Web application, but soon had too much information on one page.
When a Law School reference librarian took on faculty technology support last year and was looking to get up to speed on Catalyst tools, Maranville suggested revamping their Web site. "She did a fabulous job using SimpleSite," beams Maranville. "It looks good," she says, and provides the "metatalk" about the course.
With SimpleSite, Maranville can delegate Web work to Gaasland but still feel capable of making changes. "It provides us with maximum flexibility," says Maranville. "If Carrie is sick and I have to fix something, I can."
Using WebQ for Problem Sets and Feedback
"Problem sets walk students through the basic information," explains Maranville, "so we can focus on the harder stuff in class." To put the problem sets online, she turned to the Catalyst survey tool WebQ for Autumn 2003. "That's not what it is designed for," she says, "but it works very well for that."
Gaasland created WebQ surveys with the problem set questions. Students answer the questions and then view model answers posted on the course Web site. At first Maranville only posted the answers after the due date. This year, she decided to have the answers up at the start. "From a learning standpoint, I think it's much more efficient if students can see the answers as soon as they complete the problem set," explains Maranville. "It's on the honor system, but I think they understand how it will help them."
This year, she restructured the problem set answers into a syllogism format -- rule, application, and conclusion -- the way legal arguments are structured. "I told them it might take too long to do it every time," explains Maranville, "but that it would be worth their while." The result? On exams, students were using that format much more effectively, and the feedback she got was very positive. "They all said, 'It gets kind of tedious and is a drag, but it's worth it.'"
Setting up the WebQ problem sets was a lot of work, says Maranville, who admits they weren't very systematic when they started. "Some are under my UW NetID and some under Carrie's," she explains. "Carrie is trying to organize it."
On the course evaluation, students were asked to list the three things that really worked, three things that didn't, and three suggestions for improvement. "The WebQ problem sets showed up significantly, on three-fourths of the 'three things that worked' lists," reports Gaasland.
In addition to using WebQ for problem sets, Maranville added basic case reading questions the second year.
Supporting Simulations with VirtualCase and EPost
As part of providing context for the rules they were learning, Maranville had the students draft and file documents and make an oral argument as virtual lawyers. She used VirtualCase, the Catalyst tool that supports collaborative problem-based learning, for this virtual court simulation the first year. She changed to EPost, the Catalyst discussion board, last year. "The Catalyst folks were very helpful regarding which tool to use," recalls Maranville. "It would not have occurred to me that EPost would have worked for that, but it was clearly the preferable tool. We could set it up much more easily through EPost, so it was more efficient for our purposes."
Working in groups, students drafted their documents and used EPost to "file" them in the virtual court clerk's office, and to send a copy to opposing counsel's virtual law office. Students also could see everyone else's documents. "I'm not sure they ended up looking at each other's much in this first round, but I think for the future it will work well," explains Gaasland. "It's simple, doesn't require a lot of start up time, and you just click from our Web page."
Using E-submit to Help Manage Externships
Maranville also teaches an upper-division, credit/no credit class for students doing externships with a non-profit organization, government agency, or judge to satisfy their public service requirement. Students must submit three sets of responses, and with some 30 people in three sections, Maranville had 90 responses to track. "E-submit made it relatively easy," she explains. "We didn't have to set up a spreadsheet; it basically functioned as one." One reason she wanted to use E-submit was to get away from dealing with attachments. "It was a little easier to manage that much paperwork," she explains.
Advice for Others
Interested in using Catalyst tools? Maranville and Gaasland recommend:
- Be clear about what your learning goals are
- Set up a system upfront so you can keep track of WebQs, etc.
- Talk to the Catalyst folks about what the appropriate tool is for your goal, and call or meet with them if you have problems
By Kay Pilcher
Computing & Communications
Please note: EPost has been replaced by GoPost, which offers expanded features to support online discussion and collaboration.
E-Submit has been replaced by Collect It, which offers expanded features to gather files, provide feedback, and return assignments online.
Virtual Case is no longer available. Please contact us for help supporting problem-based learning with online tools.