January 10, 2011
Enterprise Networking for Law Teachers: Law School Exchange
by Steve Nickles
I have a Facebook page. It’s great for keeping up with family and friends, but the intended, principal use is social. You can share pictures and recipes and gossip with your 500 million contacts.
I have a LinkedIn account, too. It’s designed for professional use and primarily to find and build networks for business opportunities. LinkedIn isn’t intended to help me, as a law professor, with connecting to law faculty everywhere in the country for the purposes of collaborating about teaching, research and writing, and our other, shared professional activities.
Facebook, LinkedIn, and other, open, social network systems are great for their intended markets and purposes, but they aren’t intended or designed for law professors and our work in legal education. Law School Exchange (LSE) is.
LSE is a work or enterprise network for the business of legal education. The purposes of enterprise networking for any business are to “find the right colleague to help … complete a task, to help organize and locate internal data more easily, and … [to] boost productivity and reduce redundancy by better sharing what everyone is doing.” The results are efficiency, insight, and innovation.
LSE is all about sharing content and is intended for use only by law faculty and primarily to enrich their business, which is teaching, research, and other law-related professional activities. LSE is designed to help produce efficiency, insight, and innovation with respect to all of a law professor’s work and to do so increasingly as use of LSE grows and the networking effect kicks in.
A perfect illustration is using LSE to share and create teaching materials. For example, a law professor teaching a payments course can find on LSE e-copies of her West or Foundation casebook, the teacher’s manual, any casebook supplement, and other teaching materials the authors have published on LSE. Mary Beth Matthews and I have published there problem sets, quizzes, PowerPoint presentations, and case briefs to accompany our payments casebook. All of the Foundation and West study aids are published on LSE, too, so she can see what her students could be reading.
More important, the teacher can find and use teaching and analytical materials about payments and related topics that are published on LSE by any other law professor. In fact, any law professor can easily publish on LSE almost any form of any e-information on any topic and make it available to all other law professors (or a subset she defines). The information can be a document file that is a book, article, memorandum, outline, other narrative, a complaint or other pleading, a PowerPoint presentation, an audio or video file of someone explaining something, or just about anything else.
On any page of LSE, click the “UPLOAD” button; see a form; link to the form the file you want to publish; name, describe, and add tags to the file; categorize the file by subject and type; decide if access is universal or limited; and click submit. Unless you have limited access or restricted use, any other law professor can find the file by searching various ways; save the file to her own LSE library; and use the file for teaching, as by importing the file from your LSE library to your course TWEN (The West Education Network) site. (Students can never access LSE, but they can access materials you find and otherwise make available to them.)
Professors teaching payments or any other course can create their own LSE pages or profiles, communicate privately through LSE, and create closed or open groups of professors around courses, subject, issues, and activities. A group LSE page dedicated to a course or subject is a perfect vehicle for collecting and organizing original sets of teaching materials.
Every professor’s pool of teaching materials is vastly expanded in size and scope. The variety of forms of materials serves different teaching and learning styles. Materials can be combined to create a unique teaching set covering and even creating topics in new and insightful ways. This set in whole form can be published on LSE for use and further enhancement by other professors.
The possible combinations are incredibly rich and limitless. More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) are shared each month on Facebook. Imagine sharing the law school world equivalent of 30 billion pieces of teaching materials each month through a system that can filter and flag very specifically for content and form important to you. The possibilities for what you teach and how are also incredibly rich and limitless.
Steve Nickles is recognized across the country as an outstanding scholar and teacher in the fields of business, commercial, and debtor-creditor law. He is the coauthor of several casebooks and textbooks on these subjects and of a three-volume treatise on bankruptcy, which is used by lawyers. He is currently at work on two classroom books. In addition to his many published articles, Steve has frequently lectured in professional development programs for lawyers and judges and to law school faculties and academic meetings about the use of technology in teaching.