Externships and Technology (Concurrent Session 2:00-3:30 p.m.)
Workshop on Technology and Pedagogy
AALS Annual Meeting
January 3, 2004 (Atlanta, Georgia)
J. P. "Sandy" Ogilvy and Nora Pasman Green
Good afternoon. I am Sandy Ogilvy of Columbus School of Law , The Catholic University of America . Sharing the podium with me for this session is Nora Pasman-Green of Thomas M. Cooley Law School . This is the concurrent session on Externships and Technology.
As our outline suggests, we plan for this session to be an interactive workshop in which all participants have the opportunity to learn and to teach along with Nora and me. I plan to take about 20 minutes to demonstrate some of the ways in which we are beginning to incorporate technology into the externship program at CUA law school (and here I am limiting the technology that I will describe to computer-based or computer-assisted technology). Then Nora will walk you through an innovative distant learning course in Remedies that she has designed and will teach. This course is targeted at students in placements remote from the law school. The remainder of our time together (about 20-30 minutes, if all goes well) we would like to hear from you. How are you currently using technology in your externship programs; what are some of the perceived benefits and challenges; and what initiatives or plans for future uses of technology are on the drawing board or beyond?
Both Nora and I welcome questions and comments during our presentations, although we may defer answering some questions in detail until later in the session so that we make certain to get all of the way through our set pieces within the time limits we have set for ourselves.
We want to thank the Planning Committee for the Workshop on Technology and Pedagogy for making available to us the technology that we requested for this session. When we began talking about the presentation last fall, we thought we were going to have to do with flip charts and masking tape. Of course, if the technology fails (as it is wont to do – the first challenge of using technology), we may yet end up with flip charts and masking tape.
I want to demonstrate some of the projects that I have initiated at CUA law school for our legal externship program. I should say at the outset a few words about our program to give you some context. We have a relatively large externship program. We allow 100 to 120 students each semester to do an externship at placements throughout the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. Our students are in federal, state and local government offices, from the White House to the mayor’s office, in legislative, executive and judicial placements. They also work in associations, not-for-profit organizations, private law firms, and at the Pentagon. The students choose their own placements with some assistance from us (more about that later), and the initial externship has a seminar component, although subsequent externships are supervised at the law school by a faculty member (usually me and an assistant dean) using a tutorial model employing a limited number of face-to-face meetings with individual students and the assignment of several short reflective papers. Each seminar section is limited to no more than 16 students, and because most of the seminars are populated by students in a wide variety of placements, the seminars focus on enhancing students’ learning from the placements; giving students models for learning from experience; and using the experience to gain knowledge and encourage reflection on career choices.
Over the years that our program has been operating, we have developed a substantial amount of information about the operation of the program and forms designed to facilitate administration of the program.Slowly we have been uploading the documents and forms to a webpage where it is readily accessible 24/7 to current and prospective externship students and present and prospective externship placements.We are still a long way from being a paperless externship program, but that is the goal toward which we are working.Although, I will show you some of the documents and forms that we have on our webpage, today I want to feature the technology. I am happy to answer questions later regarding the structure or pedagogy we employ in our externship program.
Online Database of Placement Opportunities
The first thing we made available on the web was a database of externship opportunities. This was designed by the same vendor that designed our career services job site. We tinkered a little with the design, but since it was much less expensive to piggy-back on what had already been designed, we didn’t change a great deal. We went live with the database once we had about 100 placement opportunities in it. We now have about 350. The database is maintained by a student assistant. Before this database came online, we maintained loose-leaf binders with information about placement opportunities. The binders were indexed in a variety of ways. It didn’t require much to file new placement information as it was received, but the task of maintaining the indices was substantial. Now that we have the online database, we still file, in the binders, the information we receive, but we no longer cross index the information, since the search function of the online database allows for searches using several variables. We are in the process of bringing the database hosting function back to the University. Currently it is maintained by the vendor who created it and we are charged $55.00/month for the hosting service. As we bring it in-house, we also plan to revise the search function because we have found that the existing search function is not very sophisticated. For example, unless one types in the name of the organization as it appears in the database, one is likely not to get a hit.
You can see that we provide contact information for the placement. This is because in our program, students seek their own placements, subject to my approval. If your program doesn’t want students approaching the placements, at least until after the students have conferred with a faculty supervisor, you would not include the placement contact information in the database.
Information and Forms Online
Even before a student begins looking for a placement using our Online Database , the student can get a great deal of information about our program online. By going to the Externships homepage , which is part of the Clinical Programs website, students can read a brief program description, read Frequently Asked Questions , read and download a memorandum that provides guidance for securing an externship, read other documents describing policies and procedures , and download forms that are required in the externship program. We are in the process of making it possible for the students to complete required forms on line and then submit them electronically. When fully realized, we anticipate being able to do away with several metal file cabinets holding records because we will have an electronic file on each student containing all relevant materials. Because we are doing this in-house, we a still some distance away from our goal. It would be faster if we could afford to hire a developer.
Certainly an advantage of having application forms and other information web accessible is that it is easier for the students to get and less of a hassle for me and my administrative assistant.On the other hand, we lose opportunities for face-to-face meetings with students that has the potential of alerting us to problems that might arise with the student’s ability or attitude about work at a specific placement, allowing us to clear us misconceptions the student may have about the program, or permit us to counsel students who think they have enough information to make good decisions about placements, don’t want to bother us, or don’t see us as an integral part of the process.
Also we have begun to place documents of interest to fieldwork supervisors on the website. All of these forms are mailed to the fieldwork supervisors throughout the year, but if they misplace the documents, they can come here for the information. Eventually, we would like to be able to receive midterm and final evaluation reports electronically and route those into each student’s electronic file with a copy to the student’s faculty supervisor.
Because our students can locate a placement without any assistance from us, from time to time a prospective placement site will inquire of the student about the school’s requirements for them. In the past, we would take the contact information from the student and then mail information to the prospective placement site. Now, we can direct the student to the webpage and they can either print out the information for the placement or forward the page or a link to the page to the placement. Eventually, we want to be able to receive, electronically, from placement sites requests to be included in the online database and changes to existing entries.
Our pedagogical use of technology in our externship program is not as far along as is our administrative use. But, I can show you some of the tools available, some of which I have experimented with (or used more extensively in non-externship courses). Since you are undoubtedly familiar with most, if not all, of these because of the existence of The West Education Network ( TWEN ) and the Lexis-Nexis Blackboard course management software, I will not spend much time on this part of the presentation. I have used TWEN extensively in other courses. I have used Lexis-Nexis once and I have played a little with WebCt, the course management software, which our University has adopted and supports.
From my perspective, the advantages of using proprietary course management software like TWEN are its ease of use and the fact that most of the features that I would want in course management software if I could afford to develop it from scratch are already bundled together. For example, the software facilitates communication between me and my students and among students. E-mail can be sent quickly and easily to one student, to a subgroup of all students, or to all students. The students have the same capabilities. A threaded discussion can be sustained among students and me and this can be archived and accessed later, if necessary. I can post my syllabus, assignments, and other course materials on the course website and never have to distribute a single piece of paper (assuming I have the requisite copyright permissions for course materials). I can accept student journal entries or other assignments and create an electronic grade book. There are other features built in to the course management software that may appeal to some instructors, including a calendaring feature; the ability to create and administer quizzes and tests; creation of links to other websites; access to CALI lessons; and direct access to Westlaw (or in the case of Lexis-Nexis Blackboard, Lexis) databases from within documents on the course website; and a live chat room (I experimented with this feature on TWEN in my civil procedure course this year and found it not ready for prime time).
The final site I want to show you is a work in progress for me. This is a prototype of a Legal Externship Portal – a one stop website for all things related to legal externships. I won’t take much time to discuss it today, but I would like you to visit the site after the session and to send me comments and suggestions for making this, or something like it, useful for all of us involved in legal externships.
This site is intended for faculty and administrators of externship programs. What I want to show you represents my thinking to date. I would like the site to allow quick and easy access to every legal externship program in the country. Therefore, the first set of links eventually will provide a link to every program with a webpage. The other feature that is most important to me is the availability of representative documents and forms used in legal externship programs. I would like to link to every public document or form in every externship program and to find a way to keep these links current (which I see as an even bigger challenge than the initial linking project).I am not certain how best to present these links and related documents, so what you see here is a sample using the documents publicly available on our webpage. Other features of the portal will be a current bibliography of materials related to legal externships (this is a subset of the clinical online bibliography that I maintain), and statistics on externship programs (Bob Seibel and I are nearing completion of a report based on a recent survey of externship programs), a depository for Handbooks and Manuals (empty at this point), links to other related externship sites, and links to externship conferences and workshops , both upcoming and archived.
If you think this project is promising, I would like your input both here and later. I am especially interested to hear suggestions for ways of keeping the site current without significant costs in personnel, time, or money.
I’ll now turn the podium over to Nora Pasman-Green who will expand on the use of technology in the pedagogy of legal externships by describing a very exciting and innovative Remedies course delivered over distances to students in externships at locations very remote from the law school in Lansing, Michigan.