Schools v. Teachers v. Students

There is an inherent tension between law schools, teachers and students.

School wants student to succeed – be happy – become a rich alum and donate – and pass the bar.

Teacher wants to student to learn – and not bug them too much – and only learn what the teacher thinks is important. Teacher wants a lot of control over the educational environment. They are, after all, primarily responsible for the "education" that happens in educational institutions – or so they think.

Students want the credential, the job, the loans paid off, the bar passed – with balance between life and job and learning and stress. Here is the catch, however.

Students wants to learn the way that they want to learn.

It’s almost too simple a statement, but it means that students are in ultimate control of the educational process. They are not "in charge" and they are not the final authority and they are not always primarily responsible, but if they don’t show up, nothing happens.

So that means, that schools and teachers must get students to show up – that’s motivation. It’s a natural, important and vital part of education. In law school, however, it’s given fairly short shrift. Law students are adults, after all, and so they should not need to be reminded to bring their pencils to class and all that. This has some truth to it as well.

Let’s cut to the chase…

Schools wants results.

Teachers wants control since this leads to student learning.

Students want the least hassle to satisfy authority of teacher and nab the credential which the school is reluctantly granting only after you have jumped through all 36 hoops (courses) to get the JD.

Where is CALI is this?

CALI lessons are written by teachers and so controlled by teachers – but since we have decoupled the teacher from the student – we have decoupled the authority. This gives back a lot of control to the student – hence students use our lessons, teachers do not. This is a constant point of discussion within CALI – "Why Don’t More Law Faculty Assign CALI Lessons?"

A couple of years ago, we started making our lessons much smaller which helped students (because they became more findable). One of the stated goals of making smaller lessons (we called them lessonettes!), was to make them more reviewable and assignable by law faculty. Anecdotal evidence tells me this was a complete failure.

So why does CALI have steady membership?

Schools want their money’s worth and as long as there is relevant activity and return-on-investment – they stick around. CALI gives huge return-on-investment. (IMHO) They could get more return if their teachers assigned more lessons, but this comes back to the control issue and the tension between schools and teachers.

I am not terrifically worried. Students are finding our lessons and telling us they like them for the reasons we designed them. But I do believe that we need to understand better the relationship between schools, teachers and students if we are going to be effective in creating better tools in the future.

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