Earlier today we announced the launch of the Connected Casebook, our most exciting new initiative in several years. You can read the formal announcement here.
The Connected Casebook is a "digital first" approach to textbook publishing for the law school market. We have designed the "digital first" approach in response to consistent requests from law students for the kinds of experiences that can be better achieved through digital media than print media. Here are a few examples:
- Students crave more continual and informative feedback throughout the semester. In many classrooms today, students have to wait until the final exam to have a really clear sense of where they stand. Today's students have grown up in a world in which they receive huge volumes of continual feedback in everything they do, whether from teachers, websites, mobile phones, or from their peers. They are most comfortable when they can have an ongoing sense of how well they are performing, where their strengths and weaknesses are, and where they may need to devote deeper attention as they progress through the class. This kind of responsive, personalized feedback is something that digital media is ideally suited to deliver.
- Students are looking for tools that adapt to their skills and goals. By tracking each student's progress, a well-designed digital environment can efficiently present the right material at the right time.
- Students are looking for lighter, more portable casebooks . . . this desire is self-explanatory for anyone who has ever held a law book!
To meet these and similar requests by students, we spent the last two years working with hundreds of students and dozens of faculty to design what we hope and believe is an extremely effective digital learning environment.
The digital component of the Connected Casebook supports three activities every law student engages in to succeed in class:
- Read. Students get a complete ebook version of their casebook, with lots of useful tools that are designed specifically for law students, including highlighting in multiple colors, adding notes that appear in the margin, and searching for case names. For select titles, the ebook also contains links to law simulations that help the student develop an understanding of how to apply the material they are learning in a real-world law firm environment.
- Study. Students have access to a Study Center filled with thousands of questions (multiple choice, hypotheticals short answer, issue-spotting exercises, flash cards, and practice essay), explanatory videos, and text explanations (from series like Examples & Explanations and Emanuel Law Outlines), all mapped to key sections in their casebook. The Study Center gives students a powerful new tool to ensure they master the material.
- Outline. Students can build a class outline for the subject matter as they read the casebook, automatically incorporating their notes and highlights from the book directly into their outline tool. They can edit and format their outline online or export it to Microsoft Word®.
Based on the extremely positive response by the law students who helped us test and refine this platform over the past summer, we feel that we are well on the way to meeting their vision of an ideal learning tool for law classes.
But we also heard loud and clear from students and faculty during our research that they are not yet ready to move to a purely digital world. Faculty and students still treasure many aspects of their print casebooks, and some faculty still do not allow computers in the classroom.
For this reason, we designed the Connected Casebook as a "digital first" approach, not a "digital only" approach. Along with the digital platform that I describe above, students who buy a Connected Casebook will also receive a rental version of the print textbook for the duration of the class term. The Connected Casebook rental textbook works like the majority of other rental programs for undergraduate and law students today: the student receives a book by mail, marks it up during the semester, downloads a return label, and mails the book back at the end of the semester (or the year, in the case of a full-year class).
Rental textbooks have been an established and thriving industry for many years now, with most of the major retailers and bookstore chains participating and significant uptake by law school students on every campus. In fact, though the Connected Casebook is the first time we are promoting rental textbooks ourselves, our own books have been rented for years without our direct involvement by the major retailers and chains. The movement towards rental options has been driven largely by students, who appreciate the affordability of rentals and who often no longer wish to keep their books after the class is over. Many students do want to keep their books, of course, and they continue to purchase traditional non-rental books.
We have designed the Connected Casebook to marry the best of the traditional (authoritative print casebook) with the best of what is emerging (responsive digital learning) . . . and we are making it available at approximately 25% less than traditional textbooks through online retailer BarristerBooks as well as affiliated campus bookstores. (All law school bookstores were given the option to affiliate.) We are also continuing to offer the traditional non-rental version of every title in the Connected Casebook program through bookstores and online retailers. Students will make the choice of which option they prefer. As of today, 11 Connected Casebook titles are available across a number of key courses (see the full list here).
Beyond this initial launch, we plan to listen closely to feedback and requests from classes that use the program, and evolve the offering by adding a lot more functionality to the digital component that will help both faculty and students in their daily lives. I believe that over time, more and more students and faculty will come to find the digital half of this program to be by far the more valuable. We are already receiving extremely positive response from authors, adopters, and students (as well as some useful critiques!).
Here is what law students and professors are saying:
"The ability to highlight and have things automatically saved in an outline is very helpful and time efficient."
Austin H., Student, University of Arkansas, Little Rock
"I love the interactive component. It facilitates learning and preparing for the final all semester long instead of cramming knowledge in at the last minute."
Patricia W., Student, University of New Mexico School of Law
"I love that it makes it so the book is SEARCHABLE. That is GOLDEN. I also love the look of the outline feature!"
Lindsey W., Student, University of La Verne College of Law
"CasebookConnect completely changes the law school reading, note taking, and outlining process. It is a game changer."
Mohammad P., Student, University of Virginia School of Law
"The Connected Casebook makes me want to be a law student again."
Douglas J. Whaley, Professor Emeritus of Law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
"The Connected Casebook brings together a smart combination of learning resources – casebooks, study aids, websites, and more – in a convenient format designed for today's digitally-oriented students. I believe this is going to make everyone in the classroom more successful . . . students and faculty alike."
Alfred L. Brophy, Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Professor of Law, UNC School of Law
"As a result of seeing the Connected Casebook, I will now allow digital devices in my classroom."
James Underwood, Professor of Law, Baylor Law School
"The Connected Casebook can transform casebook-based legal education by providing meaningful content connected in real time for the student in a highly accessible way. This innovative platform will affect in-class discussion, review session and office hour questions, and exam performance, by allowing students to tap into the network of ideas and information in a guided and valuable way. It does not simply make learning easier, it can make it better."
Tracey George, Charles B. Cox III and Lucy D. Cox Family Chair in Law and Liberty and Director, Cecil D. Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program, Vanderbilt University Law School
I will use this blog to share updates and feedback on the Connected Casebook program, as well other initiatives as Wolters Kluwer, so check back if you are interested in following our progress.