Case Studies Greatest Hits

As the year comes to a close, we’d like to share our greatest hits of 2014. Do you have our top cases and role plays yet?

Top Three New Cases of 2014:

  1. Sue the Consumer: Digital Copyright in the New Millennium (FREE)

An Advanced Problem Solving Workshop background note about the Recording Industry Association of America’s lawsuits against illegal fire-sharing and peer-to-peer music downloading, first directed at companies and later at downloaders. This note discusses the U.S. regime of statutory damages, relevant file-sharing technologies, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and gets readers to envision a future for end users and digital content.

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (FREE)

A Problem Solving Workshop case in four installments that places participants in the role of new attorneys at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, tasked with interpreting the bureau’s statutory mandate to “consider the potential benefits and costs” of rulemakings. Part 1 of the case outlines the problem and relevant court decisions, while Part 2 asks participants to evaluate whether the agency has followed mandates, precedent, and best practices. Participants develop policy guidelines with respect to particular objectives in Part 3, and synthesize these guidelines into a memorandum in Part 4.

3. Set Sale!

A role play in which a law firm negotiates the sale a small collection of art to a museum. This role play introduces basic negotiation concepts and teaches students to manage distributive issues.

Ten Most Downloaded Cases of 2014:

1. Diego Primadonna

A negotiation role play in which a veteran soccer player tries to sign with a Brazilian football club experiencing a slump. In striking a deal, participants will practice probing for interests and creating value, in addition to learning about the zone of possible agreement and distributional strategy.

2. Ernest Shackleton’s Journey to the Endurance

A discussion-based case study about explorer Ernest Shackleton’s dramatic voyage to the Antarctic, a great example of effective teamwork and leadership in crisis.

3. The Case of the Medical Stent

A four-part Problem Solving Workshop case chronicling a contact negotiation about a medical device that ultimately fell apart. Aspects of the arrangement led either to litigation or to settlement. The case highlights the disparity between the negotiated arrangement and the lived relationship, and allows students to view contracting as a problem solving process. The case also delves into ethical issues and strategy.

4. The Case of the Commissioner’s Choice

A four-part hypothetical Problem Solving Workshop case based a real regulatory dilemma. A local Department of Health and Environment must decide whether to issue a permit to a coal power plant, considering public welfare, political aspirations, climate change, and job creation. Participants weed through a hefty administrative record to advise the department’s Commissioner about her legal authority and the repercussions of her decision. Participants will deliver both a memorandum and an oral presentation.

5. Three Vignettes on Pricing of Professional Services

A discussion-based case study with three examples of pricing: the first involves a client choosing between pricing structures for home renovation; the second discusses a client’s request to discount the firm’s services; and the third looks at how to respond to client requests for alternative fee arrangements. Participants weigh merits of various pricing structures, learn to balance a variety of factors, and make space for both creativity and standardization.

6. Client Service at Fraser and Stephens

A discussion-based case study presenting three situations at a mid-size law firm: the first involves a client complaint about a partner’s attitude and commitment; the second looks at the problem of a client’s proliferating work; and the third discusses the response needed when a client quietly hires co-counsel. Firm leaders and professionals can reflect on what it means to be client-oriented and service-focused.

7. Ellen Harvey

A discussion-based case study in which a partner at an accounting firm reflects on her success and mentoring. This case highlights the link between development and organizational performance as well as the ways senior professionals can mentor their colleagues.

8. Bingham McCutchen: Combinatorial Mathematics

A discussion-based case study about a local law firm’s rise to international prominence through a series of mergers. The case discusses inorganic growth, the logistics of acquisition and merger, and the challenges of managing a burgeoning firm. Participants will think about strategy, change management, and future trajectories.

9. Practice Economics in a Professional Partnership

A discussion-based case study about drivers of profitability in professional service partnerships and the relationships between these drivers. This case is excellent for management or business planning courses.

10. Harborco

A six-player, multi-issue scorable negotiation role play disputing the construction of a deep-water port. Harborco, the consortium interested in building the port, must promote buy-in and gain support from other stakeholders in order to obtain a necessary license. Participants learn more about coalition strategies and elementary utility analysis.

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New Multiparty Negotiation is (Not Entirely) about Keeping Score

New Product: Hesperia Seed Initiative

A philanthropic initiative to introduce genetically modified seeds on the island nation of Hesperia has great potential: either to save the food supply affected by climate change and insect blights, or to destroy the fragile biodiversity and local genetic resources. Citizens and officials alike have debated not only the impact of GMOs but also the corporate control of the project: by partnering with one agricultural company, the nation’s farmers risk establishing a crop lien dynamic or becoming helpless if the company ever cuts the seed supply.

Lettuce_seeds_(464344612)Although supporters of the seed initiative consider it possible to mitigate these risks, the President of Hesperia is not convinced. He has put a moratorium on the importation, sale, and use of genetically modified seeds—but is willing to reconsider if five of six stakeholder groups agree on five seed initiative policies.

Hesperia Seed Initiative, the latest role play package from Professor Robert Bordone, is an intermediate-to-advanced multiparty negotiation simulation. This case has six roles, representing the sponsoring philanthropic foundation, the agricultural company developing genetically modified seeds, an NGO with interests in food security, the national biosafety agency, a local seed research center, and the United Nations. For larger courses, instructors can set up multiple games or create teams to represent each role.

The negotiation is “scored” to bring out tensions between creating and claiming value: each player has a confidential points system that scales their relative interest in each of the five policy issues and sets a minimum threshold for accepting a policy proposal. In addition, each player has unquantified interests that can be used to leverage deals or create impasses. Multiparty negotiation simulations with both scorable and non-scorable components are rare, says Professor Bordone.

Participants will identify interests and create options in a complex negotiation; appreciate the importance of process; see multiparty relationships and coalition dynamics in action; and learn how to break impasses. The case comes with an extensive teaching note with four review plans:

  • Discussion of creating and distributing value
  • Discussion of multiparty process and coalitional dynamics
  • Circle chart analysis in game groups
  • Discussion of challenges, followed by class-wide circle chart analysis

Each review plan includes reflection on what worked well and what to do differently in the future.  The preparation, negotiation, and review takes about three hours, but the review can be extended for highly engaged groups.

Hesperia Seed Initiative is available on the Case Studies website. Registered educators, staff at non-profit institutions, and trainers are eligible for review copies free of charge.

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HBS Shares: How to Make Class Discussions Fair

The Participation Tracking Tool

Yesterday, we got to learn how our friends at Harvard Business School are thinking critically about call patterns and grading in case-based classes. HLS Case Studies came together with case-based programs across the university on Tuesday for the second meeting of the Harvard Affinity Group for Case Studies, an open partnership forged to share best practices and advance case-based learning.

Paul Craig

Paul Craig

At the meeting, Paul Craig, Associate Director of Learning Technologies at HBS’s Educational Technology Services, shared how HBS tracks class participation. Based on an earlier tool developed by Professor Benjamin Edelman with input from other faculty and the Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning, HBS created a custom tool that helps professors not only record participation, but also learn about their students.  Professors utilize the tool to understand both semester-long and class-by-class trends in discussion.

HBS operates primarily on the case study method of teaching. Professors are presented with a challenging environment for facilitating discussion: required courses at HBS enroll about 90 students in each section, all in seats preassigned by the registrar. At an institution where participation comprises up to 50% of a student’s grade, professors must fairly facilitate and assess discussions that last over an hour while avoiding distracting and scrutinizing behaviors like taking notes.

Willis Emmons, Director of the Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning at HBS, chimed in to explain that quality is co-produced by student and instructor: the more a professor stays with and probes a student, the more that student can develop a quality response. To grade fairly, professors must manage the discussion with both equity and depth.

Designed to address these concerns, the participation tracker is a web-based tool for easily logging the student’s name and comment, with live time-stamping enabled. While the professors lead discussion, staff scribes use the participation tracker to record comments. The tool also allows scribes to note whether a student was observed to be absent or cold-called. Rather than keep a full transcript of the class session, the scribes make brief notes to jog the professor’s memory about the comment. The scribes never read the case and thus intentionally cannot suggest the quality of the comment. The scribes rotate through the class sections to preclude any favoritism or student influence.

After class, the professor can review and edit the scribe’s notes, assign values to the participation, and mark excused and unexcused absences. The tool also provides web-based and print-out class cards with a student’s picture, background, and name pronunciation.

Once the participation grades are assigned and finalized, the tool offers the professor statistics that can improve her classroom facilitation. A color-coded report presented as a seating chart displays who spoke most recently, who participated the most or least, and who has gone the longest without participating in a class session. Statistics in other reports compare the demographic breakdown (male/female and US/non-US) of the class with the percentage of comments and cold-calls for each demographic. The same comparisons are applied to the rows and sections of a room, to see if a professor tends to call on, for example, the back of the class or the left side. To show progress, the tool also provides data about a student’s participation and a professor’s call patterns over time. With this information, professors can be more thoughtful about how to avoid bias and give every student a fair chance to speak.

The tool was designed to support the professor’s discretion: it is flexible enough to accommodate different participation grading systems, and the design of its analytics favors neither quality nor quantity of participation as a standard. Craig explains that the tool needed to be flexible to be adopted widely.

Craig’s team is exploring LTI (learning tool interoperability), with the potential to bring the participation tracker to other institutions.

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5 Questions with Copyright Advisor Kyle Courtney

New Products: What’s Fair about Fair Use? The Battle Over E-Reserves at GSU (A) and (B)

Kyle Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University

Kyle Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University

Kyle K. Courtney, Harvard University’s Copyright Advisor in the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication, wanted to develop a case study on the contentious institution of fair use at a university. He chose to focus on electronic reserves at Georgia State University, which faced a copyright infringement suit from Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications. The case shows how the four factors of fair use, which are designed to support educational use and engender case-by-case analysis of copyrighted works, got caught in the crossfire between educators and publishers over extralegal, universal guidelines. What better format to bring fair use back to case-by-case analysis than a discussion-based case study?

Courtney first introduced the case study in his Copyright Immersion Program for Harvard University librarians designated as “Copyright First Responders.” Courtney has plans to use the case in his cyberlaw class at Northeastern University, which attracts students in law, criminal justice, and computer science. Courtney plans to teach the case in a continuing legal education program and to use taped segments of the Copyright Immersion Program for a massive open online course (MOOC). This case study could fit well in a number of other educational settings, such as intellectual property courses and professional development for general counsels or university officials.

Courtney shared with us his experiences as a first-time case study author:

EM: What inspired the case study?

KC: This was one of the most important library fair use cases in the last decade. It also marks a new era, one in which university presses sue university libraries. It’s a shift in the legal landscape.

This case involved a weighty decision for GSU: whether to go to trial and how to measure risk. It involved a lot of judgment, and judgment isn’t taught enough. This seemed like the ideal case for a teaching moment.

EM: What challenges and opportunities did the case writing process present?

KC: It was a challenge to lay out everything that happened before the suit: the GSU case itself represented a particular moment when decades of contention came to a head. There was very little precedent but so many forces at play: the libraries’ reliance on reserves, technological leaps, changing publishing models, and the challenges of copyright intersecting and sometimes interfering with education.

It was a rare opportunity to look inside at how these forces interact. It was a 353-page decision: you can’t not write a case study on that!

EM: What advice do you have for case writers and teachers in the legal classroom?

KC:  Getting up to speed on the law can be complex. Spend time on the introduction: engagement with the first part is critical to having a good discussion because it sets the scene and establishes the foundation for the discussion. When I first taught the case, my students had to get up to speed on how the law had been interpreted in the past. For this reason, I’m not sure the case should be taught in one sitting.

I had my participants in teams representing multiple sides, because for them, identifying with libraries was already easy. By asking different teams to reach a middle ground you bring in negotiation. Where are there areas for wins? What do the sides have in common?

We also explored what other schools, like Cornell, have done with similar suits in the past and about what would happen if an institution chooses not to fight. I did this as a lark at the end, but it was a great exercise.

EM: How did the students react to the case study?

KC: They really liked it—even I was surprised at the amount of enthusiasm generated by something as routine as e-reserves. The case led to a robust discussion. I think the participants realized that their work today may have an impact on the law!

Case studies are great because they reflect the front-line problems that education has with copyright law. Capturing these problems is complex but proves that these issues can be reasoned, analyzed, and addressed. Cases give front-line people the sense that there is ground to be gained and that their newfound knowledge will serve them as better employees.

EM: What, if anything, would you do differently next time?

KC: I might spend more time hitting home the points in the introduction. With busy professionals, you can’t be sure they’ve read the whole case.

More generally, I think it helps to integrate case studies into classes where you’re building copyright law. Substantive legal courses don’t normally include opportunities for role play, but it’s a critical skill using the analytical side of your brain.

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Ethics in Hindsight: The Nation Reflects on Aaron Swartz Case, Prosecutorial Discretion

New Product: Prosecutorial Discretion in Charging and Plea Bargaining: The Aaron Swartz Case (B)


Aaron Swartz

The B case, now available, is an epilogue to Part A, the main discussion stimulus. Part A asks participants to consider the prosecutorial decisions and ethics of Aaron Swartz’s case. Swartz was a 24-year-old Internet prodigy, charged with computer fraud for downloading much of the JSTOR online journal database while on the campus of MIT. The prosecution offered multiple plea bargains, but Swartz refused to plead guilty to any felony counts. Two years went by, with pre-trial negotiations escalating and then reaching a stalemate. Just before Swartz’s trial was slated to begin, Swartz committed suicide.

B cases can provide resolution, or chronicle the lack thereof. In Part B, participants read about how the public and the government reacted to Swartz’s death: Twitter uproar, White House petitions, Congressional hearings, legislation proposals, death threats. The B case also discusses the results of MIT’s internal ethics review.

The B case is two and a half pages, short enough to distribute and read in class. Educators can ask: How should the government respond to the citizen petitions to dismiss the prosecutors? How does MIT’s review compare to the class’s assessment of the case? What role should named victims play in the process of prosecution? Is legislation the best way to shape the ethics of prosecution?

Educators may also consider assigning Part B as optional reading after the case is taught in class.

The Aaron Swartz case is available free of charge on the HLS Case Studies website.

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4 Questions with Professor Holger Spamann

New Product: The Battle for Unocal

Professor Holger Spamann

Professor Holger Spamann

Professor Holger Spamann recently published his first case study, The Battle for Unocal, after piloting it in his Corporations course at Harvard Law School. This case focuses on the plight of Unocal Corporation, which faced a tender offer from Mesa Petroleum in the 1980s. In an economic climate of merger mania, the Unocal board was intent on blocking a hostile takeover. Case participants adopt the decision-making role of the Unocal board to navigate fiduciary responsibilities and resolve the hostile takeover crisis. In groups, participants are asked to brainstorm the Unocal board’s options to defy Mesa and its colorful chairman, T. Boone Pickens. Afterwards, the class reconvenes to discuss proposed strategies and address misguided options.

Professor Spamann shared with us his reflections on developing and teaching the Unocal case:

EM: What inspired the case study?

HS: The practice of corporate law is overwhelmingly transactional. Corporate lawyers have to anticipate problems and transact around them. It is difficult to convey that from an appellate case such as Unocal v. Mesa. It certainly does not provide any training of transactional thinking. That prompted the idea of transforming this seminal Delaware decision into a case study by stepping back in time a couple months, before the parties had made the decisions that were ultimately adjudicated by the Delaware court. Giving more background also makes it easier for students to understand what is really at stake. And the personal stories may make it more interesting and memorable.

EM: What challenges and opportunities did the case writing process present?

HS: I had never done it. Fortunately, I could collaborate with an expert case writer, Lisa Brem, and a very fast-learning student, Amanda Ravich.

Another issue was that Unocal v. Mesa was decided thirty years ago. There are much fewer documents available online from that time than there would be today. Moreover, most key figures of the deal are dead, so interviews were out of the question. I think having an important case is worth it though.

EM: How did the students react to the case study? Did anything surprise you in the classroom?

HS: I think the students liked it a lot. Participation was great. Nobody came up with Unocal’s coercive self-tender, but there were plenty of good (and aggressive) ideas.

EM: What, if anything, would you do differently next time?

HS: I am considering spending more than 80 minutes on the case, or at least more time on talking through the students’ ideas. Last time, I gave a lot of time for brainstorming, perhaps too much time. There is only so much you can come up with if you don’t have the complete background.

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5 Questions with Professor Adriaan Lanni

Product: Prosecutorial Discretion in Charging and Plea Bargaining: The Aaron Swartz Case


Professor Adriaan Lanni

HLS Professor Adriaan Lanni came to us with a vision for her criminal adjudication class: teach students the ethics and discretion of prosecution. Rather than explain landmark examples of prosecutorial discretion herself, Professor Lanni wanted students to find their own guiding principles, experience the tradeoffs and pressures of decision-making, and form opinions about the prosecutorial system. It was a great opportunity to use a case study.

She chose the case of Aaron Swartz, for which the prosecution faced significant criticism. Aaron Swartz was an Internet prodigy, known for his work as an adolescent on the RSS 1.0 web feed and his early co-ownership of the social new website Reddit. At age 24, Swartz was charged with various counts of computer fraud and abuse after systematically downloading the JSTOR online journal database from the MIT campus. His pre-trial process took years, with multiple plea bargain offers, a superseding indictment, and mounting attorney fees. Swartz declined the plea bargains, preferring to defend himself in court; however, weeks before the trial was slated to begin, Swartz committed suicide.

Professor Lanni shared with us her experiences writing and teaching a case study, particularly such a polemical one, for the first time:

What inspired the case study?

AL: I was teaching criminal adjudication for the first time and wanted to experiment with new teaching methods, including a case study. Studying Supreme Court doctrine does not really get at the policy, practical, and ethical issues that arise in the charging and plea bargaining process. Many textbooks offer a series of very brief fictional problems to cover this material; I thought an in-depth case study might be a good entry-point for a discussion of prosecutorial discretion.

What challenges and opportunities did the case writing process present?

AL: Having a detailed case study made it possible for a much more detailed and nuanced class discussion, and put everyone in the class on an equal footing. If I hadn’t had a dedicated case writer I probably would have assigned a short magazine article, which wouldn’t have provided enough information to really dig into the prosecutor’s options at various points in the case timeline.

One challenge was that many members of the class had strong views on the Swartz case, which made it more difficult to elicit a balanced discussion.

What advice do you have for case writers and teachers in the legal classroom?

AL: A case study involves a significant commitment of class time, and a fair bit of reading for students about a single case. It is important to make sure that the learning goals are well-suited to a case study and that the individual case is rich enough to sustain a 50- to 90-minute class. The Swartz case worked well, but I don’t think I would want to do more than 1 to 2 case studies in any course, like criminal adjudication, that is primarily devoted to studying an area of doctrine.

How did the students react to the case study?

AL: The student feedback was very positive. The students liked the change of pace, and appreciated the opportunity to discuss in detail a case that they had read about in the newspapers.

What, if anything, would you do differently next time?

AL: I would work harder ahead of time to ensure a more balanced discussion. The first time I taught the case, I moved back and forth between inviting student discussion based on their pre-assigned roles (prosecutor or defense attorney) and inviting student comments in propria persona on policy issues. Given how politically charged the Swartz case is, in the future I will probably have the students remain in roles for the entire discussion.

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New Lessons from Bingham McCutchen Case Study

HLS case study “Bingham McCutchen: Combinatorial Mathematics” made the news recently, as law firm Bingham McCutchen faces challenges following a series of partner departures. Citing the case study for its depiction of Bingham’s growth trajectory, the Am Law Daily reports that Bingham posted its worst financial performance in 2013, which some at the firm attribute to contracts guaranteed to attorneys in connection with a 2009 merger with McKee Nelson. According to the Am Law article, guaranteed contracts had succeeded in previous mergers that Bingham pursued, but met opposition when Bingham honored McKee’s closed compensation system for the duration of the guarantees. As financial performance dipped, legacy Bingham attorneys reportedly wanted more transparency about compensation guaranteed to attorneys brought in from McKee. A wave of departures ensued.

The Bingham case study, authored by former HLS Professor Ashish Nanda, chronicles the firm’s series of “combinations,” or mergers, that transformed Bingham from a “middle-of-the-downtown-pack” Boston law firm in the early 1990s to a preeminent international law firm by 2010. While these mergers led to phenomenal growth for Bingham, they also had downsides: there was some attrition, gripes about cultural change, and a nagging difficulty attracting lateral hires. The case ends with the McKee Nelson deal, the tenth merger that managing partner Jay Zimmerman pursued since his election in 1994.

Now, looking back five years, the case is an opportunity to reflect critically on the past and consider strategies for damage control at present. What about the 2013 guarantees was problematic? What risks from its growth strategy surfaced recently and how might Bingham have better addressed these concerns?

Moreover, on June 1, 2014, Zimmerman relinquished day-to-day management of Bingham, ending what one Bingham employee called a “benevolent dictatorship.” How might the firm manage the leadership transition and its institutional culture? Was Bingham’s success a one-man operation, or might this be the change that Bingham needs to survive?

“Bingham McCutchen: Combinatorial Mathematics” is available from the HLS Case Studies website. Free educator copies are available for faculty and staff at non-profit institutions. For more information, or to discuss how to adapt the case study for your academic or professional education needs, contact Lisa Brem, Case Studies Program Manager, at

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Summer Reading: Crash Course on Flipped Classrooms

Biologists at the University of Washington recently released the findings of a meta-analysis on active learning in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classes: students in lecture classes, across every discipline, are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in active learning classes, involving discussion and in-class activities.

Similar results, albeit on a smaller scale, have been documented for legal education (see, for example, St. Thomas University). Law schools are experimenting with flipped classrooms: creating online video lectures for students to watch at home and filling class time with interactive, experiential activities. Last week we shared Aaron Dewald’s top five tips for creating online videos. For those considering or planning to flip a course, we rounded up the web’s best lessons about flipped classrooms. While most are not specific legal education, we feel that the lessons learned can be transferred:

Believe It

If you’re not sold on the concept, math professor Robert Talbert counters miscellaneous “flipped learning skepticism”: can flipped classrooms work if students lack access to technology or educators lack technological skill?; is flipped learning just self-teaching?; can students really learn on their own?; and do students want lectures? Likewise, TeachThought’s “10 Common Misconceptions about the Flipped Classroom” shatters the stereotype of STEM teachers creating their own “talking-head” videos because it’s trendy.

Eric Mazur

Eric Mazur

In “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer,” Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur gives a humorous and insightful presentation on his own misconceptions about lecturing and his classroom experience that changed his mind about the value of interactive activities. Mazur developed an early form of active learning known as peer instruction (see page 8) when he realized the shortcomings of the lecture format.

Study It

Recommended by Aaron Dewald, the flipped-classroom guru featured in last week’s post, Richard Meyer’s Multimedia Learning presents 12 principles of learning, abridged here, that can guide educators to craft effective videos. For instance, did you know that “people learn better [from multimedia presentations] when cues… highlight the organization of the essential material”?  To create online videos that meet a foundational level of learning, such as remembering and understanding, Dewald also consults “Bloom’s taxonomy,” which classifies learning into different cognitive processes.


Bloom’s taxonomy

Rethink It

It seems that nearly every professor who has flipped a classroom has shared a cautionary tale on the web; thanks to them, nascent flippers can avoid the oversights that cause flipped classrooms to fail. Reflecting on their own first flips, Robert Talbert has a better appreciation of time management, communication, “marketing” the teaching method to students, while French teacher April Lynn Burton learned to establish buy-in, emphasize active listening, and keep herself present in the virtual classroom.

Design It

Kelly Walsh of has published Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book, a teacher’s guide, complete with exercises, that walks educators through the flipping process (see the Table of Contents here). On his blog, Walsh explains how to repurpose for flipped classrooms some tech tools you use in other settings, find a screencasting tool that fits, and borrow existing educational content for your own class.

Similarly, the University of Central Florida has a soup-to-nuts Blended Learning Toolkit, a website full of information on process and effective practices, model courses, evaluation resources, and more.

Lest we forget, flipped classrooms aren’t just about the online videos. Classroom time needs to be designed thoughtfully to dovetail with online videos and develop the faculties higher up in Bloom’s taxonomy, such as applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, a trainer and consultant in Whole Brain Thinking and Learning, explains how to cater to different types of learners, designing a course with a variety of interactive exercises.

Case studies and role plays make a great in-class addition to any flipped course. Want your students to debate the merits of online education? We have a FREE case study for that: MOOCs and Consequences for the Future of Education. Looking for negotiation videos that students can watch outside of class? Consider putting Critical Decisions in Negotiation 3-DVD Set on reserve at your institution.

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Aaron Dewald’s Top Five Tips for Flipping Classrooms

Lessons from CALIcon14 @ HLS

Aaron Dewald has online modules for law school down to a science—literally. Dewald is the Associate Director of the Center for Innovation and Legal Education at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. He works on TheFirstYear Project, an effort to develop online videos for the 1L curriculum. He’s also a Ph.D. candidate in learning science, and knows the potential and the pitfalls of blended learning. Dewald says, “Knowing a few simple things about what blended learning can and cannot do, as well as how to properly design the online portion, can lead to a very successful blended course.”

Many educators tell us that there’s never enough time in their courses to use case studies – too many cases to review, too much information to deliver. Using Dewald’s blended learning approach, you can be more efficient with how you transfer information to students, providing them with well-thought-out, replayable lectures that help ensure that your students get a well-structured baseline of knowledge.  This may free up classroom time for more participant-centered learning, like case studies and problem solving workshops.

imagesLast month, I sat in on Dewald’s presentation at CALIcon, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction’s annual meeting of the minds. Here are Dewald’s tips for creating online modules that work:

  1. Combine the verbal with visual. With more retrieval cues, students are more likely to remember the information due to a more robust “encoding.”
  2. Less is more. Text and talking use the same “verbal” channel of processing information, straining the students’ cognitive load. With voiceovers, it’s better to minimize the words on-screen. Likewise, superfluous content or attention-grabbing animations can distract from the key information.
  3. 10 minutes, max. Short videos encourage brevity, minimize distractions, and hold students’ attention; often they’re easier to produce as well. Break complex lessons into multiple short videos.
  4. Write a script. Many educators lecture off the cuff, but multimedia presentations need scripts to be coordinated, concrete, thoughtful, and concise. According to Dewald, novices need these features to build a strong, stable knowledge base.
  5. Talk like Toy Story. Online lectures need animated narrators, so use more inflection. Don’t worry, says Dewald, the finished product sounds less ridiculous than one might think. Learners can tell when you’re bored, reading, or both.

A version of Dewald’s CALI presentation, an example of online learning in its own right, is available on YouTube. Dewald also explains the learning science behind effective presentations and the project timeline for creating online modules. is looking for law school professors who want online modules for their first-year courses. You write the script, and TheFirstYear Project will create the video. Email aaron.dewald [at] for more information.

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