Professor Leverages Video, Web to Help Students Grow as Writers

11/11/2013  -  For students trying to master the essential skill of legal writing, detailed feedback from a professor is key. But there are limits to how much feedback a professor can write on a paper. And even with detailed written comments, students may not fully understand what changes are needed until they have met with the professor to discuss the comments, line by line.

What if a professor could talk the student through each paper in precise detail as soon as it was returned, in a way that allowed the student to revisit the professor’s spoken comments as often as necessary?

Recently, Professor Janet Blocher made this possible for her first year Legal Research and Writing Students. In late October, when she returned graded papers, each student got some written comments — and a link to a private, personalized video on YouTube.

In the video, Professor Blocher talked the student through suggested changes to the paper using screen capture to demonstrate modifications directly on the student’s work. Rather than simply describe a change that could be made, she was able to demonstrate the precise modification needed by, for example, highlighting passages and moving text.

“This method of feedback does not replace a face-to-face meeting,” explained Professor Blocher, who still meets with every student. “But it certainly has allowed the meetings to be more productive since the student has already received detailed insights into my impressions of the work.” Moreover, the YouTube videos can be viewed as often as the student desires, which helps cement key concepts. “I’ve had several students tell me that they watched the video multiple times as they worked on the Closed Memo Rewrite assignment,” Professor Blocher said.

The innovation has been very popular with students.

“I was better able to understand the assignment because of Professor Blocher's individualized video,” said Brittany Razek ’16, a first-year student. “Because she walked through each concept, line by line, discussing the issues along the way, I was able to grasp the concepts and know exactly what she expected, as well as how I was supposed to move forward with the project.”