Wow! My inaugural RIPS blog post! Initially, I felt nothing but excitement when I found out that I was going to be one of the new RIPS bloggers, but then I started to get nervous…what do I write about? What tone do I use? Will the readers like me? (OK, this last one is a bit kindergartenish, but we all wonder this at times, right?) After extracting myself from a sudden desire to hide in a corner and play with Lincoln Logs, I decided to be myself and write about something that has also recently made me nervous: my dealings with the UF Law Curriculum Committee (Committee).
In June, I began work at the University of Florida, Levin College of Law (UF Law) to become their new Instructional Services Reference Librarian. One of my duties is to teach Advanced Legal Research (ALR) online during the summer, which I am truly looking forward to doing. Unfortunately, before I can do so, I had to get the Committee and the UF Law faculty to approve the course as a permanent course offering since the first two sessions were “pilot” courses. An attempt was made to gain approval last spring, but there was enough dissention in the Committee that the provisional approval was extended and a second pilot was run.
So I assessed my situation and took the following actions:
1. I looked at the initial proposal and compared it with past successful proposals.
The initial proposal was very well written, and I believe that had the class not been online, the Committee would have approved it last year. After reviewing the proposals and wondering what went wrong, I decided that I needed to go to the source to figure out how to improve the proposal.
2. I scheduled a meeting with the Chair of the Committee to find out what questions she or other members may have that I could pre-empt in my new proposal.
This was probably my most helpful step. Questions that I was not expecting arose, such as “Who else is teaching this class online? Harvard? Yale?” (I had to disappoint her with these two schools, but did put together a nice chart and included the status of all Florida law schools), and “Is there going to be a cap on the student enrollment?” This last question would become very important later on, surprisingly, so I am glad that is was asked then. By the end of the conversation, I had a full page of good questions and other feedback to address in my proposal.
3. I looked at the ABA’s 2010 Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, specifically 306 – Distance education.
The ABA has some very specific requirements for online courses, including credithour restrictions and a requirement that the course proposal include a “specific explanation of how the course credit was determined.” Interpretation 306-7. Boy, was I glad that I read that and included a nice little paragraph about it in the proposal!
4. Attended the Committee meeting.
My attendance allowed me to address several questions that I was not expecting to be major issues. One of the student members was concerned about the state of the 1L LRW program and wanted to know why this was a separate course rather than part of the first year curriculum. This is an issue that UF Law is considering, but one that is being answered by a separate committee. Also, a faculty member was concerned that the Committee had previously conditioned approval class proposal only if it removed the student cap, and he wanted the Committee to be consistent. (Told you it would come back!) I was able to point out that this was a skills class and that other skills classes had caps due to their very nature. In the end, I was able to obtain unanimous approval, both from the Committee and the UF Law faculty, after the Committee submitted its recommendation.
Woohoo! Now I begin another session of hard work as I prepare for both my Spring face-to-face ALR and Summer online ALR classes. I intend to prepare my Summer material throughout the spring, creating my online presentation during the week that I am teaching the same topic in person. Stay tuned for further updates…