Barnett & Blackman (3rd Edition): A Flipped Approach to the Constitutional Law Casebook
Law students today learn differently than law students a generation ago. Weaned on smartphones and streaming video, millennials have become accustomed to engaging with information on demand. In other disciplines, educators have recognized this pedagogical shift, and embraced it through the so-called “flipped classroom.” Through this blended approach, students can watch lectures online before class, allowing the professor in class to dive deeper into analysis and reasoning of the content.
One of us has implemented this approach in his classroom. Professor Blackman live-streams all of his lectures on YouTube. He encourages (but does not require) students to watch the previous semester’s lecture on a given topic. The students who do so come to class extremely well-prepared, already know the nuances of the case, and are able to offer more insightful answers when questioned. Watching the videos is in no sense a substitute for reading the cases–rather it allows the professor to shift the focus of instruction, and go far deeper. Additionally, thousands of law students at schools across the country watch these videos to supplement their own class instruction. However, many students find this approach impractical. The lectures are roughly two hours in length, involve lengthy questions and answers, and there is no easy way to jump to the discussion about a specific case. There is a better way.
For the third edition of our casebook, Constitutional Law: Cases in Context, we will produce a series of short, focused, two-minute videos about each case in the book. The videos will feature one of us, speaking directly to the camera, discussing the facts, posture, analysis, and holding of the case. Additionally, to make the media richer, we will include photographs, maps, and primary-source documents about the case. The concise videos can be watched on laptops, tablets, or phones, so they can be streamed on-demand before class, even during the commute to school.
Professors that adopt our case book can assign these videos so students are better prepared to engage in classroom discussions. However, even if professors do not adopt our casebook, their students can still use our videos. Using the Casebook Connect platform, students can purchase a digital subscription to access our casebook, or our videos, or both. (The fee will be a fraction of the cost of purchasing a hardcover book, and comparable to the cost of commercial outlines). We recognize that most professors have already adopted their casebook of choice, and there are huge transaction costs to switching. Our platform bypasses this inertia, and makes the content available directly to students. The market, then, will decide the success of this model.
Wolters Kluwer, our publisher, is every excited about this project. In order to gauge the level of interest, WK suggested that we use our social media platforms to publicize the project, and solicit feedback from professors, students, and others interested in the Constitution. To that end, we encourage you to leave feedback on the YouTube page, or tweet us at #BarnettBlackman, or email us. The more feedback we receive, the more resources we can garner to make this project successful. We hope to hear from you. Thank you.
Randy E. Barnett