AuthorStephen M. Johnson
Course Source: The Casebook Evolved
You’ll notice that these materials are entitled, Wetlands Law: A Course Source. I chose
the term “course source,” as opposed to casebook or coursebook, to indicate that the
format of these materials is qualitatively different from traditional law school textbooks.
I. Traditional casebooks and the evolution of casebooks
The law school casebooks that were created in the late 1800's to implement Christopher
Columbus Langdell’s case method of teaching consisted primarily of edited versions of
cases and perhaps a few questions and comments. Casebooks have evolved slowly over
the years. Over time, it became popular to incorporate excerpts from law review articles,
statutes and regulations into the texts in addition to the cases, questions and comments.
Little changed for decades until problem-based books came along, incorporating a wealth
of hypotheticals and problems that allowed students to apply the law that they were
learning from the cases, statutes, and regulations included in the book. Those books could
more precisely be referred to as “coursebooks” than “casebooks, because they
incorporated more than cases, questions and comments.
After the MacCrate report in the 1990s and the 2007 Carnegie Foundation report, faculty
and book publishers began publishing separate books focusing on skills development that
could be used to supplement traditional casebooks and coursebooks. In a few cases,
books that were not marketed as “skills” books incorporated some skills exercises as well.
Publishers also began marketing “law stories” books that provided a wealth of background
information about a few cases to help bring those cases to life. Those were positive
developments in the evolution of law school teaching materials.
II. The “Course Source”: The technological evolution of the casebook
Technology can help casebooks and coursebooks evolve into a new format. Several years
ago, publishers began marketing e-books for the law school market. So far, e-books for law
school have not taken full advantage of the medium. A few of the early books were simply
electronic versions of traditional casebooks or coursebooks. Others added a few hyperlinks
to a traditional casebook or coursebook. For the most part, though, the changes in the
format of casebooks and coursebooks in the e-book era have been modest. Much more is
possible. Technology can foster the transformation of the casebook and the coursebook
into the “course source” - a one-stop shop for all of a faculty member’s teaching resource

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