Web based legal research instruction does it work
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Web-based Legal Research Instruction: Does It Work?. Rita Kaiser Reference Services Librarian King County Law Library. Getting Involved in Web based Instruction. Previously taught in-person classes for public librarians Asked to develop synchronous web-based sessions for SPL

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Web-based Legal Research Instruction: Does It Work?

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Web-based Legal Research Instruction: Does It Work?

Rita Kaiser

Reference Services Librarian

King County Law Library

Getting Involved in Web based Instruction

  • Previously taught in-person classes for public librarians

  • Asked to develop synchronous web-based sessions for SPL

  • State Library contracted for sessions to offer state-wide

Why did I agree?

  • Love new challenges

    • Opportunity to use web-conferencing software

    • Adapt my training to online use

  • Wanted public librarians to understand legal questions and referring them to a law library

Were My Efforts Successful?

  • Yes, generally, I believe

    • First, answers to practice questions improved after training

    • Second, increased referrals to our library

    • Third, requests for further training

What would I add or change in future trainings?

  • To answer that let me explain what I did for these sessions.

  • I based my training program on the following elements:

5 Elements of a Web-based Training Program – Specific Methods I Used

  • Needs Assessment

  • Instructional Goals- Objectives

  • Instructional Strategy

  • Materials Development

  • Evaluation & Follow up

Needs Assessment

  • Were the objectives of previous class still viable?

  • Could we use same objectives for both in-person and virtual sessions?

  • Email survey of librarians to find out what they wanted and needed.

  • Based objectives on this survey.

Instructional Objectives for the Sessions

  • Participants will be able to:

    • Translate terms into legal search terms for finding resources

    • Describe legal resources available through Washington web sites (3 to 5 web sites)

    • Refer legal questions as appropriate to KCLL

Instructional Strategy

  • Activities that would achieve the training objectives – polls, exercises, etc.

  • Building on what they already know – develop skills to decode legal questions

Instructional Strategy

  • Use techniques that support adult learning principles

  • Activities that fit the group size and virtual medium

Materials Development

  • Introductory materials to establish community

    • Photo – Avatar

    • Introduce themselves

    • Polls

    • Preliminary practice questions

Rita K

Examples: Poll

  • Which Washington legal web site is your current favorite?

  • 1. Washingtonlawhelp.org

  • 2. LegalWa.org

  • 3. State Court web site

  • 4. KCLL.org

  • 5. Other

Examples: Preliminary Questions

Practice Questions -

  • I need a form to garnish the wages of a person that I took to small claims court. Can I find that on the Internet?

    • Yes, state pattern forms – State Court web site

Practice Questions -

  • I lost my job awhile back and I should be getting unemployment benefits, but I got a letter from the state saying I didn’t do what I needed to do to get them and won’t receive them any longer. The letter said that if I didn’t like this final decision I could appeal to court to change it. How do I do that?

Materials Development

  • Learning component

    • Power Point – simple with live links to web sites

    • Handout – Legal Glossary

    • Whiteboard - Annotations

Legal glossaryleads to research guides, which lead to web sites – can start here.

Materials Development

  • Wrap- up

    • Practice questions – 2nd set to reiterate skills

    • Discussion board – for participants – after classes

Refer to Law Library - Examples

  • You can’t lead the patron to a resource with the direct answer (that is, form or guide with instructions)

  • You are not sure of the jurisdiction that may apply (federal, state, local)

Evaluation/Follow Up

  • Evaluation of sessions – online via web site

  • Final practice exercises – posted on discussion board or sent via email

  • Follow up – discussion board

Web Based Evaluation – Sample Questions

Web Based Evaluation – Sample Questions

Everyone who took the online version said they would do so again.

Practice Questions - Example

  • My husband and I are going through a divorce and we have a temporary parenting plan in place. He isn’t following it. I was told that I need to file a motion for contempt, but I don’t know how to do it. Can you help me?

Student Answer


/ court forms

/ ending the marriage (contempt of court)

/ Motion/Declaration for an Order to Show Cause re contempt

/ Download and print Word form.

Rita’s Answer-- You can use either walawhelp or the state court web site to answer this question. If Washingtonlawhelp, choose Family law, then choose Contempt of Court, then choose Filing a Motion for Contempt in a Dissolution Action – you can also have your patron look at the Contempt of Court in a Family Law Case; the Basics. These will include the necessary forms (motion and order) and instructions – with a caveat. Or, you can send them to the state court web site at www.courts.wa.gov and choose Court Forms, then choose Contempt of Court under the Ending the Marriage heading. The forms here are in Word format and the patron can fill them out online, print them or save them. My inclination in this case usually depends on how much I think the patron understands. If the patron needs an overview before they start the process, I will usually start them at Washingtonlawhelp. If they need the forms in Word format – with the most up-to-date forms and instructions, I will send them to the court site – as Walawhelp is not always up-to-date, so they could inadvertently be using pattern forms that have been replaced. This isn’t as likely to happen at the state court site.

Outcomes of Training

  • Public librarians able to handle legal questions more easily

  • Increased use of web sites – even KCLL

  • Many more referrals to law library

But – What would I do differently?

  • Materials seemed to work well.

  • But – I would require they do practice questions before first class

    • Helps encourage discussion

  • Require answers to second set of practice question be posted on discussion board

    • No emailing to instructor

But – Really - what would I do differently?

  • Follow Up one to two months later for additional questions

  • Ask for comments (annotations) from class participants during the sessions

  • Not so much chalk and talk, try to involve the students more.

Add anything else?

No, But – you never know.

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