H2O: Hacking the Law School Casebook

Open Law Lab - H2o project 4

The Berkman Center & Jonathan Zittrain have long spoken about the need to disrupt how law students intake the law. Why do we have huge & costly textbooks, that professors typically use sparingly, with large parts to skip over, and with supplemental materials mixed in.

The H2O project presents an alternative: professors and others can create remixable sets of content. There can be a Con Law playlist, a Torts playlist — all open source, all online, with video & images mixed into texts. A professor can create their own playlist using the resources already on the site, they can borrow others’, or they can generate their own to be shared with the community.

Open Law Lab - H2o project 2

Students then have a simple, online textbook experience. Everything can be printed off — all the rich media is woven into the site, and there are no pages or excerpts to skip. The class material is custom built for their class & its schedule, and accessible on their devices or printable for the hard copy experience.

Open Law Lab - H2o project 1

From H2O’s description:

About H2O

H2O is a suite of online classroom tools developed and provided by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society in collaboration with the Harvard Law School Library. H2O allows professors to freely develop, remix, and share online textbooks under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License (per the Terms of Service). H2O is based on the open-source model: instead of locking down materials in formalized textbooks, we believe that course books can be free (as in “free speech”) for everyone to access and, just as important, build upon. Currently, H2O is geared primarily toward law professors, though the platform can be used across intellectual domains.

The new casebook

Law school casebooks today are static and heavy. H2O helps professors make tailored casebooks that are fluid and light, whether from scratch or by adapting existing casebooks and syllabi. Professors and students can create, edit, organize, consume, and share course materials that are open and free for everyone to access and build upon.

Why use H2O?

Professors can use H2O to build free online casebooks curated to fit their pedagogy and teaching objectives. No more supplemental materials; no more skipping huge swaths of casebooks. Professors tailor each selection to fit their classes’ specific needs, while maintaining the ability to quickly and easily revise any item in their playlist. Professors can copy, remix, and modify other professors’ playlists, drawing on a growing corpus of diverse materials. Students can make their own copy of the course materials, which they can annotate and highlight. Instead of lugging around heavy and expensive traditional casebooks, which often contain large amounts of extraneous materials, with H2O students can access their free and finely tuned course materials on any Web-enabled device, such as personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones. If they would like a paper version as well, students can print some, or all, of the casebook.

Building a community

We hope that promoting collaboration will increase the diversity and quality of teaching materials. Once assembled and made public, course materials can be copied and adapted by other faculty and students, who can in turn create their own versions. Professors may view the influence of their materials over time, as other professors and students remix their course materials.

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