Law librarians at Vanderbilt University joined forces with Vanderbilt Law School and the Office of Digital Education to develop an innovative legal research course for the recently launched online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program. The collaboration between Meredith Capps, Katie Hanschke, Clanitra Nejdl, and Mark Williams from the Law Library and the Office of Digital Education has resulted in a comprehensive and engaging 3-credit course that officially commenced in March of this year.
The course, Legal Research, is a key component of the law school’s MLS curriculum, introducing students to the basic tools and strategies of legal research. It teaches students to navigate specialized resources for conducting legal research and develops their legal research skills more broadly. Students can expect to learn how to independently identify and locate appropriate resources to answer common legal research questions and work through a variety of scenario-based case studies. With strong working knowledge of information sciences and a deep understanding of the needs of law students, the law librarians have taken charge of the course’s design, ensuring that it aligns with the program’s objectives. They meticulously compiled the course’s learning objectives, assessments, and instructional materials, and recorded instructional videos, to create a dynamic and enriching learning experience.
Clanitra Nejdl, research services librarian and head of professional development for the Law Library and lecturer in law, recently completed teaching the legal research course to the first cohort of students enrolled in the program. Her expertise and dedication have been instrumental in the course’s successful execution. As the program transitions into its next phase, Nejdl’s insights offer valuable perspectives on both the planning and implementation stages. “The students were extremely engaged and excited to learn about legal research. It was gratifying to see how the legal research course expanded their professional skills” said Nejdl.
“This initiative demonstrates our commitment to partnering with law school faculty and fostering meaningful engagement in student experiential learning,” said Katie Hanschke, head of instruction and access services for the Law Library and lecturer in law. “By involving law librarians at a crucial point in the teaching lifecycle, we have demonstrated a transformative example for the integration of librarians into the curriculum.”
The course benefitted from a close collaboration with Vanderbilt’s Office of Digital Education, enabling the law librarians to integrate technology and online learning tools to enhance the course’s accessibility and interactivity. By leveraging digital platforms, they have effectively bridged the gap between the physical library resources and the virtual learning environment, providing law students with the necessary resources and skills to conduct successful legal research.
The online Master of Legal Studies program, introduced by Vanderbilt Law School in January 2023, caters to individuals who are not seeking to become lawyers, but rather who want specialized knowledge to solve law-related problems, identify areas of risk, and collaborate effectively with counsel.
For more information about the Master of Legal Studies program, please visit https://law.vanderbilt.edu/master-legal-studies/.