Recognized for creating positive learning experiences through distance and online education, a team of University of Louisville faculty have won the 2021 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Teaching and Learning.
Jamie R. Abrams of the UofL Brandeis School of Law and Valerie Harris and Marija Sasek of the UofL School of Dentistry worked together to design a mock expert witness testimony in law and dentistry for law students and in dentistry.
Abrams says development work on the project began several years ago, and the team launched the simulation while a visiting professor at the University of Baltimore in the fall of 2020.
“COVID-19 helped pull the trigger. We wanted to capture the moment when distance learning was normalized and provide students with a novel experience in this isolated moment when building a professional community was more important than ever,” Abrams said.
Law students from the University of Baltimore and dental students from the University of Louisville spent a month in their respective classes preparing for the simulation. Law students studied negligence, product liability and legal skills to prepare to take and defend evidence from medical experts – dental students. Dental students studied standards of dental care, ethics of patient care, and practice management to prepare to testify as dueling expert witnesses for plaintiff or defendant in the civil trial.
In October 2020, the groups came together via Zoom for a live filing simulation that included participants from multiple cities, universities, and departments.
The final program divided students into a dozen deposition groups, each containing senior-level mentors, faculty observers and former UdeL law school facilitators for a total of more than 200 participants. The students spent two hours completing each step of the deposition. Expert witnesses from both sides presented their affirmative testimony and were then subjected to cross-examination by the opposing side. The students received support from their mentors, as well as feedback from alumni observers.
Harris says it was truly a unique opportunity for the 120 dental students at UdeL to understand what it’s like to be part of a deposition – to know how to present themselves and what questions they might be asked.
“It was a pleasure to work across disciplines and reflect on how we approached learning for law and dental students,” Harris said. “It was a solid learning experience for me.”
“It brought to life both professions individually and at their intersections. By playing the role of professionals rather than students, it also helped build professional identity, pride and camaraderie in the respective disciplines,” said Abrams.
The simulation was based on Abrams’ book published by West Academic, Tort Law Simulations: Gateway to Practice.
The large-scale collaboration now serves as a model for future interdisciplinary teamwork linking content and subject matter skills. A second virtual dental law simulation to include all first-year UdeL law students and fourth-year UdeL dental students – approximately 250 people – is planned for October. This will be the first time that UdeL law students will take part in the exercise.
UofL won the Blackboard award alongside other prestigious organizations including the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University.