Nebraska Law’s Build Your Character App Helps Students Begin with the End in Mind
The University of Nebraska College of Law doesn’t care if you use your phone in school–in fact, it’s encouraged. Nebraska Law has developed an innovative app that helps law school students track their professional skill development, literally putting the students’ educational outcomes in their own hands. The Build Your Character Program, and accompanying app, is the first of its kind at an American law school. It links learning outcomes to both curricular and co-curricular activities, making it easy for students to understand exactly what professional skills they should be developing through attendance or participation in courses and programming. The app provides the means by which students are able to monitor their progress in the identified skill areas.
It’s no secret that law school students have a lot to handle; there are a lot of moving parts to their days. The app helps students see the whole picture created by these parts. It provides a checklist of the skills that are key to becoming a successful lawyer. Courses and activities are “tagged” with these skills and calculated into a law student’s progress in skill development through their participation.
These skills include conflict resolution, working with others, identity, planning & organizing, and client & business relations; see the full list here.
By tracking their progress, students have a full picture of where they are in their education. It identifies areas of strength and competency, but also visually shows the students areas that could use some improvement. It’s holistic too, meaning that it incorporates every aspect of a student’s legal education, in and out of the classroom.
Interim Dean Richard E. Moberly and Assistant Dean of Student & Alumni Relations and Annual Giving Molly Brummond told me about the inspiration for the app. It came from the drive to answer a few different questions. Brummond told me:
We were looking for a way [to] increase participation in things that were happening at the law school. We recognize that law school students are under incredible time constraints, and so if you want them to participate you have to convince them that it’s worth their time. That’s the question we were trying to answer when we developed this program: how do we convince them that participating in [something like] the client counseling competitions, is worth their time, why is it important?
Additionally, the app serves as a way to provide students a clear path to obtain the skills that the school expects them to have upon graduation. For Moberly, the questions were:
What kind of things do we expect our graduates to be able to do when they leave here? What are the skills we expect them to have when they’re done with a Nebraska Law education? And how do we know whether they get those or not?
This program and the accompanying app were born as a way to answer those two tracks of questions–how to encourage students to get involved in activities that would further their education, and how to ensure that they have received the necessary skills to enter the legal field upon graduation.
But why is an app so revolutionary? Law schools have traditionally been slow to adopt technology, despite the fact that their students–who tend to be in the millennial generation, whole-heartedly embrace it in almost every aspect of their lives. There’s a reason “there’s an app for that” has become a cliche statement and a sitcom punchline. Millennials spend an estimated 90 hours per month on mobile apps. Two-thirds of the digital media consumed by millennials is done so on mobile. If you’re going to appeal to law school students, embracing their love of technology makes a lot of sense. Other features put on the app embrace the power of technology too–Nebraska is also using the app to send students updates and alerts, instead of just relying on email.
There’s a wide variety of skills that go into making a successful lawyer, and most law school students don’t know exactly what they’re going to do when they’re still in law school. Regardless of what they may aim to do, the legal field does change and evolve, and law school students need to be as well prepared as possible. The Build Your Character app makes it easy for students to make sure they’re on the right track and take control of their education–one swipe at a time.