New Study Supports the Wikibook Model of Public Legal Education
By Lorne Bertrand & Joanne Paetsch
Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family
Wikibooks are websites built on the MediaWiki platform, an open-source application that powers websites such as Wikipedia, Scholarpedia and the notorious WikiLeaks. Wikibooks are agile and highly adaptable, and are normally used to present large amounts of text from multiple authors in a digestible, easily accessible format. Clicklaw, a public legal education web resource run by Courthouse Libraries BC, has adapted the wikibook concept to provide plain language legal information to the public.
Unlike most MediaWiki websites that allow any user to add and revise content, Clicklaw Wikibooks use a unique development model in which potential contributors are screened by the Clicklaw Wikibooks team before being given editorial privileges. This collaborative approach allows several lawyers to contribute content and ensures that the task of maintaining and updating the material is not overly burdensome for any one individual.
In 2013, Clicklaw added JP Boyd on Family Law to its collection of wikibooks. The resource offers more than 120 webpages of substantive legal information, about 500 definitions of common legal words and phrases, links to hundreds of key government and non-government resources, and more than 100 downloadable forms for the British Columbia Supreme and Provincial Courts.
The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released the findings of the first phase of its evaluation of JP Boyd on Family Law, conducted with funding from the Law Foundation of British Columbia and Courthouse Libraries BC. The evaluation used data from several sources to assess the use and usefulness of the wikibook, including: a pop-up survey completed by 546 users of the website; a follow-up survey of 142 users administered one week after completing the pop-up; and website traffic information generated by Google Analytics.