BILETA'96 Electronic Publishing
25-26 March 1996
Law Librarian, Templeman Library, University of Kent
Date of publication: 7 May 1996
This was a lively and interesting conference, which made it very clear that electronic publishing is upon us (whether we like it or not). Issues dealt with were design of software, implementation of courseware, electronic teaching, etc., e-journals, copyright, standards and quality. Several of the sessions provided detailed demonstration of teaching within the electronic environment.
The context within which electronic publishing developments are taking place in the UK is the Electronic Libraries Programme (eLib), offshoot of the Follett Report whose progenitor, Professor Sir Brian Follett, introduced the conference.
The conference sessions ranged from the explanatory to the visionary. The keynote speaker was Professor Diana Laurillard of the Open University, who in a talk entitled 'Electronic information: the medium, the technology, the academics and the students' demonstrated the interactive nature of a multimedia OU course and the changes it is making to the teaching/learning experience.
The first session, was on Electronic Publishing and Cultural Change. Alexis Weedon, from the University of Luton, examined the different ways in which the nature of publishing will change in response to the challenge posed by the Internet. Sue Pettit, Law Librarian at Bristol University delivered a plea to remember the librarians, and in the context of the e-Lib programme looked at their role as trainers, information managers and mediators. Niall Levine of Strathclyde Business School concentrated on electronic journal publishing and described the ways in which peer review and editorial moderation can be carried out by electronically-assisted means. He suggested that the standards which have been seen by critics as under threat may actually be enhanced by electronic quality mechanisms. Dick Greener of Sweet & Maxwell, in a talk ominously entitled 'Arranging Deckchairs on the Titanic' gave an overview of the future of legal publishing, including editorial, financial and technical aspects. In a broad-ranging analysis he stressed the importance of the economic changes which will result from the impact of electronic - particularly online - publishing.
Session Two, on electronic journals was opened by Professor Trotter Hardy of William and Mary School of Law describing his practical experience in starting an electronic journal (the Journal of Online Law). He made the process seem simple, and advised his audience to follow the advice of a well-known Nike commercial and 'just do it'. The hard work is the same as involved in any journal publishing, and well within the capabilities of a law faculty. Bruce Grant of Newcastle Law School explored the economics of e-journals and possible models of future funding, such as pay per view, subscription schemes, author page charges and sponsorship. The future for e-journal publishing lies in the scope it offers for innovative forms. He stressed the need to maintain high standards, including peer-review and also close attention to detail.
Session Three presented case studies in electronic publishing, and opened with Rosemary Shiels of Chicago-Kent College of Law demonstrating how she uses a hypertext book in teaching. This was developed as part of a four-year experimental project in delivering course material in hypertext form, and the results show the students are successful in handling the material and maintaining their academic achievement. Robin Williamson of Context Ltd. then presented a case study of the new Electronic Law Reports (eLR) which are to be launched in 1996. There was also the opportunity to sample eLR which were being demonstrated throughout the conference.
Session Four was run in parallel with the last, and covered Distance Learning and the Law School. Erich Schweighofer of the University of Vienna described Teleteaching in the EU HUMANITIES Project, which is introducing 'virtual mobility' for EU students. One of the discipline areas in this programme is European environmental law, and teleteaching is seen as particularly important for this in that it enables the emphasis to be put on the various perspectives of Europe. Scott Taylor of the University of New Mexico Law School described teaching a law seminar over the internet using email, and explored the advantages and disadvantages of this method. Internet teaching can offer a rich learning experience including intensive writing and substantial teacher/student interaction.
Session Five on Electronic Publishing and the Future had Abdul Paliwala stepping in for Valerie Atkinson on the changing balance of powers in readership. Robin Widdison offered a visionary look at the Virtual Law School, presented as a sci-fi short story about a law student 25 years hence studying at home with the help of a 'tutor construct', an interface taking a more or less human form. While Widdison ranged widely over the different whole scenario - applications software, the law school, the student, the course and the consortium - it was the tutor construct which prompted most of the lively philosophical discussion.
Session Six, in parallel, was on Courseware. Two different approaches were offered. Max Young described 'Help' with Sale of Goods, a Windows Help File containing all the student notes for the LLB Sale of Goods module at Luton University. Catriona Hegarty from de Montfort University described some of the issues that have arisen from the development of an intelligent tutoring system for Statute Law. As a result of the evaluation it has been possible to separate out the element of the system which work and those which do not.
Session Seven, on Protecting the Electronic Copy, opened with David Millet, of Butterworths, giving the publishers' perspective on copyright., and covered such issues as the rights of the consumer and copyright on added value, competition law, and the problem of moral rights with electro-copying and crown copyright. Zsolt Balogh, from Janus Pannonius University, Hungary, gave an overview of data protection in an information society, covering technical, political and economic issues. John Sharman of C-Dilla Ltd described encryption systems and access control which are increasingly being used by publishers to protect them from piracy, to help market their products, and to enforce their network licences. Andrew Charlesworth of the University of Hull wound up the session with a talk on Law, Legitimacy and Intellectual Property Rights. Two parallel workshops took place during this session: Sieglinde Schreiner Linford of the European University Institute on getting started with HTML, and John Dale of the Law Courseware Consortium on Building Better Courseware.
Throughout the conference there were demonstrations of courseware, e-journals, and CD-ROM and online datasets, though the programme was so packed that few people could have visited all of them. There were just under 100 participants at the conference, a congenial number which enabled lively discussion and good networking.