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JILT 1996 (2) - Jones & Scully

Hypertext within legal education

Richard Jones
lswrjone@livjm.ac.uk

and

John Scully
lswjscul@livjm.ac.uk

Liverpool John Moores University


 

Contents

Introduction

1. Aims and Outcomes of Higher Education

2. The Aims and Objectives of Legal Education

3. The Learning Approach

4. Role of Hypertext with Educational Technology

5. Design Options

6. Conclusion

Glossary

References

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Abstract

The recent consultation paper by the Lord Chancellors Committee on legal Education (ACLEC) and the forthcoming report have stimulated a debate on the aims, form, method and content of legal education. ACLEC in it’s consultation paper suggest the aims of a qualifying law degree should be to

'develop the intellectual and other skills associated with degree level education.' (ACLEC 1994, para 2.1)

ACLEC does not suggest how these aims could be achieved. Surface approaches to teaching , learning and assessment proliferate within law schools. Educational technology, embodying hypertext facilities can be used within a strategy to encourage deep learning. The paper describes how by building upon pedagogical principles developed by writers such as Pask and Spiro which are seen to encourage deep learning, hypertext systems within applications in law can be improved so as to facilitate the desired deep learning strategies.


This is a refereed article.

Date of Publication: 7 May 1996

Citation: Jones, R & Scully, J (1996) 'Hypertext within Legal Education', 1996 (2) The Journal of Information Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/cal/2jones/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1996_2/jones/>


Introduction

Teaching approaches effect learning outcomes. How something is taught and how the student approaches the subject effects what is learnt. When giving a lecture or facilitating a tutorial or seminar the teacher knows what will and will not be achieved by that method. Yet place educational technology within this context and this obvious relationship between approach and outcome seems to be lost. The intervention of a computer screen with text and facilities for hypertext links or multiple choice questions are assumed by some to automatically facilitate the desired learning outcomes. This is obviously not the case. Initial student feedback of the electronic workbooks produced by the Law Courseware Consortium shows that some approaches adopted within these workbooks rather than encouraging learning act to demotivate and discourage. In this paper we will consider one particular teaching facility within educational technology, the provision of information within a hypertext format. Within the context of the educational aims of legal education we will review how effective hypertext based learning is in meeting the learning outcomes established by these aims and offer some suggestions as to how basic hypertext systems may be improved so as to enable these outcomes to be achieved.

 

1. Aims and Outcomes of Higher Education

An analysis of the literature shows there be some, if not a universal, agreement as to the aims of higher education. University education should aim to lead students to 'the imaginative acquisition of knowledge'. (Whitehead, A.N. 1967) It should encourage 'students to think for themselves'[1] and to 'think critically'.( Entwistle N.J 1979) . William Twining (1994) explains '.... there is widespread acceptance of certain classical values of liberal education that can serve as standards by which to evaluate any particular program, e.g. encouraging free inquiry, breadth of perspective, capacity for independent thought and judgement, clear thinking, and learning how to learn.'

What must a student be able to do to show that they have satisfied these aims? University graduates should, it is claimed, possess 'a capacity to look at problems from a number of different perspectives, to analyse, and to gather evidence, to synthesise, and to be flexible, creative thinkers'. Atkins, Beattie & Dockrell (1993) place these objectives within the categories of the 'trained mind' and the 'educated person'. For them the 'trained mind' can :

  • 'Critically think and use reasoning skills including demonstration of precision, penetration and consistency in argument.
  • Think conceptually; to form, integrate and use abstract concepts with attendant concrete examples
  • Have an intellectual perspective and independence of thought that is prepared to challenge orthodoxy and require evidence for claims.'

The 'educated person' has had exposure to:

  • 'different domains of knowledge, to different ways of thinking and to different perspectives that can be brought to bear on an issue or problem.
  • significant aspects of the culture of civilisation and to important contemporary theories in both the arts and sciences.'

 

2. The Aims and Objectives of Legal Education

The Ormrod Committee, stated that the outcomes of the academic stage of legal education should be a student who has:

'1. a basic knowledge of the law and where to find it;
2. an understanding of the relationship of law to the social and economic environment in which it operates; and,
3. the ability to handle facts and to apply abstract concepts to those facts.'

The recent consultation paper of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education, (ACLEC), is also considering the aims, form, method and content of legal education.[2] It shows a coming together of the aims of legal education with those of higher education generally. ACLEC suggests four main aims for undergraduate legal education;

to provide an understanding of the fundamental principles and concepts of English Law and the Law of the EC, and develop the skills needed to solve legal problems

to provide a rigorous theoretical and analytical education to enable students to develop a constructive and critical approach to the processes of law;

to enable students to see the law within its social, economic, political, historical, ethical and cultural context;

to inform by comparisons from other legal systems'

This is not, however, the complete picture for legal education consists not only of the academic stage with it's own aims and objectives but of a vocational stage that requires skills which tend to be more logical, heterogeneous and procedurally governed. The ability to think critically is considered important in both the academic and vocation stages. This is evidence from the consultation paper (ACLEC 1994) where there is stated a need to encourage original and critical thought within the academic stage. Whilst within the vocational stage Oliver states, 'a practitioner who understands, inquires, thinks independently, and even originally, must be better than one who does not.' (Oliver D 1994)

 

3. The Learning Approach

If legal education is to enable original and critical thought it should facilitate 'deep' as opposed to 'surface' learning. Surface learning, involves learning by memorisation with an intention merely to satisfy the task or course requirements. Students who achieve only surface learning:

  • may be accomplished at complex routine skills such as problem solving.
  • may have appropriated enormous amounts of detailed knowledge, including knowledge of subject-specific terminology.
  • are able to reproduce large quantities of factual information on demand.
  • may be able to pass examinations.

Desirable as some of these attributes are they do leave many students 'unable to show that they understand what they have learned when asked simple yet searching questions that test their grasp of the content. They continue to profess misconceptions of important concepts; their application of their knowledge to new problems is often weak;.... and conceptual changes are relatively rare, fragile and context dependent occurrences.' (Dahlgren L.O. 1984)

Deep learning should therefore enable a learner to :

'focus on 'what is signified' (e.g. the author’s argument, or the concepts applicable to solving the problem.)
relate previous knowledge to new knowledge
relate knowledge from different courses
relate theoretical ideas to everyday experience
relate and distinguish evidence and argument
organise and structure content into a coherent whole
Some learning environments do not facilitate deep learning, indeed they may be diametrically opposed to this aims.( Biggs G 1987) The consultation paper in relation to legal education states the problem and proffers in general terms the solution.

'these functions cannot be carried out through learning dominated by passively absorbing or receiving knowledge. It requires an active process which promotes the general powers of the mind, and enables students not merely to know or know how to but to understand why things are as they are and how they could be different and to relate ideas in one subject to those of others, to understand what they read, questioning material, making links, and pursuing lines of inquiry out of interest. ' (Section 2.2)

The learning approach, which will encompass the teaching methods, the assessment method, the learners styles and the subject content, enables the aims to be met through the achievement of the appropriate learning objectives. Inappropriate or flawed learning approaches will fail. Teaching method, assessment, learning styles and content, will now be considered within the context of the facilitation of deep learning.

 

3.1. Teaching and assessment methods

Teaching methods that encompass lectures, tutorials, seminars, group sessions and clinical sessions, often encourage surface learning and so fail to inculcate into students the faculty of critical thinking. Lectures may be seen as no more than a means of giving information (Marris D 1964), or at best motivate further learning. (Bligh D.1972)[3] . Lectures rarely promote thought or change attitudes, they may even prove detrimental to the educational goals of Higher Education.

Similarly unsuitable assessment methods will not lead to understanding, but rather encourage students to adapt to the requirements of teachers. Students within such assessment unsuitable and mismatched regimes learn strategies that enabled them to earn high grades at the cost of understanding the materials,(Becker H.S. 1968) the so called ' hidden curriculum' . (Snyder B.R.1971) Such strategies mitigate against 'deep learning' and favour 'surface learning'. To encourage deep learning the student belief through the assessment regime should coincide with what the teacher believes to be the educational outcomes. The student must embark upon a deep approach to learning with an intention to reach a personal understanding of the material presented. (Marton F. and Saljo R. 1984) To do this the student must interact 'critically' with the content, relating it to previous knowledge and experience, as well as examining evidence and evaluating the logical steps by which conclusions have been reached. (Ramsden, P. 1992) 'It is the teachers responsibility to create the conditions in which understanding is possible.' (Laurillard, D. 1993)

 

3.2. Styles and Content

Independent of the teaching and assessment methods is how the learner interacts (learner style) with the subject content.

 

3.2.1. learner styles

The learner is part of the environment and dynamically linked to it. The learner brings something of the environment to the environment, this is the learning style. Students learn in different ways. One of the most influential writers on learning style is Pask ( Pask G. 1988). Pask developed what he referred to as his 'Conversation Theory', a way of describing the logical structure of what an individual must do to be able to learn, and the nature of the relationship between the individual and the subject matter to be learned. From this Pask was able to identify two distinct styles of learning. He illustrated this by providing students with a free learning environment, (an environment where the students have no pre-existing knowledge or experience) and observing how they built up their knowledge in this area. The environment was that of a fictional Martian animal. Pask created two such animals and placed the detailed information regarding the animals and their species on forty separate cards. The cards were laid face down on a table with the subject matter of the card printed on the back. Students could pick up the cards in any order. One group approached the information from a global viewpoint and taught it back to the examiner as if they had embodied the information into their own personal knowledge, they embraced theories and related one to the other, searching for examples and analogies which can be identified in the subject domain. In short they picked up cards giving general principles and filled in the details later. This group may be referred to as having a comprehensive orientation or holistic learners. The other group approached the information in a serialistic fashion in that they learned the information piece by piece and taught it back in that manner, they used rule techniques and procedures in order to achieve understanding. They picked up the cards in a sequence building up details as they went. They may be referred as having an operational orientation or serialistic learners.

Holistic learners may sometimes be guilty of not being able to see the trees for the wood. Serialistic learners on the other hand may be far too specific and find it difficult to incorporate their knowledge effectively into a broader understanding. Pask found that in attaining a common educational goal, both groups performed equally well when he matched the way in which he presented the information with the students predetermined learning style. He also found that a mismatch between style and presentation caused both groups to perform equally badly.

To view a learner of being the slave of one style is to grossly simplify the process. Student should be seen as adopting both styles with varying proportions depending upon the task. (Laurillard, D. 1984) The student may be thought of as adopting a 'strategic style'.

 

3.2.2. Content.

Much of legal knowledge is unable to be easily pre-packaged, the knowledge is often ill structured and has no clearly discernible form. Such knowledge should not be taught as if it were structured, compartmentalised or hierarchical.

'learning for mastery and transfer in a complex and ill-structured domain cannot be compartmentalised, linear, uniperspectival, neatly hierarchical, simply analogical, or rigidly pre-packaged.' (Spiro R.J. & Jihn-Chang Jehng)

Spiro maintains that such learning results in the development of widespread and serious misconceptions in knowledge applications. The misconceptions are seen all too often in Higher Education and occur because complex and ill- structured knowledge domains (such as the study of law in all its contexts) are characterised by such features as non-uniformity and non-linearity of explanation, context dependency and irregularity of overlap patterns across cases . Such knowledge is intermingled and we serve its expression better by conveying it in a way that allows it to be viewed from various viewpoints. Knowledge that can be taught in different ways can be learned in different ways.

Spiro postulates that as a learner moves beyond the initial introduction of a content area, two important things happen:

1. The conceptual content tends to become more complex and the basis of its application more ill-structured.

2. The goals of learning will shift from atomistic learning to relativistic learning and from accurate reproductive memory and imitative rule-following to knowledge transfer in new and greatly varying contexts.

Spiro argues that conventional instruction practices which concentrate on simplistic representations of the subject domain which require little need for explanation or elaboration are unsatisfactory. Such representations, he maintains, results in the development of widespread and serious misconceptions in knowledge application. (Spiro, R.J. 1987)

He provides a solution based upon the Cognitive Flexibility Theory. (Spiro R.J. 1988) Spiro cites a number of studies which show that the learning of complex content material in ill-structured domains requires multiple representations, i.e. multiple explanations, multiple analogies, multiple dimensions of analysis. Learning should develop the characteristics of openness and plurality which, in turn, will produce cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to “adaptively re-assemble diverse elements of knowledge to fit the particular needs of a given understanding or problem- solving situation.'

Spiro uses a geographical landscape as a metaphor for such knowledge. Knowledge acquisition occurs when that landscape is criss-crossed numerous times in order to facilitate multiple representations. He uses the metaphor as the basis of a general theory of learning, instruction and knowledge representation. He maintains that one learns by criss-crossing conceptual landscapes. He justifies this by postulating that by criss-crossing the conceptual landscape, 'highly interconnected, web-like knowledge structures are built that permit greater flexibility in the ways that knowledge can potentially be assembled for use in comprehension or problem solving.' He goes on to maintain that a highly adaptive schema can be assembled to fit the particular requirements for understanding or acting in the situation at hand.

 

4. Role of Hypertext with Educational Technology

Hypertext is computer-mediated text. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary describes Hypertext as 'a body of text... stored in machine readable form and structured in such a way that a reader can cross-refer between related items of information.' Ted Nelson, the person credited with developing the term defines it as 'a combination of natural language text with the computer's capacity for interactive branching, or dynamic display... of a non-linear text... which cannot be printed conveniently on the conventional page.' Hypertext therefore provides the ability to move through information along links that may be predetermined or user generated, it allows effective storage of and access to large sections of information and it allows a user to leave behind their semantic trace.

Hypertext facilities can be found within or be integral to many forms of educational technology, whether it be, computer based learning, computer managed communication, electronic information storage and more recently the World Wide Web (WWW).

Substantial advantages have been claimed for the use of educational technology. Computer based learning is a said to provide individualised and self-paced instruction and allows sophisticated branching whilst controlling the sequence of topics made available to the user. Computer mediated communication claims to encourage discussion and reflection. Some of the advantages claimed flow directly from the use of the hypertext facility, for example within the WWW by providing the learning materials (in hypertext form) 'on-line removes constraints of time and space; they can be accessed at any time from anywhere in any sequence and in consequence the control that is embodied in the lecturing approach is lost.' (Holyfield S & Liber O. (1995)

Within legal education the successful Law Consortium bid under the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme has developed electronic courseware in the core substantive law areas. Each courseware consists of an electronic workbook, a notepad and a resource book containing in electronic form primarily legal materials dealt with in the workbook. The courseware makes use of hypertext facilities both within the workbook area and within the resource book. Within the workbook it is possible to jump to other pages and to open pop up pages. Hypertext links make it possible to jump from the workbook to the resource book from where it is possible to search, via an index or word search, topics of choice. Again substantial advantages are claimed, the hypertext facility providing ‘instant and convenient access to large amount of full text primary sources... will encourage students to explore and become increasingly familiar with the true raw materials of the law rather than the precooked, pre-digested versions .... found in the ubiquitous case books' (Widdison R. 1995)

Little evidence for the inherent advantages of hypertext systems of facilities is offered. This is in no way unique , the development of educational technology is characterised by an atheoretical approach, embracing technology for technologies sake. The results of this approach are, more often or not, shoddy attempts to simulate teaching and usually pass as fads. Progression has been slow and littered with failures, almost a decade ago Jones wrote;

'Computer Assisted Learning does not and cannot exist in isolation of the total learning environment, there is a need to clarify learning objectives for such programs. '

Further as a result an attempt to develop coherent methodologies for CAL development it was concluded that

'CAL can fulfil certain objectives fairly well, but there is a need to resort to other solutions. These other solutions might well be hypertext based or simulation or communication based, depending on the skills to be appreciated and the learning outcome to be achieved.'

Paliwala A. et al. (1992)

It is not surprising therefore that a recent evaluation of an interviewing in law program, developed using the consortium’s authoring environment and making extensive use of the hypertext facilities showed that hypertext system within the workbook as useful but limited. (Jones R. et al, 1995) Limited in the sense of retrieving information rather than aiding understanding. Neither is it surprising that initial informal evaluations by the Law Courseware Consortium of it’s workbooks show some techniques, including hypertext encouraging surface as opposed to deep learning.

 

5. Design Options

Yet educational technology properly implemented should be instrumental in bringing us closer to the stated educational aims and objectives of higher education.[4] Educational technology can encourage activity, communication and exploration. It can provide immediate and effective feedback and evaluation. However the development and implementation of such technology must embrace the basic principles of good pedagogical practice, facilitating learner activity, enabling differing styles and providing multiple representations of the subject domain. Thereby enabling students to understand, to relate one idea to another and be capable of independent inquiry.

It is time we left the description of Hypertext as being some sort of foot-noting system behind. A properly structured hypertext system can in addition to information retrieval offer facilities that will encourage the deep learning so evidently lacking in present educational technology environments. To do this the hypertext environment, should reflect sound pedagogical principles that are shown to encourage deep as opposed to surface learning. The hypertext system should embrace the pedagogical, epistemological and constructivist theories discussed above. It is our contention that by examining a number of these pedagogical principles, developments in hypertext systems that encourage deep learning may become apparent. These developments may not seem particularly innovative, some of these basic principles are given in standard guidance to the development of hypertext systems. The novelty we believe lies in basing of these principles within recognised and proven pedagogical foundations.

 

5.1. Teaching Methods

Vannevar Bush (Bush V. 1945) the first person to describe computer supported Hypertext, envisaged that individuals would navigate their way through the information and leave behind a trail to follow from which other scientists would learn. Continuing this work Douglas Englebart attempted to 'augment man's intellect' by the use of a machine-supported method which, to some extent, exploited Hypertext. (Englebart D. 1963) The reason d'etre of his H-LAM/T system (Human using Language, Artefacts and Methodology in which he is Trained) was to increase the 'capability of man to approach a complex problem situation, gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems'. In order that man could function better in certain knowledge intensive work-places, he envisaged a tool by which comprehension could be gained more quickly, where comprehension would be better and where a useful degree of comprehension could be gained where previously the situation was too complex. As a result better solutions could be produced more quickly.

Englebart's conceptual framework was to examine in detail how people dealt with problems in the work-place. This examination would suggest the possibilities for improvement. 'Increasing the effectiveness of the individual's use of his basic capabilities is a problem in redesigning the changeable parts of the system.' The H-LAM/T system sought to facilitate the manipulation of concept and symbol structures in service to the human's mental structure. Mental structuring applies to the 'internal organisation of conscious and unconscious mental images, associations or concepts which somehow manage to provide the human with understanding and the basis for judgement, intuition, inference and meaningful action with respect to his environment.' He postulates that learning involves 'some kind of meaningful organisation within the brain and that whatever is so organised and structured represents the operating model of the individual's universe to the mental mechanisms that derive his behaviour'. In other words, the H-LAM/T was to allow the user to structure his thoughts explicitly so that the human intellect could be augmented. 'In H-LAM/T systems, individuals work essentially continuously within a simple structure of some sort, shifting their attention from one structure to another as they guide and execute the processes that ultimately provide them with the comprehension and the problem solutions that they seek.' The system emphasises the essential importance of the basic capability of composing and modifying efficient symbol structures. Also, the H-LAM/T system was to provide the opportunity for a significant adaptation of the augmentation means to individual characteristics.

Englebart's ideas regarding the H-LAM/T system became more specific by 1968 when he had implemented the NLS, oN - Line - System. This system had four main design characteristics:

(i) Database of non-linear text (Hyperbase)
(ii) View filters (Browsers)
(iii) Views which structured the display of the information for the terminal (Graphical depiction’s of nodes, links and networks).
(iv) Multi-person conferencing.

How is this work to be related to hypertext systems? Providing a body of text whether it be a case, statute or article is clearly inadequate. In such passive systems students will merely skim the surface of the materials. The system needs to become more active and raised from the level of mere resource text to becoming an integral part of the learning task. The systems should be adapted so as to enable the student both to interact ‘critically’ with the content and to relate to previous knowledge and experience. This can be achieved by providing within the hypertext systems semantic trails of the user within the subject domain, illuminated with the trails of other users. Add to this some form of communication technology.. The links to the development of deep learning now become more apparent. The trails and communication methods encourage users to compare previous trails and to make comments. The resulting discussion can then be embodied within the system and the personal diaries of the learners. Within such an environment the demand structure i.e. what is demanded of the students, can be altered to encourage deep learning. The summation of trails, discussions and diaries will provide an environment where tasks may be set that encourage reflection, and stimulate discussion.

The Law Courseware Consortium workbooks already have systems to leave bookmarks, to communicate with other users and to show an overview of the electronic workbook. These embryo facilities could be extended so that law students when facing a task could move through the relevant primary and secondary materials, leaving trails and bookmarks as they go, considering where necessary the domain overview. They could then compare their trail with that of others, review and contribute to e-conferences and diaries. Such facilities would then promote the 'resource' materials from mere reference materials to materials integral within the task. The case report, statute or article become the same level as the task and integral with it. Such integration would make redundant certain surface questioning techniques. For example the technique of requiring students to isolate and read particular parts of a judgment. Such directions become superfluous as the provision of a trail, comments and diaries through the judgment would provide this surface knowledge of the judgment without the need to point the learner to it. Instead learning tasks that require the learner to compare and apply this knowledge to previous knowledge or relate and distinguish evidence and argument or organise and structure the subject content into a coherent whole could now be set.

 

5.2. Learning Styles and Content

As we noted earlier Pask derived two styles of learning. Operational (serialist) learning refers to the construction of hypotheses, the use of rules, techniques and procedures in order to achieve understanding. Comprehensive (holistic) learning involves relating one to another and then searching for examples and analogies which can be identified in the subject domain. Deep learning is facilitate when the trait like learning style of the student is facilitated so that a 'match' can occur. Students do not however only use one style, (Laurillard 1984) shows that students adopt both styles, with varying proportions depending upon the task. The student may be thought of as adopting a 'strategic style'. At present no attempt is made to match the hypertext structure to the learning style. Free-flow hypertext, that is providing the domain knowledge with links either chosen automatically or by the designer, merely confuses the serialist learner and encourages the holist learner to develop the less desirable facets of his/her learning style.

To facilitate the adaptation to learner styles we would propose a more novel approach to Hypertext design. We would propose that an anchored Hypertext system be developed whereby the user would be allowed a certain amount of freedom to explore the surrounding information but would be tied to the original concept or key concepts which were chosen at the outset of the learning session. In this example of an anchored hypertext system the key concepts are contained in the articles (these could be cases, statutes or any other relevant materials) numbered one two and three. Imagine a user beginning their use of the hypertext material with Article 1. They then move to Article 2. The system would consider Article 1 as the 'home base' (the first article accessed in this concept area), Article 2 becomes the present base camp, 'base camp 1'. Moving to Article 3 the user would move to base camp 2. The user can navigate through the information but always be assured that they can back-track via the 'bases', not just the links. A back-track button will only work for the 'base-camps'.

image 1

Such a system would entail the use of multiple windows on screen and single words being linked to more than one related concept. On the one hand, this method would ensure that the holist would not take his/her eye off the learning task at hand whilst allowing them to peruse their desire to understand the task at hand from a global vantage point. On the other hand, it would supply the serialist with a learning environment which would allow a serialistic progression through the information whilst encouraging them to explore related issues.

By allowing a mix of learning styles such a system would cater for the varying styles of learning required by the disparate aims of the academic and vocational stages of legal education. There is a mix of tasks suitable to both learning strategies. The vocational setting tasks being hierarchical, logical, heterogeneous and procedurally governed. The academic tasks requiring interpretation, comparison, generalisation and self direction. As Ramsden concludes these 'constructs mirror with remarkable accuracy the distinction between operation and comprehension learning described by Pask.' (Ramsden P 1988 ) The proposed anchored hypertext system we propose would allow the setting of alternative task demands and allow the student to strategically choose a style relevant to the task.

The enhanced hypertext facilities now begin to enable the systems to meet the demands of learning within a complex and ill structured domain such as law. Such enhanced systems would allow the high level on inter-connectivity and criss-crossing favoured by Spiro. (Spiro 1987) These elements proposed are found in the system he developed in 1973 known as the CASTE, or 'Course Assembly System and Tutorial Environment'. Applications were created for a number of subjects such as Henry the Eighth and probability theory. Studies were carried out over the following six years in sixty laboratories and some 95 colleges and schools. The experiments were detailed meticulous recordings which lasted over spaced sessions between seven and twelve hours each. The studies confirmed all of the original findings.

 

6. Conclusion

As of yet educational technology has failed to deliver a learning environment that enable and encourages deep learning. It is our view that this is because in the design of such technologies little or no attempt has been made to reflect the sound pedagogical principles that are shown to encourage deep as opposed to surface learning.

The learning approach should provide the context within which deep learning is possible, the aims and outcomes of the task must be clearly indicative of the need to foster understanding and develop critical thought. Educational technology should by facilitating learner activity, enabling differing learning styles and by providing multiple representations of the subject domain be able to provide the environment within which deep learning can take place. In brief then the designer of such systems should wherever possible provide

  • teaching and assessment methods that enable critical interaction with the subject domain, and
  • a learning approach that can adapt to the learners style and to the complexity of the subject domain.

Future research needs to investigate the relationship between the technologies characteristics and capabilities and the learning process. This could be achieved as we have attempted by identifying the pedagogical and epistemological processes through which learning occurs and then mapping these into the facilities and characteristics of the technology. (Alavi M., 1995) Additionally the present technology based systems should be carefully examined and evaluated. Such evidence could then be used to pro-actively assess new technology as it becomes available preventing the educational process being technology driven.

At present hypertext systems within educational technology fail to embrace these pedagogical, epistemological and constructivist theories. Hypertext is presented as a passive, button clicking exercise, an elaborate footnoting system. We maintain that this need not be the case. With the introduction of a relatively small number of additional facilities hypertext can be raised from the status of a footnote to an integral part of the learning approach. Facilities which include the ability to maintain user trails and communication mechanisms should be used as and where is appropriate within the overall learning approach. Only then when such facilities are thoughtfully embodied within the hypertext technology will hypertext provide a useful learning environment.

 

Glossary

1. Computer Mediated Communication

Includes;

  • electronic communication between tutor and student/s and between student and student
  • electronic distribution of course materials
  • electronic conferences
  • electronic bulletin boards

 2. Courseware

A term used to describe a generation of computer assisted learning materials that include interactive elements, resource materials available electronically and some form of electronic note-taking facility.

 

3. Learning

a) Deep Learning - Deep learning enables a learner to :

  • focus on 'what is signified' (e.g. the author’s argument, or the concepts applicable to solving the problem.)
  • relate previous knowledge to new knowledge
  • relate knowledge from different courses
  • relate theoretical ideas to everyday experience
  • relate and distinguish evidence and argument
  • organise and structure content into a coherent whole
b) Surface Learning - surface learning enables a learner to
  • become accomplished at complex routine skills such as problem solving. to have appropriated enormous amounts of detailed knowledge, including knowledge of subject-specific terminology.
  • be able to reproduce large quantities of factual information on demand. pass examinations.

They are 'unable to show that they understand what they have learned when asked simple yet searching questions that test their grasp of the content. They continue to profess misconceptions of important concepts; their application of their knowledge to new problems is often weak;.... and conceptual changes are relatively rare, fragile and context dependent occurrences.'

 

4) Learning Style

the trait-like and consistent approach that a student would have towards learning, may be either

a) Comprehensive orientation or holistic learners

Students indicate a general direction towards understanding the text as a whole, they search for the authors intention, relating the content to the larger context and delimiting the main parts of the text.

or

b) Operational orientation or serialistic learners.

Focusing on specific comparisons in the text on the sequence of the text but not the main parts memorising detail and in contrast to holistic showing a clear evidence of a lack of an orientation towards the message as a whole. Learning by building up the framework step by step from the details to more general principles.

 

References

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Footnotes

1. The Hale Report on Higher Education (1964)

2. For a critical review of the Consultation Paper see, Bradney A . (1995) , Raising the Drawbridge: Defending University Law Schools. 1. Web JCLI
http://www.ncl.ac.uk/~nlawwww/articles1/bradney1.html

3. He contends that the lecture does not even do that very well.

4. For more details on the use of computers in legal education see, International Yearbook of Law, Computers and Technology, Ed. Jones R. & Russell K, Vol., (1994) (Carfax: Abingdon)

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