GALLOP: Guided Academic Learning to Legislation on Purchasing
- 1. Background
- 2. Educational Objectives
- 3. System design
- 3.1 Product Specifications and User Interfaces
- 3.2 'GUIDE' Authoring Software
3.2.1 Suitability for the Task
3.2.2 Structuring the Text (i) | (ii)
3.2.3 Navigating the Text
- 4. System Structure
- 4.1 Guided Input
- 4.2 Browse
- 5. Sources of Information
- 6. The Benefits of GALLOP
- 7. Future Developments
- 8. Conclusion
Download an animated presentation of the GALLOP system.
Within the European Union one of the main single market priorities has been the reform of public procurement. Purchasing has traditionally been in the clerical domain but is fast becoming a strategic priority for business success. With the push for reform came the introduction of European Procurement Directives which operate in the fields of public supplies, works, services, utilities and compliance. Each member state is required to implement these into their own legislation.
Since the legislation is complex and detailed it makes it a prime candidate for some form of decision support system. Staff at the University of Ulster have developed an innovative PC based system known as GALLOP - Guided Academic Learning to Legislation On Purchasing. The key objective was to design a system which would eliminate the need to wade through masses of legislation and would provide a comprehensive means of working through stages involved in a typical high value purchase. It was essential that students with limited computer experience would find it easy to learn and 'user friendly'. These needs are reflected in the overall design of the system and its content.
This paper examines an application of Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) within the particular field of public procurement law. The issues discussed are the need for compliance with the public procurement legislation and the contribution of IT to business/legal education. The implementation and application of the GALLOP system is outlined and future developments examined.
Keywords: computer assisted learning, public procurement, European legislation, legal education, information technology
This is a Work in Progress article.
Date of Publication: 27 June 1996
Citation: Hoey, A & Lowry, S (June 1996) 'GALLOP - Guided Academic Learning to Legislation on Purchasing', Work In Progress, 1996 (3) The Journal of Information Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/elj/jilt/wip/3lowry/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1996_3/hoey/>
Within the European Union one of the main single market priorities has been the reform of public procurement, that is public sector purchasing. European Procurement Directives operate in the field of supplies , works  , services  , utilities  and compliance  and have created a new regime which requires Member States to take positive steps to achieve effective Europe-wide participation in their markets. Public procurement extends beyond central and local government to include other public bodies, and private sector utilities with special or exclusive rights granted by public bodies. These bodies must now abide by certain rules which are applicable throughout the EC. Under the rules all public contracts, provided they are equal to or above given financial thresholds, must be awarded by Europe-wide competitive tender. The Directives establish a common approach that all relevant purchasers must follow when specifying requirements, issuing tenders, selecting potential candidates and awarding contracts. Contractors themselves also fall under the rules and incur new obligations. The new regime has thus extended the scope of public procurement and has established a coherent body of rules in order to comply with the aim of a single market. Familiarity with these rules is essential for buyers in the public sector who have to comply with them, and desirable for those in the private sector who may be involved in tendering for public sector contracts. All Member States are required to implement these into their own legislation and in the UK corresponding Regulations  have been passed, all of which are now in force.
In conjunction with the reform of the law, training and education in the field of purchasing is becoming more widespread, and is promoted by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS). Various academic institutions now offer CIPS qualifying courses and a common problem on such courses is the detailed and complex legislation with which students are presented as a result of the formation of the Single Market. In order to overcome this problem a Computer Based Learning (CBL) aid has been developed by a team of staff from the University of Ulster. The system, known as GALLOP (Guided Academic Learning to Legislation on Purchasing), guides students through the typical steps involved in a high value purchase in any of the aforementioned areas whilst at the same time allowing detailed investigation of the rules.
The general advantages of computer assisted learning (CAL) can be cited as follows:
- the student can choose the time at which to use the system (this is particularly advantageous in the case of part-time students),
- it is more visually appealing than a textbook,
- it allows self-pacing,
- it provides a more adaptive and flexible method of instruction,
- it allows for sophisticated branching between relevant knowledge areas (not available in workbooks).
It was particularly important to bear in mind these aspects of CAL during the development process of GALLOP and the aim of the University of Ulster team was to ensure that the positive advantages of CAL were reflected in the analysis, design and implementation of the system.
The first step in the development process was to identify the user needs and system objectives. Since the legislation is complex and detailed the key objective was to design a PC based system which would eliminate the need to wade through masses of legislation and provide a comprehensive means of working through stages involved in a typical high value purchase. The system was also designed bearing in mind that it had to be capable of use by those with limited computer experience and as such should be "user friendly". These needs are reflected in the overall design of the system and its content.
The system is also a decision support system, which seeks to improve the quality of decision-making by assisting students in the legal procedures involved in public procurement. Currently what we have produced is a simple deductive system where a collection of facts is submitted to a set of rules in order to arrive at a conclusion. The overall aim of GALLOP is to aid the student in understanding the legal rules and principles related to the area of public procurement.
Once the needs and objectives were ascertained the next step in the development process was to choose the software. The present day system standard that most students are familiar with is MS-Windows which incorporates the use of a Graphical User Interface (GUI). The fundamental psychological principle underlying the spread of GUIs is that "recognising a command is easier than recalling it". A major promise of GUI is that all applications in its environment work in the same way, reducing learning time and facilitating training. A GUI is 'a user-friendly, graphics-oriented environment which permits the integration of text with high-resolution graphic images' (Long, L & Long, N 1996, pp 76-77). It acts as the mediator between the user and the software with the user moving the cursor about the screen by means of a mouse. Graphic images, called icons, are used to represent various tasks or software and these are selected by clicking on the mouse buttons. Therefore the software developed should incorporate text and graphics in a way that is simple enough for a non-computing student to master.
The second consideration was the level of information required by the student. To simply present the text of the legislation in a computerised form would do little to enhance the learning of students who are not necessarily familiar with any legislation, let alone the particular regulations concerned. Therefore, the information given would have to contain all the regulations but in a form that was easily understood and could be logically navigated. This meant that a simple way of guiding the student through the legislation was needed.
From these considerations it was obvious that the software to be used for developing GALLOP needed to be able to cope with large amounts of text, navigate through that text and yet at the same time retain a simple GUI-based format.
Having taken the user requirements and product specifications into consideration the 'Guide' authoring package produced by OWL International (formerly Office Workstations Ltd.) was chosen. 'Guide' helps the user produce a Hypertext package that can be as simple or as complex as the user desires.
Hypertext is the term used for allowing the random movement through blocks of text in a variety of directions whilst still being able to trace the path of movement (Leith, P 1991, pp 93-95). It refers to an electronic document whose parts are electronically linked in such a way as to avoid the limitations of traditional linear media such as bound books. Hypertext offers the promise of navigating through computer-based information in a fashion dictated by the needs of the user rather than by the structure of a database or the limitations of a computer program. Information retrieval applications are a natural match to hypertext.
The legal domain covered by the system is text based. Thus 'Guide' hypertext software was chosen as it allows the creation of computer-based documents with embedded links and cross-references that permit the user to explore the contents in a non-linear fashion and quickly locate the required information. As full multi-media student workstations are few and far between the two major facilities required were the incorporation of text and simple graphics. 'Guide' meets these requirements as it is an authoring package, supported by the programming language "LOGiiX", incorporating the use of graphics and text. It is a GUI-conformant application which uses windows, menus and a pointing device. It was particularly suitable for developing the GALLOP system as it provides a way of combining different types of information and letting the user navigate flexibly through the resulting "information universe". The "ease of use" requirement was extremely important and the user can master the package without needing a degree in computer science.
Text is held in documents which are stored as '.gui' files and can be made up of one or more 'frames' or screens. These frames are ordered within the document and each links to the one on either side of it in that sequence. The programmer then adds controls to the document to allow the user to move from frame to frame. Text can be typed directly into 'Guide' documents or imported as '.txt' files from a word processor, e.g. Word 6.0. 'Guide' provides standard graphics such as control buttons but to create new graphics requires a graphical package, e.g. MS-Paintbrush, in which the image is created, saved, and then imported into the relevant 'Guide' document. All the images in GALLOP were created externally and imported into the documentation. 'Guide' offers the programmer four types of 'buttons' which can be used to link text or graphics together in various ways (Gregson, K 1992, pp 10-12):
1. Note buttons: As the name suggests these buttons allow the addition of notes to the main text. The notes are displayed in a pop-up window which appears when the note button is clicked upon. This facility is used to explain unfamiliar terms and provide supplementary information which the user might need on a temporary basis, e.g. in all the Regulations there is a section outlining the Technical Specification compliance. Within this section there are references to British Standards and whenever a student clicks on the text British standard a window pops up displaying a short statement of advise therein, see Figure 1.
2. Reference buttons: These can connect one part of a document to another part or to another document and so facilitates the referencing of another piece of text from the present position. e.g. at the beginning of Technical Specifications the student is asked whether there is a European specification, implemented by a British Standard or a common technical specification. Clicking on the text reference buttons Yes or No will take the user to the corresponding frame within the technical specification document. When moving the user to a new position a means of returning must be given.
3. Expansion buttons: When clicked upon these cause the text to expand and reveal additional text. They provide a mechanism for hiding relevant definitions of words or phrases. This category of button was not used in the GALLOP system.
4. Command buttons: These are used to perform a specific task such as closing a document. e.g. the control panel in GALLOP consists of several command buttons in the form of icons which allow the user to do various things such as exit from the system or move backwards and forwards through frames in a document using the relevant arrows, see Figure 3. Tasks are programmed using definitions that are stored in the definition's window and more complex definitions can be written in LOGiiX, the language of 'Guide'.
The buttons are programmed by defining the text/image as a particular type of button and, in the case of textual buttons (key words), the appearance changes, e.g. reference buttons appear in italics by default. The cursor will change shape when it is over a button to make the user aware of its presence (each button has a different cursor shape). The button is then activated by clicking on the left hand mouse button.
To give the software true hypertext features the user must be able to move from one piece of text to another and return. 'Guide' achieves this by storing the text in frames within a document and by using several documents within a system. These documents are then linked together by using the aforementioned buttons to call associated text from another document. Within 'Guide' itself the programmer can easily move forwards and backwards through a document and between documents by using the 'Guide' menu bar. However to make the system self-contained it is desirable to have what is known as a Control Panel available to navigate the system. The control panel should offer such options as:
- go forward a frame
- go back a frame
- return to contents page
- exit the system
'Guide' allows the programmer to add such a panel to the system by creating a document which is continually open and controls the movement through all the other documents. Figure 4 shows a control panel displayed along with a menu screen. The controls are programmed using the appropriate LOGiiX commands for the function required.
Although 'Guide' was used for the development of the system it could not be used to display the system on the student workstations as this would allow the students to change the documentation and could lead to corruption of the information. For the purpose of displaying GALLOP a second package called 'Guide Reader' was used which allows the user to read the .gui files but does not allow them to be changed, i.e. read only access by the user.
4. System Structure
Careful consideration was given to the structure of the system to avoid confusing the student but also to insure that the legislation was accurately represented. Therefore, the system is divided into modules that are separate in nature but use the same principles of operation. These modules include an overall user interface and a separate module for each of the four sets of regulations. The final module contains case law examples relevant to specific areas of the regulations and is referenced from within the appropriate regulation module. Figure 5 illustrates the interconnection of the modules which are listed below:
Selection control: User interface to the system
Supplies: Module on Public Supply Contracts Regulations
Works: Module on Public Works Contracts Regulations
Services: Module on Public Services Contracts Regulations
Utilities: Module on Utilities Supply and Works Contracts Regulations
Case Law: Modules on Examples of Case Law
The four regulation modules were all designed to have a similar format and structure to reduce the time required to familiarise the user with the software. Therefore the buttons and the control panel are standard throughout the modules with the initial sequence of screens being identical apart from the title of the regulations. The first screen asks the user if he or she has used the system before. If the user selects 'No' then he or she is moved to an explanation screen which gives a brief overview of GALLOP. Otherwise the user moves directly to the third screen which allows him or her to enter the module or exit GALLOP, see Figure 6.
To aid student learning the system then splits into two modes of operation, namely:
GUIDED INPUT: A guided look through each area of the legislation
BROWSE: An in-depth look into certain areas of the legislation
The student selects his or her preferred mode and is moved to the menu screen for that mode of operation.
Guided Input allows the student to work through the legislation as if he or she was preparing to tender a contract under the legislation. The main menu of Guided Input offers the student a choice of sections to look at and this is common to all four regulation modules:
- From the Beginning
- Contracts Covered
- Tendering Procedures
- Technical Specifications
- Selection Criteria
- Contract Award
If the student works through each topic in turn he or she will have read all the information relevant to the contract. At the end of each section the student is asked if he or she wishes to review the topic or go on to the next. This means that once started the student does not need to return to the main menu. However, hypertext can cause the user to become lost in the system and so great care has been taken in the system design and programming. Therefore, within Guided Input clicking on the Close button on the control panel will close down the present document and return the user to the previous page. Also clicking on the Guided Input button on the control panel will return the user to the main menu. Figure 3 shows the full control panel for GALLOP.
Within each section the student can read the text and click on any coloured text to perform an operation. These may be note buttons which appear in green or command/reference buttons which appear in blue. When a student clicks on a green text a small window of text appears to give further information related to that word or phrase. When blue text is clicked on another document may be opened, which can be read and then closed, or the user may be moved to another frame in the document. Usually, documents are navigated by means of the arrows on the control panel, which are shaded out when not available for use. Text which is coloured red is not a button but is to highlight a particularly important area of the legislation.
GALLOP prompts the student to respond to questions at various points and then moves him or her on to the next relevant part of the legislation. For example, see the procedure selection screen shown in Figure 7. The student clicks on the appropriate response and is moved to the section on that procedure.
Within each section the student may be asked if he or she wishes to browse more information on a particular topic. This is done via a command button which takes the form of the topic name in blue text and links to the relevant section in the Browse documents. The student returns from a Browse topic by clicking on Close in the control panel.
The Browse mode allows the student access to more extensive information on key legislation areas. These are listed in the menu screen for the Browse section and are as follows:
- Contracting Authorities
- Contracts Covered
- Tendering Procedures
- Technical Specifications
- Selection Criteria
- Contract Award
These menu items are the same for all the regulation modules except Utilities which has 'What is a Utility?' as the first option.
Under Browse the student chooses a topic and works through the section step by step to the end. Then he or she needs to select the Browse button from the control panel which returns them to the Browse menu where they can choose another topic or exit the system. There is no linking from within one topic to another as this mode is for reference rather than for guided learning. Apart from this difference navigation of the system occurs in much the same way as under Guided Input.
The two modes of operation offer the student varying levels of information and therefore greater control over the information he or she absorbs. However, there is enough information in the Guided Input section to insure that the student grasps the basics of the public procurement legislation, even if he or she never enters the Browse section.
The information contained in the system comprises the legal rules and principles relating to all public procurement contracts. This, however, is not as simple as it first appears since the sources of law relating to public procurement are manifold. In the first instance there are the European Directives and their implementing national Regulations, but in addition there are precedents, custom and EC Law. In any particular case some or all of these sources of law will affect the outcome. The procurement legislation is continually evolving which further adds to the confusion of the purchaser, who must comply with the legislation or face heavy penalties.
There is a body of Case Law from the European Court of Justice relating to public procurement contracts most of which concern infringements of the Directives. The student needs to be familiar with these cases and how the Directives are interpreted by the Court to insure that they are aware of the legal implications of non-compliance with the legislation. The case law has been incorporated into GALLOP and means of access is by referencing key cases in highlighted text. As the body of case law is continually expanding this module of the system is under development and currently only contains an outline of the essential details of each case.
Failure to comply with the legislation is a breach of the law. To emphasise further the need for compliance with the Regulations there is a section on Enforcements and Remedies in each regulation module. This section outlines the duties with which a purchaser must comply and indicates the necessary information to be provided to the relevant supplier or contractor. The possible courses of action for non-compliance are also outlined.
Authorities now face the threat of legal action from aggrieved contractors, suppliers or purchase providers and remedies at national level are available in the form of damages or the award of interim or final injunctions. There is also the possibility that a national court or tribunal dealing with infringement of the procurement legislation may refer the question to the European Court of Justice under the preliminary rulings procedure contained in Article 177 of the Treaty of Rome. Also at Community level the European Commission has the power to investigate complaints and initiate proceedings against member States who fail to fulfil their community obligations under Article 169 of the Treaty of Rome. In the UK only suppliers and contractors harmed by a breach of the rules or at risk of harm may seek remedies within the appropriate national courts.
The Enforcements/Remedies section draws on disparate sources of legal information in order to equip the student with the requisite knowledge to ensure compliance with the legal rules and also encourages analytical skills and legal reasoning.
Throughout the procurement process relevant reports must be maintained at various stages. This documentation is extremely important as the Treasury or the Commission can request it at any time. Therefore, it was felt necessary to incorporate a section in each of the regulation modules concerning Reports. The information contained therein provides an outline of the time scales and format required for the respective reports. The report section thus provides a mechanism whereby the student can see exactly what is expected of a purchaser with regard to report writing without necessarily having to investigate each individual section of the regulation modules.
This is only a brief overview of the legislation but already it is clear how complex and detailed the rules appear to be. It was this complexity and detail that initially provided the impetus to design and develop the GALLOP system. It gives the students a step by step guide through the legislation by means of easily understood portions of information.
In the traditional pattern of education the bulk of students' knowledge is normally acquired by reading texts and attending lectures. This is then normally supplemented by engaging and thought provoking seminar sessions. Apart from these traditional methods of instruction does computer assisted learning have a valuable role to play in the teaching and learning process? The advantages of CAL have been cited above but there are also weaknesses of computer assisted learning (see Collins, H 1994, Korn, GC 1983, Young, M 1992). For example students do not want to see lengthy portions of text on the screen and therefore "the information which can be conveyed will necessarily be less comprehensive than the alternative of textbooks and casebooks" (Collins, H 1994, p 9). It may also be argued that the computer cannot respond to questions in an intelligent manner, unless to provide bare information, nor can it emulate the spontaneity and immediacy of 'live' lectures and seminars (Collins, H 1994, pp 8-9).
Thus, at present, there is no prospect of the computer displacing traditional teaching and learning methods but it does exist as a supplement and its use in this way should be encouraged. The weaknesses or deficiencies of a system like GALLOP have been recognised but at the same time GALLOP offers a different learning environment which in itself possesses a unique range of opportunities for both students and lecturers. To date most CBL packages that are used within legal education are for enhancing the teaching of general and frequently taught law modules. There are few systems available which deal with specialised areas, such as public procurement, due mainly to the relative lack of students needing such subjects for their course of studies and therefore the unwillingness of universities to put resources into producing a CBL package which will only be used by a small proportion of their students.
However, we would argue that for these very reasons a CBL package is a worthwhile investment. Within a university a legal academic is usually specialised in one particular field. If that field is one of the non-core areas of law then he or she is likely to be the only member of staff with 'expert' knowledge in that field. This means that their time and knowledge is highly sought after by particular courses and students, on top of the time that needs to be spent on the core areas of legal education. GALLOP is a prime example of the application of CAL to a specialised non-core area of law and the system demonstrates how CAL can help alleviate the pressure on the relevant members of staff while at the same time providing the student with an alternative information resource and learning aid. Of course for such a system to be beneficial to the student it must correctly encapsulate the knowledge of the subject and present it in a way that is coherent and understandable to the student. We, at the University of Ulster, believe that the GALLOP system embodies these essential characteristics and has further advantages by
- facilitating a reduction in instruction time;
- encouraging a positive attitude among students towards computer based learning;
- providing support for self-paced individual learning; and
- providing a variety of forms of presentation for students.
The system is currently in use within the University of Ulster as a CBL package for students within the Faculty of Business and Management. In particular it is used by students on the Purchasing and Supply courses and therefore many part-time students from Public Sector organisations have access to it. As with any computer system the need to continually assess the functionality of the system is imperative and therefore the system is updated and enhanced as the legislation changes. However, simply updating the law is not sufficient to ensure that the system is reaching its full potential. Improvements to the system have been examined and to this end student resources, such as worksheets and a handbook, are being developed. Additional features that could be added include a higher level of student interaction with the system by means of self-assessment questions at the end of a section to allow students to judge how much of the information they have retained.
Each year the University run short courses, for the staff of the Government Purchasing Services, during which the participants are given the opportunity to use GALLOP. From oral feedback course participants have expressed a view that a version of the system tailored specifically to their needs would be a tremendous help in their tendering procedures. It would also aid the training of new and existing staff in public procurement legislation. Several points were raised as to improvements that could be made to GALLOP and these included the possibility of referencing the legislation by regulation number and a facility to generate the standard notices for advertising tenders. These it is felt would be best incorporated into the commercial version (intended for distribution in the public sector) as they are not essential to the teaching of public procurement law. However we intend to do a more extensive evaluation of the present system, with the next cohort of students who are introduced to it, the aim of which would be to establish the systems advantages and disadvantages from the student's perspective and key areas for development. The evaluation will include a questionnaire asking the students questions about the effectiveness and suitability of the system. These questions may include:
- How easy did you find it to navigate the system?
- How long did it take you to understand how to use the system?
- How useful did you find the system?
- Is there any feature you would like to see removed?
- What (if any) information do you feel has been left out?
- How could the system be improved?
In this paper we have examined the issues relating to the use of Computer Aided Learning in the teaching of Law to University students. As one commentator states 'the success of computers in education depends on how well they are integrated with the instructional objectives' (Leidner, DE & Jarvenpaa, SL 1993, p26). In this context there are two important questions to be addressed. Firstly, what are the learning tasks that the student is faced with and secondly, how does the computer package facilitate these tasks?
The primary task for a student in the field of public procurement is to become familiar with the legal rules governing public purchasing and then secondly, to learn how to apply these rules in an intelligent and analytical manner. The GALLOP system facilitates these tasks by making the relevant law more accessible to the student. It provides an efficient way of assessing, extracting and analysing legal information and will significantly reduce the procedural complexity of deriving a solution in the context of public procurement law. The system is not meant to be an entire substitute for traditional teaching methods but rather should act as a supplement. The GALLOP system aims to deepen and strengthen students' knowledge of public procurement law and promote the students' ability to use that information. It is hoped that this system and others will ultimately enhance contemporary teaching practices and contribute to more 'effective' teaching and learning in higher education.
This paper was first presented at the 7th Annual CTI-AFM Conference, Brighton, on the 3rd of April 1996.
Collins, H 'The Place of Computers in Legal Education' (1994) The Law Technology Journal, Vol. 3 No. 3. http://www.law.warwick.ac.uk/publications/ltj/v3n3/ltj3-3b.html
Young, M 'Justification and Criticism of Legal CAL' (1992) The Law Technology Journal, Vol. 2 No. 1. http://www.law.warwick.ac.uk/publications/ltj/v2n1/ltj2-1c.html
 See Council Directive 77/62,  O. J. L13/1, as amended by Directive 80/767  O. J. L215/1 and Directive 88/295  O. J. L127/1.
 See Council Directive 71/305,  O. J. L185/5, as amended by Directive 89/440  O. J. L210/1.
 See Council Directive 92/50,  O. J. L209/1.
 See Council Directive 90/531,  O. J. L297/1.
 See Council Directive 89/665,  O. J. L127/1.
 Public Supply Contracts Regulations 1991 S.I. No. 2679, Public Works Contracts Regulations 1991 S.I. No. 2680, Public Services Contracts Regulations 1993 S.I. No. 3228 and Utilities Supply and Works Regulations 1992 S.I. No. 3279.