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JILT 1996 (3) - Erich Schweighofer

Teleteaching in the EU HUMANITIES Project

Erich Schweighofer
University of Vienna
erich.schweighofer@univie.ac.at

Contents
Abstract
1. Introduction
2. HUMANITIES Project
3. Tools of Teleteaching
3.1. Satellite Broadcasted Television
3.2. Videoconference
3.3. Audio Conference
3.4. Video
3.5. Internet
4. HUMANITIES Course Programme
5. Evaluation of the Tools of Teleteaching
5.1. Satellite Broadcasted Television and Videoconference
5.2. Video
5.3. Audioconference
5.4. Internet
6. Placements
7. Academic Recognition
8. Conclusion
9. Acknowledgements
10. References
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Abstract

A very important lacuna in the teaching of European law is the European perspective. European law is mainly taught from a national view. Teleteaching may be a possible way to overcome this problem.

The aim of the HUMANITIES (Historic Universities MultimediA Network for InnovaTion In Educational System) project of the European Union is superseding the classic ERASMUS scheme for students' mobility by introducing VIRTUAL MOBILITY as the best way of including international components in traditional university curricula through telematics-based distance learning.

For each of the three discipline areas (Communication Science, European Environmental Law and European Literature) a task force has been established. The latter prepared a 16-hour module to be delivered via satellite by teachers from 5 universities. The study group law was using the technology of satellite broadcasting, audio-conference, videoconference and Internet. In addition to that, the University of Vienna has put some materials on the World Wide Web in order to support the European view of learning.

Teleteaching is very different from traditional teaching because the emphasis is put on the various perspectives of Europe. This aim is in particular important for courses on European law or international law. Teleteaching may provide a cheap alternative to otherwise very costly guest lectures of professors or practitioners.

Keywords: EU law, teleteaching, European environmental law, Internet/WWW, KONTERM workstation


Date of publication: 30 September 1996

Citation: Schweighofer E (1996) 'Teleteaching in the EU HUMANITIES Project', BILETA '96 Conference Proceedings, 1996 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/elj/jilt/bileta/1996/3schweig/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1996_3/special/schweighofer/>


1. Introduction

European Law is well suited for the application of new teaching technologies. European law is very voluminous and complex and concerns nearly all areas of law. New members of the European Union such as Austria had to transform this autonomous legal order of the Union into their legal systems. The aim of teaching changed from "shallow" to "deep" knowledge. New available techniques are Computer Assisted Legal Research (CALR) (Paliwala, 1991, Shields, 1995, Staudt, 1994) or Open and Distance Learning (ODL). CALR has been successfully implemented since 1991 in our project Use of Legal Information Systems by Students (Schweighofer, 1995). In 1995 we participated in the ODL project of HUMANITIES (Historic Universities MultimediA Network for InnovaTion In Educational System) of the European Union. The aim of HUMANITIES is superseding of the classic ERASMUS scheme for students mobility by introducing virtual mobility as the best way of including international components in traditional university curricula through telematics-based distance learning. Only 5% of European students have the advantage of participating in the ERASMUS programme. The virtual mobility of HUMANITIES may be a solution to that problem. ODL is a learning strategy that allows teaching and learning in varied and distant places. Distance teaching is quite different from teaching in traditional classrooms and demands other practices and protocols to be successful. In addition to ODL, our goal was to support the European perspective of teaching. This aspect is very often forgotten in traditional teaching because of severe constraints in resources. ODL may provide a cheap alternative to expensive guest lectures or excursions.

2. HUMANITIES Project

In 1994 the European Commission started an initiative in the field of ODL. From 126 proposals 4 projects were selected: HUMANITIES for the core of European Academica, most of the ancient universities of Europe, with no experience in ODL; EOUN for the establishment of a European University Network for ODL; LOGOS for the enhancement of course materials for ODL and TELESCOPIA for flexible technical solutions of ODL. 27 universities, the so-called COIMBRA group, are participating in the HUMANITIES project. The COIMBRA group constitutes an integrated network of old and traditional European universities. Student mobility should be enhanced by introducing virtual mobility. The idea is that students remain at their university while teachers from other universities are "visiting" them by the technical means of satellite broadcast, videoconference, audio-conference and the Internet. The learning environment of HUMANITIES is a hybrid model solution in which teaching has been delivered partly through the traditional face to face method and partly through the ODL strategy.

For each of the three discipline areas (Communication Science, European Environmental Law and European Literature) a task force has been established. The latter prepared a 16-hour module to be delivered via satellite by teachers from 5 universities.

The Thematic Study Group Law consisted of the following universities: ABO Akademi University (Mrs. Paula Lindroos), Unversitetet i Bergen (Prof. Frode Borge), Universita degli Studi di Bologna (Prof. Paolo Mengozzi), Université de Caen (Prof. Heron), Universidade de Coimbra (Prof. José Eduardo Figueiredo Dias), Universidad de Granada (Prof. Diego Liñan Nogeras), Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (Mr. W. T. Douma), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Prof. Kurt Deketelaere/Prof. Dr. Jules Stuyck), Université de Poitiers (Prof. Dominique Breillart), University of Thessaloniki (Prof. Panayotis Ladas), Universität Wien (Dr. Erich Schweighofer), Leiden Universiteit (Prof. Brinkhorst/Dr. Peter Floor).

The study group law has used the technologies of satellite broadcasting, audio-conference, videoconference and Internet. In addition, the University of Vienna has put some materials on the World Wide Web in order to support the European view of learning.

The pilot phase of HUMANITIES took place during 1995. About 900 students had the possibility of virtual mobility between the participating universities. The results were presented at the conference Open and Distance Learning at Work on 23 November 1995 in Berlin.

3. Tools of Teleteaching

The prerequisite of teleteaching is the electronic classroom that allows universities to access and utilise various electronic resources. These resources can range from video tapes located at the University's library or audio-conference, to a live multi-point connection broadcasting to various distant university sites. The backbone of the electronic classroom consists in the integration of video, audio and computer transmission techniques with educational applications. The aspect of integration is the crucial point of teleteaching. Without proper integration teleteaching does not yield sufficient improvements. Support from the University is necessary for implementing teleteaching. The following brief summary of tools should provide only an overview of available techniques (for a more details see Euromedia Link, 1995 or McConnell, 1994 with further references). Local discussions are also an additional part of teleteaching.

3.1. Satellite Broadcasted Television

Both audio and video signal are transmitted simultaneously from the origination point to the desired destination via broadcast satellites. Satellite systems make economic sense when there are many sites to receive the programme simultaneously at geographically dispersed locations. The origination site is a classroom with highly sophisticated equipment. The electronic signals are transmitted to a specific satellite in space (uplink). The receiving sites are equipped with an antenna and television equipment (downlink). Most of the satellite based programmes rely on one way video and two way audio for student interaction. One site is seen by all students (instructor location) and students can interact using regular telephone lines. A more sophisticated possibility is the interaction by videoconference.

3.2. Videoconference

Videoconferencing via ISDN lines links remote sites with one another, allowing simultaneous exchange of voice, picture and data transmission. A videoconference system is based on a professional combination of TV set, TV camera, integrated telephone and Codec that allows digitisation, compression and decompression of TV images that can be transmitted with medium quality levels over digital lines. Normally, the necessary equipment will be installed in a dedicated videoconference classroom but modular systems are also possible.

Videoconference systems allow high quality distance lessons to the desired destinations, thereby allowing full duplex interaction. The dissemination is limited to a number of remote sites due to the practical limitations of telephone circuits connected.

3.3. Audio Conference

Audioconferencing means linking several locations by telephone resulting in a conference call with persons at remote sides capable of talking to each other. The sites must have a regular telephone line and a professional voice amplifier available in the classroom. To link several locations, a telephone bridge is needed that can be rented at a reasonable fee. The transmission is analogue by terrestrial connections. The audio capacity is fully interactive. Audioconferencing is mainly used for verbal exchange between teachers and students. The main advantages are the low costs involving standard telephone connection rates and bridging services and the readily available technology. The main disadvantage is the lack of visual feedback from the students located at various university sites.

3.4. Video

Video cassettes are an alternative to expensive satellite broadcasted lecture. Lectures are recorded on video cassettes and forwarded to the various participating universities. A TV set and a video recorder are required as equipment at the remote site. The production of the video is quite time-consuming.

3.5. Internet

The Internet with the services of electronic mail, mailing lists, newsgroups and World Wide Web provides valuable communication support for the electronic classroom (Maier/Wildberger, 1995). The participating students can interact directly by e-mail with each other as well as the teachers with the participating universities. Mailing lists and newsgroups are a useful tool for electronic discussions. Teaching materials can be disseminated to the various remote sites by the WWW that can also include pictures or graphics.

4. HUMANITIES Course Programme

The chosen topic for the Thematic Study Group Law was European Environmental Law. The course programme has been designed by the Task Force Law of the HUMANITIES project but some local variations were possible. At the University of Vienna some focus has been put on the improvement of teaching by using the Internet. Each Thematic Study Group was assisted by a Home-University Tutor.

The face to face-lectures on European law of the Module I and II were taken from the existing European law curriculum. As Internet was a cornerstone of our participation a special seminar was given to the students by Prof. Gerald Quirchmayr and the author. This seminar was supplemented by a European law and Internet workshop by the tutor Martin Meisel. The core of the programme was the demo-seminar that was guided by Prof. Gerhard Hafner and the author.

The demo-seminar consisted of the following lectures. The teleteaching techniques are also mentioned:

  • Introduction to European Environmental Law: local lecture by Prof. Hafner
  • The Challenges: Satellite broadcasted television, round table with Commissioner Bjerregaard and Prof. Brinkhorst, Member of the European Parliament, audio conference, Internet chat
  • Cultural Diversity: Video by Mrs. Lindroos, University of Abo, local discussion, audio conference, Internet chat
  • Competencies in the Treaties: Satellite broadcasted television by Prof. Brinkhorst, Leiden, local discussion, audio conference, Internet chat
  • Environmental Policies of the EU: Video by Dr. Douma, Groningen, local discussion, audio conference, Internet chat
  • Environmental Tax Policy: Local lecture by the author, local discussion, audio conference with Prof. Deketelaere, Leuven, Internet chat
  • Round Table: Visions, perspectives ...: Satellite broadcasted television by Prof. Borge, Bergen, local discussion, audio conference, Internet chat

Lectures with satellite broadcasted television lasted two hours including one break for local questions and audio conference. The other lectures consisted of one hour for video, one hour for local discussion and one hour for the audio conference. The video concerning the environmental tax policy has been replaced by local lecture and discussion.

To support the lectures materials were distributed among the participating universities. The articles and book excerpts represented some kind of summary of the lectures. In addition, the most interesting books and documents were made available in a small project library.

The students at our Faculty of Law showed great interest in the project. Due to space restrictions the list of interested students of about 50 students had to be cut to 20.

5. Evaluation of the Tools of Teleteaching

The evaluation of the programme was very positive of the Thematic Study Group Law at University of Vienna. The hybrid model (face-to-face method + ODL method) offered new teaching possibilities in the area of European environmental law with dynamic developments. The lectures from well-known authorities in European environmental law were very stimulating for the students. Audio conferences and Internet also supported the European perspective of learning. The different emphasis on environmental problems and the various perspectives offered the students a real picture of the process of European integration in the field of European environmental law. A very important point was also that the virtual mobility is not restricted to two countries as is the case with the ERASMUS exchanges. The drawbacks are the necessary equipment and some kind of "teleteaching literacy" of the students and teachers. The equipment for teleteaching lectures is not yet sufficiently available at law schools. Students and teachers should have some familiarity with telecommunication and teleteaching techniques. Regular use of the Internet may be the best training for that. Otherwise the virtual mobility element is somewhat missing in the study groups.

5.1. Satellite Broadcasted Television and Videoconference

Half of the programme of the demo-seminar was broadcast by satellite. The lectures and discussions from the origination site were very lively and well accepted by the study group. The interaction by telephone line has been sufficient for the local audience. Due to the long list of participating universities only a few minutes were offered to the local study groups. Some universities interacted by videoconference but the improvement was not remarkable due to the low quality of the transmission. High quality transmission by ISDN requires about 8 ISDN lines. This investment could only be afforded if ODL is a standard technique at universities. Transmission by Internet may be a cheap alternative but with low and unreliable quality due to enormous popularity. At this moment, law faculties do not own the necessary equipment for satellite broadcasted lectures with antenna and television equipment but other departments can provide help as they do at our University.

5.2. Video

The alternative of video cassettes was used twice in the project. The acceptance was dependent on the quality of the video. The missing aspect of live transmission makes errors in presentation more severe. Lack of up-to-date information in the first video led to some critique from the study group. The second video was well done and much better received by the students.

5.3. Audioconference

Too much emphasis has been put on the audioconference. The technique is cheap but efficient and offers the possibility of verbal exchange between the teacher and students. In the case of satellite broadcasted lectures the interaction was well accepted because of the visual feedback from the teacher at some university sites. If the audio conference follows immediately after the video performance, students are likely to retain a strong visual impression of the video performer and this can enhance the quality of the audio conference. Audio conference without some visual impression or prior personal knowledge is in danger of being boring for the students. The procedure of the HUMANITIES project strengthened this problem. Twelve universities presented their questions in one hour without any structuring of the discussion. Therefore sometimes the interesting moments lasted only for the "question slot" of the study group. The lesson from this experience is that more visual materials about teachers and study groups should be presented. Some organisation of the audio conference is also highly recommended.

5.4. Internet

The project contractor TechNet in Espoo, Finland, provided quite efficient support concerning the Internet. Besides general information the WWW server offered links to the participating universities, links to important WWW sites on environmental law and to the newsgroups. For the discussion five mailing lists have been implemented: hum-tutoring (tutors), hum-chat (informal discussions), hum-technology (different technologies), hum-envlaw-sessions (discussion about the content of the demo seminar) and hum-envlaw-contacts (contacts with other students in the Thematic Study Group Law). The University of Bergen has offered some summaries of important ECJ cases on their WWW server.

In the Internet seminar the students developed their own WWW HUMANITIES server consisting of a presentation of the group, homepages of the participants including pictures, important links to WWW sites on environmental law and a full documentation of EU environmental law. As EU documents on environmental law are not available on the Internet the major instruments of EU law was downloaded from the CELEX database with the permission of the Office for Publications in Luxembourg. This collection was semi-automatically analysed and transformed into HTML documents by the KONTERM workstation (for more details see Schweighofer, 1996). The documentation was made available to the participants of the Thematic Study Group Law during the demo-seminar.

The students were quite satisfied with the teaching of the various aspects of technology, especially the Internet. They acquired good experience and understanding of its possibilities. Despite these efforts, the Internet was not as efficiently used as expected during the demo-seminar. The main reason may be the lack of easily accessible personal computers with Internet access at law faculties. Another reason may be that the critical core of "Internet surfers" could not be established. The homepages were interesting and the discussions lively but the huge potential has to be explored in the next stage of the project.

6. Placements

The HUMANITIES students should, where possible, carry out an industrial placement in any sector of economic life. The placement was arranged by the COMNET network of University Enterprise Training Partnerships (UETPs). The placement can be carried out in the students' country of study or in another European country, and its minimum duration is 120 hours or 3 weeks. Eight students were interested in placements. Due to the unfavourable winter semester with no vacations, no placement has been carried out yet.

7. Academic Recognition

The students got full academic recognition for their participation. Credits could be acquired for the areas of European law and computers and law. This result is very acceptable but required some discussions at our law faculty.

8. Conclusion

The participation in the HUMANITIES project was a success for our university. The students evaluated the project very positively and favoured the innovative approach to teaching. Guest lectures were seen as a major improvement of traditional teaching. Problems were the insufficient technical equipment and some doubts of the students concerning the use of technology in the law school. The experience in teleteachíng is still insufficient and a lot has yet to be learned. Our tentative conclusions are that more pilot projects should be carried out. Some investment in technology is unavoidable. The potential of teleteaching is huge because teaching quality can be improved at quite low costs. High quality lectures from authorities in the area of law will be disseminated throughout Europe and provide students a better understanding of the various aspects of problems. The gained teaching time can be used for improved local discussions at the university. The students were very satisfied with the experience they gained of information and communication technology. Therefore, ODL may be a solution to some current teaching problems at law schools.

Acknowledgements

This project has been supported by the European Union and the Austrian Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts. In addition to the author, Prof. Hafner, Institute of Public International Law, and Prof. Quirchmayr, Institute of Applied Computer Science and Information Systems, University of Vienna, participated as teachers in the project. The author was co-ordinator of the Thematic Study Group Law at the University of Vienna. Thanks are also due to the tutor Martin Meisel for valuable comments.

References

Euromedia Link (1995): HUMANITIES, Guide for the Teacher. Milano.

Maier, G./Wildberger, A. (1995): In 8 Sekunden um die Welt, Kommunikation über das Internet (In 8 Seconds Around the World. Communication on the Internet). 4th edition, Addison-Wesley, Bonn (in German)

McConnell, D. (1994): Implementing Computer Supported Cooperative Learning. Kogan Page Limited, London.

Paliwala, A. (1991): Information Technology in Legal Education. A Resource Book. CTI Law Technology Centre: Warwick.

Schweighofer, E. (1995): Mastering European Law: an Easier Way with Information Technology. In: Proc. 10th BILETA Conf. 1995. CTI Law Technology Centre: Warwick.

Schweighofer, E. (1996): The KONTERM Workstation: From Information Retrieval to the Electronic Commentary. In: Proc. 1st French-American Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law, Syracuse, N.Y. (to be published)

Shields, R. (1995): Hypertext Electronic Law Books: Progress Report. In: Proc. KnowRight `95 Conf. Österreichische Computer Gesellschaft, R. Oldenbourg: Wien.

Staudt, R. W. (1994): Does the Grandmother Come with It? Teaching and Practising Law in the 21st Century. In: Case Western Reserve Law Review, Vol. 44.

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