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JILT 1997 (3) - SPTL

SPTL Annual Conference

A Review of the Electronic Seminars at SPTL

University of Warwick, 17-20 September, 1997

Reviewed by
Tania Quan

This is a Conference Report published on 31 October 1997.

Citation:Quan T, 'SPTL Annual Conference', Conference Report, 1997 (3) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>

1. Introduction

The very fact that this year's conference was held at the University of Warwick, the birthplace of IOLIS and home to the CTI Law Technology Centre should have hinted to delegates that the first part of this year's theme 'Legal Change and Legal Scholarships Across Europe' would involve a thorough investigation and if necessary a re-thinking of how law is taught to today's undergraduate. Within the confines of the futuristic glamour of the Ramphal Building, Professor Paliwala assisted by John Dale from The Law Courseware Consortium, Carol Hall from the Electronic Law Journals Project, Dave Chadwick from the CTI Law Technology Centre and Stephen Midgal from the University of Wolverhampton all in turn stepped onto the black podium of Lecture Theatre 1. With a large cinematic screen setting the scene and a connected modem by their side, all elucidated on how information technology is applicable as a teaching tool to enable today's undergraduates to grasp both the substantive and procedural elements of law.

2. Integrating IOLIS Courseware into the Curriculum

Professor Paliwala announced to delegates the consortium was now in it's second phase of incorporating IT into the curriculum. 72 law schools subscribe to the courseware with 65 Further Education colleges following suit. Students themselves have responded enthusiastically to the CD with 375 copies sold to individuals. The Consortium also have in place an inspection policy: if an institution subscribes to the courseware, teaching staff can request a CD, free of charge to enable those with PCs at home to review the course modules and think how it could be used to supplement lectures and tutorials. The flexibility of using IOLIS as a teaching tool is being closely monitored and it's use has been reviewed by Peter Moodie from the University of Birmingham in a previous issue of JILT. Facilities embedded within the programme can go on to give a clearer picture of how students learn. Using an overhead projector, John Dale illustrated how flowcharts and diagrams on IOLIS can be incorporated into lectures.

3. Internet for Law Schools

The supplementation of IT to the teaching curriculum and legal research was developed further by Dave Chadwick from the CTI Law Technology Centre with his presentation entitled 'Internet for Law Schools'. The growth of the Internet as a legal resource means that it could be used not only for the purpose of retrieving legal information but could encompass publishing academic articles on the web and running distance learning courses such as with Strathclyde University Law School's LLM in Information Technology Law.

4. Publishing and Writing Electronic Journals

Within the context of academic publishing on the Internet, Carol Hall, focused on 'Publishing and Writing Electronic Journals' in her presentation. The ELJ's mission to promote an environment and develop an electronic legal culture in reading, writing and publishing has been realised in the shape of JILT, the first in the series of electronic journals. It is important that electronic journals do not become a pale imitation of paper but exist as a medium which enables articles to come 'alive' through the use of feedback and discussions conducted via e-mail.

5. Can Law Modules be Successfully delivered purely electronically?

Just as delegates attending these seminars were beginning to fight off the gnawing fear of feeling out of step with the fast pace of the technological march, Stephen Midgal of Wolverhampton roused them again, by posing the question 'Can Law Modules be Successfully delivered purely electronically?' Inserting his CD, it had on it as it's prime directive: to supplant traditional lectures and tutorials. He addressed his theme by overhauling the senses with this multi-media silver disk which incorporated the use of actors, 3-D images of books flying off the shelf, sound cards, dialogue boxes, a kaleidoscope of vivid colours as well as the ubiquitous hypertext links to full text of judgements. A brief respite came through shared laughter as the Italian café owner in the demonstration of the Tort module entered in an open buttoned short sleeved cotton shirt exclaiming 'Ladies'. Within seconds the camera had zoomed into the defective bottle of ginger ale. Laughing aside, the CD contained 250 full case reports, boasted fast search facilities and can be delivered via CD-ROM and the Internet. The storage of full teaching modules on CD would make it ideal for distance learning and part-time students who can have full references to hand, addressing specifically Sir Ron Dearing's idea of 'the learning society'.

6. Conclusion

The four seminars tacitly acknowledged that IT is now a pervasive feature in law schools. The main message to delegates being that it should not be treated as a discrete discipline: If according to Lord Woolf's 'Access to Justice' report IT will be a 'catalyst for radical change' this radical change must be embraced by those nurturing today's law undergraduates, so that they may go on to facilitate and shape Susskind's 'knowledge engineers' of tomorrow.

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