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JILT 1998 (3) - Abdul Paliwala

Article Contents




The Problem


A Solution for Law?


Educational Values


A Critical Mass


The Commitment & Enthusiasm of Academics


Managing it all


The Technical Environment


Institutional Support


The National Picture


Law´s Utilisation of Initiatives


Global Co-operation



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Co-operative Development of CAL Materials: A Case Study of IOLIS

Professor Abdul Paliwala
School of Law
University of Warwick


The United Kingdom's previously elite higher education system is currently expanding, without investment of additional resources, to become a mass system for a rapidly changing society. At issue is not merely the mode of delivery of higher education, for example the traditional form of lectures and seminars, but also the entire institutional structure which is affected by ideas such as lifelong learning and global distance learning. Can information technology take the strain? That is, can it support both the development of a mass system and provide improvements in education to cope with the social, cultural and technological changes?

Communication and information technology (C&IT) is not a solution in itself. C&IT based responses require effective development and implementation in terms of their educational quality and fit into existing educational structures, their technical features and effective implementation. Moreover C&IT development and implementation require substantial resources. Yet, much C&IT development has suffered from being a result of either individual initiative or initiatives of single institutions. The argument of this paper is that successful C&IT development requires careful attention to educational as well as management issues. In particular, collaboration in development can help avoid the danger of wasted resources.

This paper discusses IOLIS courseware as an example of collaborative development of computer based learning with implications for national and international disciplinary collaboration. While the main collaboration has been between law schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the user friendly authoring system and the management lessons learnt have been used to promote collaborative initiatives in the United States and Australia.

Keywords: CAL, IOLIS, Legal Education, Project Management, C&IT in UK

This is a Refereed Article published on 30 October 1998.

Citation: Paliwala A, 'Co-operative Development of CAL Materials: A Case Study of IOLIS',1998 (3)The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>

1. The Problem

The United Kingdom's previously elite higher education system is currently expanding, without investment of additional resources, to become a mass system for a rapidly changing society. At issue is not merely the mode of delivery of higher education, for example the traditional form of lectures and seminars, but also the entire institutional structure which is affected by ideas such as lifelong learning and global distance learning (Daniel 1996,OECD 1998,World Bank 1994). Can information technology take the strain? That is, can it support both the development of a mass system and provide improvements in education to cope with the social, cultural and technological changes?

The Report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education 1997 (The Dearing Report 1997) is the most important document in the UK on higher education since the 1960's. It clearly places its faith in information technology and recommends that a national Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILTHE) be established to oversee education generally as well as development and use of C&IT. The Report builds on a number of national initiatives which has made the United Kingdom a leading innovator in the use of information and communication technologies in teaching and learning.

2. A Solution for Law?

It is recognised that C&IT by itself cannot constitute the solution (Laurillard 1993). Without effective development and implementation there is the danger of wasted resources. What I would like to discuss is how the legal education community have approached the problem using as example the development and implementation of IOLIS courseware.

IOLISis a Windows CD-ROM designed as a learning aid for students learning law and is published by the Law Courseware Consortium (Collins 1994,Dale 1997,Moodie 1997,Scott and Widdison 1994,Widdison 1995,LCC Website). It contains instructional notes, interactive exercises, full text of over 2000 cases, legislation and periodical articles in hypertext, diagrams, photographs and sound covering eleven key law courses amounting to over 50% of a typical undergraduate law degree in England and Wales. There are also separate units on law for social work and business studies students and there is a continuing programme of development.

Over 70 law professors and lecturers drawn from law schools throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been involved in the development of the courseware as part of the national Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (HEFCE 1996). It has also received the support of the practising professions through the City Solicitors' Educational Trust and the entire legal education community. Almost all law schools support the project through a subscription programme organised by the Committee of Heads of University Law Schools. In addition, many Colleges of Further Education subscribe to IOLIS (LCC Website). IOLIS is used world-wide by many London University external degree students. As students obtain access to their own multimedia PC's, an increasing number are purchasing their own copy of the IOLIS CD for the small sum of £50.

The features of IOLIS include:

  • 80 workbooks containing over 250 hours of hypermedia information and interactive exercises. The interactive exercises go beyond the typical multiple choice approaches and include a wide variety of types. A key part of the learning process in exercises is the feedback provided to the user.
  • a hypertext resource book with the full text of over 2,000 relevant legal items (cases, statutes and articles), a legal dictionary and a legal bibliography. The Resourcebook may be accessed from a navigational icon or directly from the workbook from a hypertext link to an appropriate document.
  • a scrapbook facility which enables students to save text to a file and add their own notes.
  • a comment facility for lecturers to 'customise' the workbooks and to engage students in 'conference' type discussion.
  • A video cam tutorial and a help facility to facilitate use.
  • A management facility which enables law schools to track the use of the courseware by students, including who has used it, what workbooks have been used and for how long.

A key aspect underlying the success of IOLIS has been a user friendly authoring system developed especially to meet the needs of lawyers with very little computer expertise. The software development has benefited greatly from the suggestions of authors. This has enabled administration of the whole project with very limited resources. The software has been licensed to the US Centre for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction which involves over 150 leading US Law Schools and a co-operative development programme has been established with Australian Law Courseware.

Many issues need to be resolved before it can be claimed that IOLIS has fulfilled the Dearing mandate (Dearing 1997). Nevertheless, the story of how we have got this far requires telling as a signpost in the fast developing future of communications and information technology in legal education. The key ingredients have been:

  • commitment to sound educational values;
  • commitment and enthusiasm of academics;
  • the production of a critical mass of material;
  • sound management;
  • the development of a technical environment which supported the above values;
  • Institutional Support from Warwick University (the host site) as well as support from other law schools; and
  • Infrastructural and financial support at the national level.

3. Educational Values


"Our approach has been to make technological issues subordinate to educational ones."

It is obvious that technology for its own sake will not work. However, it is also not clear what will work, and there are no studies which prove this definitively either way (Cf.Clark 1983,1983a,Korn 1983,Migdal and Cartwright 1997,1998,Moodie 1997,Teich 1991,Widdison and Schulte 1998,Young 1986,1996). Moreover, at issue is a fundamental transformation in legal education towards 'active' 'situational' 'student-centred' 'independent' and 'skills-based' learning, and any assessment of the relevance of C&IT in learning has to be made within the context of this transformation (Lord Chancellor´s Advisory Committee 1996,Le Brun and Johnstone 1994,Twining 1994,Sherr 1997). Our approach has been to make technological issues subordinate to educational ones (Paliwala 1995).

IOLISwas consciously designed to supplement and not replace existing teaching and learning approaches. Information technology tools currently available did not provide a sufficient basis for the entire substitution of personal contact based learning with computer assisted learning. It would also be politically unacceptable.

The primary source of ideas for the development of effective learning technologies was the academics themselves. Reliance was placed on subject experts ahead of techno-lawyers. The issue was how to translate these ideas about learning from 'chalk and talk' teaching to C&IT based learning. The approach adopted was to achieve this gradually through a process of team work between the subject experts, the more technologically aware law academics, programmers and educational experts.

This process resulted in a need to develop an environment for learning which emphasised interactivity, problem based learning, the accessibility of legal resource material and communication. From Confucian or Socratic times learning has been essentially an interactive activity and information technology had to replicate this, otherwise it would convert students into knowledge machines. Thus, the encyclopaedic CD-ROM model e.g. Microsoft's Encarta was inappropriate. Unfortunately, the typical multiple-choice question based models favoured by older generation CAL was also boring for students. Prescription of single approaches were eschewed in favour of a plurality of approaches in order to replicate the real world of academia. Two criticisms have been made of IOLIS on the ground that it is too 'black letter' in not taking the context in which law operates into account (Alldridge and Mumford 1997) or that interactivity short of personal communication does not promote 'deep' learning (Jones and Scully 1998,Jones and Scully 1996). While there may be some validity in these criticisms, our authors saw IOLIS not merely as standalone systems which replaced existing teaching techniques, but as part of integrated learning environments where different learning tasks would be supported by different teaching approaches.

In IOLIS the concept of interaction is extended well beyond the monotonous familiarity of multiple-choice. It emphasises feedback and enables forms of learning based on hypothetical problems, conceptual questions and case studies. The comment facility enables interaction among staff and students across the network. Multi-media features provide a stimulating environment for learning but also provide a possibility for visual and aural communication which transcends the limitations of the linear written form. The hyper-media features enable the student to determine what she wants to read, but also enables browsing. The resourcebook not only provides a student library on a single CD, but through effective navigational tools allows the student to find relevant information and compare texts. The scrapbook enables students to make their own notes as they are used to doing from lectures, seminars and books.

Yet the system is not without limitations. Computer assisted learning in its current form is incapable of creating the quality of interaction involved in the best personal contact teaching. A second limitation arises from the translation of the existing skills of academics into computer form. With all the advantages of their academic expertise, most of our authors were first generation CAL developers and much improvement is needed. With this in mind we have implemented a comprehensive programme of independent reviews of each workbook.

4. A Critical Mass

Before IOLIS there existed a variety of CAL programmes for law, but they were isolated efforts of individual academics. An institution wishing to use CAL would have to invest in a range of systems supplied from different sources. They were obviously not inclined to do so. For the student, it involved learning a new system every time.

The production on one user-friendly CD of a critical mass of over 80 workbooks and over 2000 documents covering a substantial proportion of the typical LLB degree makes all the difference. Even if a student has to spend some time learning how to use the system, once this is done, the investment yields considerable returns.

5. The Commitment and Enthusiasm of Academics

The project has benefited greatly from the commitment and enthusiasm of law academics, an enthusiasm nurtured over the last decade. Key roles have been played by a core group of academics who have been involved with C&IT based learning since the early eighties. The British and Irish Legal Education Technology Association (BILETA) was formed to provide a focus for these enthusiasms. However, as a voluntary academic organisation, it would not have the resources of time or money to provide an effective springboard. The development of the nationally funded CTI Law Technology Centre (LTC) which acted as the BILETA secretariat and executive arm made a vital difference (LTC Website). The LTC promoted the significance of C&IT development through conferences, 'roadshow' visits, seminars, paper and electronic journals and newsletters. With BILETA, it promoted proper provision of computer support for staff and students and also of training (BILETA Reports 1991,1996). The legal academic community thus became users of word-processing and information retrieval systems, but not programming-literate.

Nevertheless, not only the enthusiasts but academics generally, including leading professors as well as the younger lecturers, and especially heads of department were ready when the call came to develop a consistent, integrated nation-wide set of courseware. We were therefore in a position to involve both the original enthusiasts as well as leading subject experts in the development of courseware.

The involvement of a wider community was essential for another reason. Development of courseware was not enough. To be successful, it had to be accepted by the wider community of teachers and heads of department who constitute the gatekeepers between the courseware and the students. In particular, the legal academic community has continued to support the project financially after the original funding came to an end.

There is one problem which mars this apparently rosy picture. This is known as the RAE or the Research Assessment Exercise under which all academic departments are nationally and competitively assessed and rated for their research quality. The exercise is important not merely for status but also for the level of funding for departments. All academics have to justify themselves as researchers and while teaching excellence and teaching development is relevant, it does not have the same significance. We attempted to counter this by arranging with departments to buy out the academics' teaching time. In the main we succeeded in this, but we had one or two academics who could not participate because they were told to concentrate on their research by departments wishing to improve upon their poor rating.

6. Managing it all

JohnDale (1996), the LCC technical director, in his paper 'The money pit: Why is CAL so expensive?' makes the important point that:

Every (software) development project has three components: features that the completed project will include, resources available to build the project and time available to build the project. Grouping these components as a triangle serves to illustrate the principle that no one of these components can be altered without also altering another to compensate. So adding additional features requires either more resources or more time.

The triangle is represented thus:
Image 1

The issue of the expense of C&IT development and the need for proper management is also emphasised byDaniel (1996)andMason (1996). The criteria we set ourselves of emphasising academic values, including an interactive learning environment, the need to develop a critical mass of material and the involvement of the wider academic community in authoring posed us a crucial problem. How to develop a national programme to achieve all this with limited resources? For example, we had available to us only one programmer and two part-time project staff. The rest of the work would be done by academic lawyers who were not computer literate. And yet, we set ourselves much larger targets in terms of quantity of material than equivalent projects (HEFCE 1996). The targets were further extended when our authors suggested inclusion in the resourcebook of the full text of large numbers of long legal documents including case reports, legislation and periodical articles.

We could have given authors training in existing authoring systems such as Toolbook or Authorware and told them to get on with it. Unfortunately, research suggested that the systems would not create the kind of learning environment we wanted to achieve. More significantly, whatever their superficial user-friendliness, any serious work would require programming skills which the authors did not have. The choice was either significant adaptation of existing tools or the development of our own.

7. The Technical Environment

This was a management problem, not merely a technical one. It was resolved by the development of an authoring environment which ensured:

  • The programmer, our technical director, could concentrate on developing the authoring environment and not on authoring individual pieces of courseware. Authors could suggest to the programmer what they wished to achieve in terms of the type of interaction, multimedia etc. This would be delivered in the programming environment in a way which was available to all other authors. Therefore the environment was developed through interaction between authors and the programmer.
  • Authoring required minimal skills which were little more than windows word-processing. Authors could then concentrate on using their academic and pedagogic skills.
  • The authoring environment was self-executing, so the authors could test out their courseware as they were authoring it.
  • The other project staff could concentrate on developing the resourcebook, on testing and checking the courseware, providing multimedia support and on communication with the authors.
  • The use of teamwork meant that each author could concentrate on just one or two workbooks but at the same time be supported through comments and ideas development by the other authors. In particular, the few technically expert authors could support the majority of the non-expert ones.

8. Institutional Support

Our strategy of nurturing C&IT enthusiasm in law schools throughout the country has already been mentioned. Law Schools were often more than generous in providing us with their authors' time. Moreover, they supported the initial project proposal both individually and collectively through organisations such as the Committee of Heads of Law Schools. Most importantly, they have taken over responsibility for continued funding at the end of the initial project cycle by a programme of subscriptions and by supporting funding applications for example to the City Solicitors' Educational Trust.

The Law Courseware Consortium has benefited greatly from being hosted by Warwick University both in material terms in providing infrastructure support for all the key organisations dealing with C&IT in law and for general support for our work. The School of Law has an international reputation for its innovative approach to legal education and therefore was an ideal environment for the Consortium. Nevertheless, the involvement of Warwick University as the lead site for the project epitomises Warwick's particular culture. Unlike other Universities which have taken strong institution-wide positions on the development of information technology, Warwick's strong departmental culture emphasises the development of excellence whether in teaching, research or applications development through departmental initiatives. Departments learn from one another, but in this way the university promotes creativity through subsidiarity. Certainly for the development of law courseware this has had considerable advantages because of the harnessing of support at both institutional and departmental levels. However, the achievements in one discipline will not necessarily permeate to others.

There is, of course, a negative side to being attached to a single institution in that the other institutions do not find easy to accept the 'national' character of the activity. The host institution may also attempt to put its own imprimatur on the activity. To be fair to Warwick and to the legal academic community generally, our vigorous promotion of a 'national' identity has been well received until now.

9. The National Picture

The achievement of the Law Courseware Consortium in the United Kingdom needs to be placed in the context of a national story, if it is not to be misrepresented as an isolated achievement of a committed group of lawyers (JISC 1995,MacFarlane 1996,Dearing 1997,HEFCE 1998b). It will already be apparent that two key developments have been the initial funding of the CTI Law Technology Centre and the subsequent funding of the national project for the development of law courseware. Each was a part of national initiatives on C&IT and learning which affected other disciplines as well. Key developments in the United Kingdom have been:

CTI Centres(the Computer Teaching Initiative): These are a series of discipline based national centres for the co-ordination and support of technology in legal education established since 1988, although our own Law Technology Centre was established one year earlier and formed the model for the other 23. Earlier funding initiatives emphasised project development only with insufficient support for co-ordination and implementation. While a number of projects were achieved and a considerable amount of experience gained by participants, in the main the results did not lead to lasting results. The CTI Review Report (Gershuny and Slater 1989)recommended the establishment of discipline based CTI Centres. Unfortunately the remit of the new centres emphasised co-ordination only and not development.

Teaching and Learning Technology Programme(TLTP) was established in 1990 as a major new initiative of the joint funding councils to provide support for project development (HEFCE 1996). Emphasis was placed on consortia for discipline based projects, but a number of cross-discipline projects based in single universities were also established. Many CTI Centres were involved in leading consortia. For example, the Law Courseware Consortium was a united bid on behalf of law schools in England and Wales and Scotland, and was led by the CTI Law Technology Centre. Unfortunately, while projects such as law benefited from the close involvement with the CTI Centre, the TLTP was seen as a separate initiative with its own limited co-ordination capacity and the opportunity was missed for properly co-ordinated project development led by the CTI Centres. In the event, some of the problems have been ameliorated by the development of good working relationships between the co-ordinating bodies for the two programmes. A more significant problem has been the emphasis on the development of learning materials at the expense of fully developed strategies for implementation and integration in the curriculum. Limited provision was made at the end of the project cycle for continuation funding. More significantly, it has now been recognised by the funding bodies that development of good materials by themselves will not result in successful implementation (HEFCE 1998). Successful implementation requires that individual universities have proper equipment to deliver the courseware as well as a positive acceptance and integration in the curriculum of the new way of doing things by universities, departments and individual academics. This has now been recognised by the TLTP programme which has provided project funding for 'implementation' projects.

Electronic Libraries Programme(ELib) with its headquarters at Warwick was initiated by the Follett Report on libraries (UK Higher Education Funding Councils 1993). The emphasis of the programme is on the development of electronic libraries including digitisation of documents, books and journals as well as the creation of new electronic journals. The programme has emerged in the era of the world wide web. There is an obvious connection between computer assisted learning and computer based library provision and the new initiative of the programme will concentrate on the proper provision of gateways to web based resources for learners and researchers in a way which will promote independent resource based learning (JISC).

Fund for Development of Teaching and Learning(FDTL). This project is intended to support teaching and learning developments generally and there was a deliberate policy of not supporting computer assisted learning projects (HEFCE 1997). Nevertheless, the intrinsic relevance of information technology in education is recognised. For example, the National Centre for Legal Education Project located at Warwick involves close collaboration between the NCLE and the CTI Law Technology Centre in the use of the world wide web for dissemination of information to the legal education community. However, inevitably the dynamic of the separate existence of the FDTL projects and the technology based CTI and TLTP projects has led to a disarticulation of technology based and non-technology based developments in teaching and learning (HEFCE 1998b).

Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education(ILTHE). I have already mentioned that theDearing Report (1997)places considerable emphasis on information technology in the delivery of learning. The great promise of Dearing's proposed ILTHE is that it is briefed with the tasks of integrating the various C&IT initiatives among themselves and within the overall framework of educational development. Unfortunately, there is currently an absence of strong support for this function of ILTHE which at the beginning is likely to emphasise academic accreditation. This Lacuna has been recognised in the recent report of the CTI and TLTSN Review Group (HEFCE 1998b) as well as by aHEFCE Consultation document (1998). These documents make a radical suggestion of integrated provision of a variety of discipline based centres which encapsulate not merely technology based teaching and learning but also wider innovations in legal education. Thus the proposed Centre for Law would combine the activities currently covered by both the CTI Law Technology Centre and the National Centre for Legal Education. Moreover, a substantial programme of research into higher education has been announced by the ESRC to fill the research gap in implementation.

Thus the UK picture is interesting for its programme of strategic initiatives in information technology in education. The weakness has been the absence of effective linking between these strategies and, until recently, in the absence of effective planning as to how the substantial development work would be translated into results in the real or virtual classroom. A further weakness has been the inability of the national university funding councils to provide adequate status incentives for teaching and learning development compared with traditional academic research. Whether ILTHE or the new Discipline Centres change this remains to be seen.

Image 2

Simplified Chart of C&IT in Higher Education Initiatives

10. Law's Utilisation of Initiatives

The legal education community has benefited greatly from these national initiatives as well as institutional support from law schools. Moreover, the coherence and unity of the community until now has enabled it to transcend many of the limitations in national strategies. Of particular relevance has been the location at a single site of a number of national initiatives including the CTI Law Technology Centre, the BILETA Secretariat, the Law Courseware Consortium, the Electronic Law Journals Project and the National Centre for Legal Education. While this may appear to be over-centralised, the essence of the existence of these national activities is to involve other institutions and academics throughout the country in creative development, while reducing their administrative and technical burdens.

Nevertheless, the general acknowledgement of successful development of the courseware to the point that it is now being maintained and further developed by the legal academic community as a whole masks the problem of getting it further integrated into the curriculum. Feedback on courseware from students and staff has been very positive (cfMoodie 1997). A measure of success must be the growing demand by students for their own copies of IOLIS. We know that law schools are making the courseware available to the students as general preparation and revision tools. A number of law schools are also using specific courseware as integral part of their teaching delivery. However, fuller implementation is currently at an experimental stage. Three issues need to be resolved before we can proceed to much fuller delivery:

Resources. Students need adequate computer equipment, training and support in order to use the courseware. While most universities have made considerable advances in provision of computer workareas for students, these are well short of being adequate to enable full use of the equipment. The more viable initiative is likely to be the students using their own computers (Dearing Report 1997,BILETA 1996). However, while many students are equipping themselves, the burden of computer provision at a time in which the government is imposing fees on students is not an easy one for the less well off. The LCC has assisted student resourcing in two ways. It enables individual students to purchase a CD including all the courseware at a very low price. If a Law School wants to distribute copies to the students, it provides the schools with substantial discounts.


"...a thousand flowers have been allowed to bloom both in authoring and in use."

Integration in the curriculum. The courseware has been designed to make creative use of multimedia learning materials while taking into account the practical constraints of the academic environment. However, we did not have a uniform editorial approach. Neither did we insist on a uniform way of using the courseware. There is a built in system of usage management to enable monitoring and statistical analysis of the use of the courseware. Otherwise, a thousand flowers have been allowed to bloom both in authoring and in use. The approach has both weaknesses and strengths. Academics are free to decide how they are going to use the courseware. For those who require guidance, there is no detailed instruction manual.

Incentives for culture change. Yet, adopting new ways of teaching and learning for members of staff and for students is not an easy task. A cultural transformation has to take place. Resources have to be devoted in terms of staff and student training. Academics, departments and institutions have to be convinced of the value of such investment in culture change. In particular, there is need for a culture change strategy which will achieve this. We had planned a joint LTC, LCC project for supporting the implementation. Unfortunately, our first submission for funding under the TLTP phase 3 programme did not succeed and we are considering other strategies.

11. Global Co-operation

If national co-operation has been reasonably successful, what are the chances at a European or wider international level? John Dale's (1996) warning about the 'money pit' needs to be heeded by all those involved with courseware development. This is reinforced byDaniel (1996)who has carefully considered the relevant costs of development for a variety of teaching initiatives. While law is different in different jurisdictions, there are obvious areas where co-operation is possible because it is necessary to study a subject at a European or Global level, for example European Law, International Law or even Information Technology Law.

More significantly, co-operation can take place in collaborative development in terms of ideas, software etc. Our agreement with CALI has enabled the US consortium to use the IOLIS authoring system during a period in which they had a need for the type of development tools that IOLIS represented. We have also benefited from the sharing of ideas with the US CALI Consortium (E.g.CALI 1996). The Australian agreement involves a greater degree of collaboration as ALC will adapt existing IOLIS workbooks to their needs as well as develop new workbooks. The LCC can perform a useful role in these initiatives not merely as a 'licensor' of software, but also in providing the ideas and principles for courseware development and implementation.


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