ICT IN LAW
ICT has become an integral element in open and distance learning. It has actualised the long desire for distance learning institutions and learner to offer and receive education programmes in a flexible mode. However, the effective delivery of distance learning is dependent on the learners and teachers' ability to command good ICT skills.
In an online course the quality of the learning outcome is determined by the quality of communication between students and the tutor, access to technological tools as well as the access to the relevant learning materials (Latifah, Ramli and Ng,Man 2009,p. 73). As such, I will be required to put on measure that will maintain effective communication between my tutor and me. Unlike in a face-to-face interaction, in this course, I will be separated with my tutor by both space and time (Isman et al 2003, p.10). This will require the application of other delivery tools such as the emails, voice emails, voice announcement, discussion boards, virtual office hours, live charts among others.
To maintain effective communication, I will make sure that I quickly adapt to the used technology for a smooth interaction (Haugen, LaBarre and Melrose 2001). In addition, I will buy effective tools and devices (computers and related devices) necessary to aid and maintain effective communication. Sometimes poor internet connectivity can be frustrating when it comes to online courses (Dabaj 2011, p.3). For the benefit of this course, I plan to maintain a stable internet connection.
In absence of the conventional face-to-face interaction, communication may not be so effective in an online course. However, student may still overcome this challenge by participating actively in course work (Burton and Goldsmith 2002). An active participation includes responding to all communications (emails, live charts, and discussion boards), posting, and emailing questions promptly.
The technological tools will be important for this course. Technology provides an improved access to learning and digital materials as well as a personalised learning experience (Trujillo 2010). Such tools as discussion boards, chat rooms and e-mails will bring a positive learning experience (EDUCAUSE 2003, p.45). On the discussion board, the course instructor will be able to post assignments, case laws, relevant statutes, questions, and communicate asynchronously. E-mails will be important for personal communication and attaching files. Virtual rooms will help students connect with their instructor, fellow classmates, course offerings as well as educational experiences.
For the purpose of skills acquisition, I believe in the old maxim that practice makes perfect. I will utilise my ability to understand legal issues, unleash my analytical, research and writing skills. Towards the skills acquisition, I will also utilise my ability to make reasonable judgments and the ability to make sound argument. I believe I am gifted in grasping and understanding issues very fast. My personality will also come in handy while pursuing this course. I understand that a law course is not easy but my enthusiasm, determination and dedication will help me focus and commit completely to this course. The confidence gained from prior learning will help me to approach the new course with high spirits. In addition, my prior experience with legal issues will be an important platform for developing new concepts and building on the old ones.
To overcome the challenges and exploit the opportunities offered by the online learning, there is a need for a self-analysis (Manoharan 2005, p.111). The best way to create self-awareness is through carrying out a self analysis using the SWOT framework. SWOT stand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (Bhuyan 2002, p.30).
· Poor time management
· Negative attitude to online courses
· Poor interpersonal skills
· Technology failure
· Disruption of the internet connectivity
· Disruption of electricity supply
· Unreliable internet materials
· Delayed feedback from other members of the class including the tutor
Since the introduction of formal schooling, and the integration of technology in learning, education has undergone a fundamental shift where learning is now beyond the boundaries of formal education (Love, McKean and Gathercoal 2008, p.26). Just like the portfolios demonstrated the competencies of an artist, e-portfolios have stepped in to portray the collection of the work of e-learning. The advent of e-portfolios serve the very intent of a knowledge based economy, where the ability to do things is more relevant than a mere certificate. It accommodates the dynamics of the modern learning structures and the varying needs of the learner.
Unlike in the past days where formal education was emphasised, in knowledge based economy the main emphasis of the learner is to demonstrate his or her skill to perform the intended task (Lorenzo and Ittelson 2005). A collection of the previous work, a clear demonstration of growth as well as evaluations from examiners demonstrates the knowledge gained by the learner over a period of time.
Through e-portfolios, learners can identify and reflect on life experiences that are relevant in shaping their future life (Lorenzo and Ittelson 2005). Learners are able to evaluate and manage their knowledge development, set and plan their goals, create a link between formal and informal education, identify future learning needs and control the history of their educational development.
In addition to e-portfolios, self assessment may also include reflection logs, discussion, weekly self-evaluations, writing conferences, tutor-student interviews, self-evaluation checklists and inventories, writing conferences among others. These assessment techniques involve reflecting on the course works and identifying gaps that need to be improved.
Reflective writing in particular, is a key academic skill. It marks the outcome of a reflective thinking. Normally, in academic writing, student will be required to reminisce on a particular event, idea, concept or something and reflect on it. To reflect means to analyse the idea or concept using the relevant models or theories and think how the idea and interpret it on own perspective. This may involve revisiting a prior experience or knowledge to have a great understanding of the issues at hand. At the end, a student is supposed to mark how interacting with the idea has changed his own perspective.
The purpose of a self-assessment is to identify strengths opportunities. A self-assessment is also supposed to provide feedback necessarily to aid progress and continuous improvement. In student circles, for instance, it improves the learning and teaching experience.
Online learning has come with vast electronic resources relevant for legal studies (Wagner 2006). There are specialised databases, e-journals and newsletters, indexes to articles in legal publication e-books, case laws and treaties, statutes that are all relevant in the study of the U.K law, international law as well as laws of specific countries.
One of the most important online sources for legal materials in England and Wales is the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR). The council reports judicial decisions of the Superior and Appellate Courts in England and Wales. ICLR online posts the Law Reports, The Weekly Law Reports, The Business Law Reports, Industrial Cases Reports, The Public and Third Sector Law Reports, The Consolidated Index and the Combination of Packages. The English Law Reports a massive of case reports since 1865.All these are rich material for legal studies.
Since some of the English law is influenced to a great extent by the European Union Law, such online sources as the Eurolaw, LexisNexis Butterworth will be important for this course. LexisNexis is a database of English, EU and international law. In this database, a student of law will benefit from the massive legal periodicals that are rich in law content. The British Official Publications Current Awareness Service (BOPCAS) contains recent laws, Parliamentary documents and government documents.
Most of the colleges and universities have gone further to set up electronic libraries where learners can access relevant primary and secondary materials. Learners who have secured the log in details to these libraries can access resourceful materials in the comfort of their homes. Such libraries include the online resource centres of the Oxford University Press and the UCL Library Services. Beside the legal materials, learners can as well gauge their legal understanding by taking the model exam papers offered online. Law student may also benefit from other resources such as the ASSIA (Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts), Academic Search Complete and the Daily Cases.
However, online resources come with several challenges. Some of these sources may require subscription while others may be restricted to a certain membership. In addition, some of these resources may be lacking the critical approach that is required in academic circles. Since some of these resources are voluminous, a student may take wrong before synthesising the required information.
Whereas some of my preconceptions of law studies have been proved to be right, others have been blasted. Before I joined legal school, I thought that the law was more about memorising but now I know it is more about researching on the relevant cases to get the applicable law. I thought that I had to read, but as I have realised, besides reading one is required to have an analytical and a critical mind. At the same time, whereas I knew that other opportunities besides being a lawyer, I never knew they were so vast. I have now learnt that besides becoming a lawyer, products of law schools can end up in banks, diplomacy, researchers, and corporate leaders.
Nonetheless, some of my preconceptions about law studies turned out to be real. One has to have a sharp mind and be able to present facts. I knew even before joining the law class that being a lawyer was all about defending the facts even if it meant being on the wrong side of society. Every person, including a criminal is entitled to a fair hearing and is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. This understanding was informed by my longstanding quest for justice.
List of References
Bhuyan D (2002) Multiple Career Choices. New Delhi: Pustak Mahal
Burton L and Goldsmith D (2002) Students’ Experiences in Online Courses. New Britain: Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium.
Dabaj F (2011) Analysis of Communication barriers to Distance Education: A Review Study. Online Journal of Communication and media Technology Vol.1 (1), 1-15
EDUCAUSE Centre for Applied Research (2003) Impact and Challenges of E-Learning. Educause Quarterly, Vol.3, 39-47
Haugen S, LaBarre J and Melrose J (2001) Online Course Delivery: Issues and Challenges. [Online] Available at: < http://iacis.org/iis/2001/Haugen127.PDF> Accessed 26 Jan 2013
Isman A et al (2003) Communication Barriers in Distance Education. The Turkish Journal Online Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 2(4), 10-14
Latifah A, Ramli B, and Ng,Man S (2009) Skills, Usage and Perception of ICT and their Impact on E-Learning in an Open and Distance Learning Institution. ASEAN Journal of Distance Education, Vol.1 (1), 69-82
Lorenzo G and Ittelson J (2005) An Overview of E-Portfolios. Educause Learning Initiatives [Online] Available at: < http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli3001.pdf > Accessed 26, Jan. 2013
Love D, McKean G. and Gathercoal P (2008) Portfolios to Webfolios and beyond: Levels of Maturation. Educause Quarterly Vol.27 (2), 24-37
Manoharan PK (2005) Education and Personality Development. London: APH Publishing.
Rosenblit (2005) Distance education and e-learning: Not the same thing”, Higher Education Vol.49, 467-493
Sherron GT and Boettcher JV (1997) Distance Learning: The Shift to Interactivity. [Online] Available at: < http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub3017.pdf> Accessed 26, Jan. 2013
Trujillo HS (2010) Benefits and Challenges for the online learner. [Online] Available at: http://www.ponce.inter.edu/cai/Comite-investigacion/Estudiantes-Invitados/Benefits_Challenges_Online_Learner.pdf Accessed 26 Jan. 2013
Wagner E (2006) Delivering on the Promise of eLearning. White Paper [Online] Available at: http://www.adobe.com/government/pdfs/promise_elearning_wp.pdf Accessed 26, Jan. 2013