Applications of ICT in the Study of Law

The general goal of ICT application in law education is to radically increase the effectiveness and quality of education that meets the requirements of post-industrial society. The global objective is surely multi-factorial and includes a number of sub-goals, such as (Berleur & Avgerou, 2010):

  • Preparing students for full and effective participation in all the spheres of life in the information society;
  • Improving the quality of education;
  • Increasing the accessibility of education;

    – Information integration of the national education systems into the infrastructure of the global community.

Thus, in the information society, the goal of learning is not only the assimilation ready knowledge, but also mastering of methods of research, exchange and use of information as the basic material for the production of new knowledge, and creation of the full image of the surrounding world. ICT approach does not preclude the application of traditional sources of information; it just balances the natural processes of cognition, such as analysis and synthesis. In this model of learning, technology is an essential constituent element, allowing students not only to form figurative representations of the reality surrounding them, but also get very actively involved into their creation. This conclusion is of fundamental importance for the development of new educational systems.

ePortfolio constructs

In our opinion, in addition to future professional activity, law education should prepare students for:

  • the transition from study to work;
  • successful recruitment with future career development;
  • the next stage of education (e.g., master’s, graduate, doctoral);
  • successful social adaptation.

However, the traditional evaluation system leaves personal and socially significant achievements of students (academic articles, certificates, patents, winning contests and other personally meaningful artifacts) beyond the learning process. The main goal of e-portfolio technology is the collection, storage, development and presentation of individually significant results (academic, scientific and personal) technology can be used e-portfolio.

The technology of electronic portfolio can be used in education for different purposes: assessment, development, presentation and training. The aim of introducing the technology of e-portfolio in law studies is to improve undergraduate and master’s training of lawyers by engaging students in professional self-identification and development of self-reflexive skills of assessing their own achievements and individual progress in learning at the university on the basis of e-portfolio (Cambridge et al., 2009).

According to an e-learning consultant Helen Beetham, the purpose of portfolio development process is to give the student an opportunity to highlight and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, using formative feedback, and giving opportunity for teachers to support students’ progress and preferences in appropriate ways (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007, p.45-48). A necessary condition for the formation of a new culture of evaluation for the student, in our view, should be (Cambridge, 2010):

  • awareness of the student over the criteria of selecting artifacts for evaluation;
  • understanding of the criteria for assessing personal outcomes;
  • participation in the development of individual learning paths;
  • freedom in reflecting personal qualities of the student.

Portfolio is really becoming an authentic assessment tool, when it includes the methods of fixing the competencies and skills of students in the model of case situations of professional activity (Hartnell-Young & Morriss, 2006). There are the following important characteristics of electronic portfolios in the evaluation system in the block law studies disciplines:

  • e-portfolio as an authentic assessment of educational achievements contributes much to the culture of thinking, logic skills to analyze, synthesize, organize, and classify;
  • being the author and initiator of the content of the portfolio materials, the student is forming his/her own criteria for the selection and evaluation;
  • the process of collecting materials (projects, term papers, research, etc.) studied in the process of learning is purposeful and reflective, and is carried out in co-operation and joint working with other participants of the learning process;
  • formation of the e-portfolio materials by the student for further evaluation is connected with the activity which develops in the course of natural interactions in a heterogeneous group (fellow students, outside experts, teachers, and administrators);
  • the “culture of e-portfolio” and its personification supports the development of communication skills of students who take responsibility for the demonstration of what they know and can do in the network.

Thus, processing the e-portfolio, students purposefully collect works, which demonstrate their academic competence and educational achievements in law academic disciplines. In our opinion, this technology promotes a new culture of learning required in a society based on knowledge.

Independent web based research

To find scientific information on the Internet with the help of modern universal search engines is actually a very difficult task. However, it is efficiently solved by means of specialized scientific search engines. Now one can find many of these services of mainly sectoral character. In addition, in today’s media market there is a sufficient number of proposals from commercial databases of scientific information, subscription to which can be very costly. Our research is mainly based on an alternative solution: diversified Internet search engines that specialize in freely available content.

One of such resource is ScienceResearch http://www.scienceresearch.com/ (ScienceResearch, 2011) project which works with about three hundred databases, digital libraries and other sources of scientific publications, called collections. The main properties of ScienceResearch are the use of Federated Search technology and clustering at displaying the search results. Resources built on this basis do not collect any personal index base, but operate in real time regime with a large number of external plugged-in databases. Advanced search mode allows researchers to search on specific markers (e.g., title, author of the publication), as well as to limit the results to a certain chronological interval, or a specific scientific discipline (Law – Multidisciplinary study Collection). In addition to the thematic clusters, sections grouping articles by author, publication source, and on other similar grounds are proposed. In our research, the search engine offered 675 publications from different publishing houses found within 123 collections.

Another scientific web-search machine is Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE, 2011) http://base.ub.uni-bielefeld.de/en/index.php which initially belongs to a German University, and is now based on the search algorithms of the Norwegian company Fast Search & Transfer. The value of this resource lies in the fact that the BASE which is a search engine of the international project Open Archives Initiative, collaborates with the European scientific information project DRIVER. The first of these projects, allowing owners of digital libraries to share data about their collections, is a part of the Open Access movement, which aims to increase the availability of scientific information. In addition to these sources, BASE refers to its own index base of thematic websites and databases, therefore the search results may contain links to licensed content.

The wide library of BASE turned out to contain over 2,114,634 hits on law studies in 31,044,880 documents. However, further the advanced ode will help to narrow the search to specific fields (by author, title, subject, collection), and identify the geographic region and year of publications. In addition, it is possible to identify the type of the desired content (articles, books, texts, lectures, abstracts, as well as maps, video and audio files). Eurovoc thesaurus is also integrated into the system, so that when processing a request it is quite possible to obtain relevant results in two dozen European languages, as well as lists of synonyms and similar terms, which allows you to specify the qualitative inquiry.Along with specialized projects in the field of scientific internet search, it makes sense to use vertical services of universal search engines. The most widely used engine of this type is Google Scholar (2011) http://scholar.google.com/.

Google Scholar suggests using over 1 200 000 publications placed in its law studies database. Advanced search mode of Google Scholar provides a standard set of tools for forming a query. At the same time, in evaluating the relevancy of a link, affecting its position in the list of results, a citation index of the publication and its author is taken into account, as well as the reputation of the online source. Each of the links is provided with a brief bibliographic description of the source, citation index meter of this publication and a link to find similar materials. The bibliographic manager operating in the system displays the correct bibliographic referencing of the source, which could be acceptable to include into the reference list of a scientific work. In addition to this, we find it important to consult the well-known publishing houses and associations sites, or online databases including all of their resources, like http://online.sagepub.com/ (SAGE, 2011) and http://www.sage-ereference.com/ (SAGE publishing, 2011) (containing 211058 articles on law studies issues), http://www.ingentaconnect.com/ (Publishing Technology, 2011) (containing 66 672 articles on law studies issues) or http://www.questia.com/ (Gale Cengage Learning, 2011) (containing 539,125 articles on law studies issues). It is also necessary to search through discussion clubs and specialized communities, like Law Student Center http://www.hg.org/students.html (HG.org Worldwide Legal Directories, 2011), or http://www.legaleducation.org.uk/ (Legal Education, 2010), etc.

Thus, to develop my knowledge in the legal field, I will address the publications placed in such journals as Legal Ethics (Hart Publishing, 2011), Law and Human Behavior, International Journal of the Legal Profession, Organization Studies, Journal of Business Ethics, Modern Law Review, Commonwealth Law Bulletin, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, Law & Social Inquiry, Revenue Law Journal, Journal of Legal Studies Education, European Law Journal (Wiley Online Library, 2011), The American Journal of International Law, Legal Studies, Law & Society Review, Law & Policy, Journal of Public Law and Policy, Journal of Legal Education, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Social & Legal Studies, Law, Culture and the Humanities, Justice, Legality and the Rule of Law, and International Journal for the Semiotics of Law.

Principles of self-assessment and reflective writing

In our opinion, self-control is one of the most important forms of cognitive activity and learning process of students. In the course of writing assignments, a student should consciously or intuitively perform self-monitoring, which organizes a student serving as an additional element of feedback, and promotes the development of critical approaches, ultimately affecting the quality of learning. Self-control is closely linked to self-evaluation of their own knowledge by students (Boud, 1995). Cognitive self-assessment activity of students often remains hidden from the tutor and often has the criteria that are different from the criteria of the tutor. However, the proper and objective self-assessment is influenced by the tutor and can increase the quality of education in case the student is given a tool of measurement – an objective test programmed control.

Assessing my own perspectives, I can assume that I have a number of strengths: understanding of the topic; correct use of terms; consistency in the presentation of information and fulfillment of the main tasks of the assignment; professionally-oriented thinking manifested in the ability of active surveillance and analysis, and ability to apply knowledge in practice. Simultaneously, it is possible to distinguish some weaknesses of my performance: I could have used more methods and approaches in covering the topic, be more specific in certain issues, as well as some of the ideas could have been expressed in a more laconic manner; the work performed also probably lacks the results of student-tutor communication. However, the knowledge obtained during the learning process allows me to claim that I’m gaining certain opportunities, such as improved performance and efficiency and reduction of time for the execution of the same work, as well as extension of the range of scientific inquiry. The only threat is that the presented information is not long-last and will soon lose it actuality. Therefore, the learning process should be permanent.

On the whole, conducting the personal SWOT-analysis, I was relying on the following demands to the assessment activity:

  • Assessment should be objective and fair, clear and understandable;
  • Evaluation should perform a stimulating function;
  • Assessment should be multi-factorial and many-sided.
  • Assessing knowledge, it is necessary to take into account: the amount of knowledge in academic subject, understanding of the studied material, independence of thinking, degree of systematization and depth of knowledge, effectiveness of knowledge, ability to apply it to solve practical problems.

In the course of inspection of their own works, students should become interested in objective self-assessment of their activities, carry out analysis of the errors and fill gaps in their knowledge. Self-monitoring provides the student with reasonable independence, disciplines the student and produces correct critical attitude (Costa & Kallick, 2003). The skill of objective self-assessment of knowledge quality contributes to a more meaningful fulfillment of tasks, improves the quality of independent work and effective learning in general.

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