Monday, April 12, 2010

Second Life Courtroom

The third workshop on technology-enhanced learning at ANU was by Eola Barnett (USQ) and Shirley Reushle (Australian Digital Futures Institute) demonstrating "Using Second Life to support the teaching of Law". I have found Second Life very disappointing and of little value for education. However, the use of Second Life to provide a virtual courtroom to teach lawyers is an excellent use of the technology. In the Second Life courtroom, the teacher plays the role of the judge, with students presenting their case. As well as real time use of Second Life with the students, videos have been prepared using a script and professional actors providing voices and using Second Life for the images. This was done as a way to produce role playing video at a lower cost that with real video

Eola also pointed out that the Moodle LMS ha been integrated into Second Life. This is a use I find less compelling. The value of a LMS is that it is different to a physical classroom. If you simulate a classroom in the LMS too closely then the benefits of using an LMS will be lost.

Another aspect of teaching legal students would be to simulate some of the new technology based court processes. As an example video conferences are now used for court process. It would be relatively simple to simulate these. Courts also use document based systems for some decision making: the parties submit documents and the judge makes a decision without ever speaking to the parties. These document based systems could also be simulated.

While criminal law may involve a real time physical court room, civil law is mostly about communication via documents. As an expert witness I have only had to front up once in person, all the other cases were settled out of court after I sent in a written report. Some legal processes are now done entirely online, such as arbitration of the use of domain names. The Federal Court of Australia has introduced an electronic court system eCourt.It seems to me that lawyers will need to be familiar with such systems as it will be how most court cases are decided, not by people standing up talking in a court room.

At question time Shirley mentioned that they were working on a nursing simulation. This will provide a simulated patient in Second Life. Here again this would seem to miss out on the opportunity to use the system for the most urgent and import part of medical practice, which is to support patients in the community, rather than in hospitals or doctor's offices.

It would be interesting to see both the medical systems for this and the education developed together. New computer based systems, such as military aircraft, now incorporate training simulation. Rather than have a separate simulator, the real aircraft can be programmed for training.

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