Many world-class tertiary education institutions have taken
steps to broaden the knowledge base of their students by exposing
them to a multi-disciplinary core curriculum. In a similar
way, student exchange programmes and credit for external courses
at a university from abroad contribute greatly to the formation
of the knowledgeable 21st century professional. They enable
the students to experience learning from different social
contexts, and to discover the influence of cultural, political
and economic realities on the application of knowledge. Our
future ASEAN professionals can benefit greatly by being cognisant
and attentive to each other’s perspectives.
In this era of pervasive desktop information and communication
technology (ICT), there are new ways to initiate and encourage
the development of crosscultural social and professional relationships.
Prevalent web applications such as email, discussion forums,
bulletin boards, and relay chats can be used to enable online
collaborative learning activities (Gay, G., & Lentini,
M., 1995). Such activities can contribute to promoting regional
collaboration and partnership, or improving local and regional
Even with the large diffusion of computers in all faculties,
the extent to which their use will ultimately affect the conventional
teaching model is not very clear (Beckett, D., 1998; Faseyitan,
S.O. & Hirschbuhl, J., 1992). However, it is clear that
ICT is enabling a shift towards a student-centred, socio-constructivist
approach in acquiring and assimilating new knowledge. Hence,
computer-mediated collaborative learning is a viable approach
for sharing and refining an individual’s own construct
of knowledge. This approach, which uses ICT to monitor and
enable small peer group teamwork, is gaining recognition because
of its focus on the students’ validation of their own
perspectives through peer and mentor feedback (Larose, F.D.,
Dirand, R., Karsenti, J-M., Grenon, T., Lafrance, V., Sylvain-Cantin,
Computer-mediated collaborative learning also inherently
promotes the creation of the rules of online social interaction
while providing insight into efficient online human communication.
It requires responsible social interaction among participants,
and promotes teamwork organisation, relationship building
and incidental learning, while exposing each individual to
regional variants of curriculum relevant issues.
One example of the critical importance to understanding regional
variants is a concern of ASEAN law firms. In his opening address
at the 4th ASEAN law ministers’ meeting held in Singapore
in November 1999, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong concluded:
“Finally, to achieve many of these tasks I have raised,
a more basic need must be achieved in ASEAN: greater networking,
more mutual understanding and knowledge-pooling among our
legal institutions and people. We should not confine it to
only the officials. We should harness the private legal profession
as well as University Law Faculties and other legal institutions.
I am pleased that the Law Ministers have been discussing how
to establish such networks for the legal officers and law
graduates of ASEAN countries.” In his vision of the
development of ASEAN, the Prime Minister is clear in his expectations
that professionals throughout ASEAN must have closer ties
in order to achieve a personal level of understanding and
support that will lead to regional growth and prosperity.
In response, it seems that ASEAN Law students need to establish
better communication and cultivate understanding among themselves,
specifically those students who will shortly take up their
employment in a local law firm. They will surely find that
the nature of their job will become increasingly reliant on
ICT to support vital regional networking.
To prepare them for this eventuality, the Faculties of Law,
with appropriate ICT facilities, from across ASEAN could assign
some final year students to online teams (3-6 students from
different countries). Through a dedicated web site giving
access to the necessary online communication tools, a lecturer
or student would be able to post a case study in a discussion
forum environment. Such assignments could highlight an area
of knowledge specific to the social, economic, legal, cultural,
political and physical realities of a particular region. Participants
from other universities would be required to post comments
about each case study and point out the differences with respect
to the perspectives from their own region. Student groups
could also collaborate through email, file transfer, discussion
forums and chat sessions in order to research and co-write
a term paper covering some aspect of regional collaboration
related to their profession. Other strategies such as role
playing in a given scenario, team problem-based learning assignments,
and online debating team competitions could also be explored.
Will these activities promote socialisation? Certainly we
know that from the start the World Wide Web (WWW) was intended
to help connect people with common interests. Now with a much
wider reach it’s easier for people to make new friends
(Parks, M.R. & Floyd, K., 1996). Though it must be noted
that social interaction on WWW sites having unrestricted access
is subject to anti-social behaviour, restricted membership
access provides the means for accountability. The convenience
of real-time (synchronous) and delayed response (asynchronous)
communication has also spurred the adoption of computer-mediated
communication (CMC) as an acceptable mode of social interaction
(De Kerckhove, D., 1997).
Relationship building through CMC is a pragmatic exercise,
which could enable students to experience the social, economic
and political realities within ASEAN. Its importance with
regards to institutions and individuals involved in regional
and global cooperation will increase proportionately with
the propagation of ICT to very corner of the world. Can undergraduate
students with common learning goals, but from different ASEAN
countries, collaborate effectively through CMC activities
for sharing knowledge? Can such activities lay the groundwork
for relationships beyond the boundaries of the project? Will
participants exhibit responsible behaviour, and gain the trust
and support of online colleagues? These are some of the questions
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Faseyitan, Sunday O., & Hirschbuhl, John. (1992). ‘Computers
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Gay, G., & Lentini, M. (1995). ‘Use of Communication
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De Kerckhove, D. (1997). Connected Intelligence.
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Larose, François David; Dirand, Robert; Karsenti,
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Judith. (1999). ‘Information and Communication Technologies
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Speech By Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at the 4th Asean
Law Ministers’ Meeting on Friday, 5 November 1999. Singapore
Government Press Release, Media Division, Ministry of Information
and The Arts. http://www.gov.sg//mita/pressrelease/99110501.htm.