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Jul 1998  Vol. 2  No. 2

........   TECHNOLOGY  ........
Environmental law course goes global via the Internet
Associate Professor Lye Lin Heng
Faculty of Law

Every Tuesday morning from 9–11 am last semester, Professor Koh Kheng Lian and I were linked to the Pace University Law School in White Plains, New York by the Internet, as guest professors for a course on comparative environmental law. Together with Pace Professor Nicolas Robinson, who is also head of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Environmental Law Commission, we taught and interacted with eight graduate students at Pace as well as with our former student Ms Katrine Skaaland. Ms Skaaland studied environmental law with us at NUS. Now, back in Norway, she was an enthusiastic participant in this Internet course, even though it was held from 2–4 am Norwegian time (8–10 pm in New York)!

Pace University has one of the best programmes in environmental law in the US. Through Professor Robinson’s involvement in IUCN, an excellent partnership has developed over the years between Pace and NUS’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL), of which Professor Koh is Director.


A multipoint video conference between Singapore, New York and Norway using
CUSeeMe, which supports audio, video and text chat.

Our joint course is believed to be the first taught via the Internet internationally by any law school. “For the cost of a local phone call, we are connecting [three] worlds,” said Robinson. This was made possible by our use of CUSeeMe video conferencing software which can accommodate up to eight sites at one time. The classroom at Pace was configured with boardroom video conferencing equipment, a laptop computer and two cameras (one for Professor Robinson and one for the students). Professor Koh and I connected to Pace and Norway using a digital camera and the computer in my office; Ms Skaaland connected from her home.

Although the technology is new and we had to iron out kinks along the way, it was workable. There were limitations, such as only one person could speak at a time. Also, our reception was not very good with our Pentium 75 PC and we had to freeze the picture at our end to save bandwidth for better quality sound. However, our reception improved markedly with our new Pentium 200 PC and the last few classes went without a hitch.

The Law Faculty is presently building a new wing with plans for a classroom with boardroom video conferencing facilities and Internet connections. We hope that, with the new facilities, NUS law students will be able to participate in a second Internet course with Pace University in the coming year.


Law’s desktop conferencing set-up*


I. Hardware

We used a PC configured with a 200 mhz Pentium, 32 MB RAM, multimedia capability (e.g., sound card, microphone, speakers) and Windows 95.

II. NUS connection

We used a shared Internet connection of about 2–4 Mbps.

III. Remote connection

Katrine Skaaland from Norway used PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) to enable her computer to make a TCP/IP connection using a modem and telephone line.

IV. Software

We used the CuSeeMe Version 3.1 full demo, downloaded from the developer’s homepage at www.cu-seeme.com.


V. Digital video camera

We used CDTL’s Connectix Colour QuickCam camera. The QuickCam does not need a video card and can be used on any PC with a parallel port. We later bought our own QuickCam VC (a new video conferencing model) for $300.

*Contributed by Alfian Bin Ahmad, Analyst Programmer, Faculty of Law

 

 

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