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
Law’s desktop conferencing set-up*
We used a PC configured with a 200 mhz Pentium, 32 MB RAM, multimedia
capability (e.g., sound card, microphone, speakers) and Windows
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.
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