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The Virtual Court Action: Procedural Facilitation in Law


Glasgow Caledonian University
Department of Law and Public Admin


Implementations and their Evaluations


One of the difficulties of learning procedural law is that students require to understand and memorise the forms of action which can be carried out by parties to a case. A large proportion of this body of law is descriptive and factual, but complex too; and the constraints of academic curricula do not allow students to learn procedural law in the real environment of the courts.

The Virtual Court Action allows students to take an active part in their learning by enabling them to carry out simulated court actions. Within the simulation, students are assigned to roles of pursuer or defender. Each side is issued with statements which allow them to initiate or defend the court action. Students then draft the appropriate legal documentation involved in a civil court action, and progress the action from its commencement to a hearing date. The action proceeds as in court with the parties lodging documents, corresponding by email and meeting time limits when appropriate. Throughout, students draw from a library of style templates, and assemble documents electronically through a series of dialogues which assist them in the drafting process. With the increasing use of computerisation in the courts and in the legal office this application also allows students to aquire enhanced personal transferable skills in this area.

The legal documents and user interface were designed using document assembly software, and were assessed with a variety of user groups via questionnaire and video protocol. The courseware was successfully piloted within one degree module, and feedback indicates that use of the courseware was a positive learning experience for many students. We are currently enhancing the project through the development of Answer Gardens where students take part in peer assisted learning.

The Virtual Court Action enhances traditional legal heuristics by allowing the student to become part of what they are learning. It fosters a student-centred, problem-solving vocational environment, allows users to progress at their own rate, and supports different learning styles. Above all, it is an example of the use of realia to enable procedural facilitation not only in legal studies, but in CBL as well.

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Last modified: 1 December 1999 (formatting).
Original text 21 May 1998.