Posted by: MandyS | February 5, 2014

Innovative Harvard?

So this task requires the selection of an innovative project referred to in Minds on fire: open education, the long tail and learning 2.0 (Brown and Adler, 2008), and investigate it further.

Well of course it had to be “CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion” an experiment by Harvard Law School whereby Law School students,  non–law school students and any participant in Second Life could interact with one another to develop argument for presentation in a Moot court. Essentially, the law school became Open Source. CyberOne was trialled in 2006 but various searches of Google suggest it was still going up until about 2009. At that stage it appears the group had become involved in questions of copyright culminating in legal action. Thereafter there is no trace so I am assuming it no longer exists. Most of the articles I found were written at the time of its inauguration as opposed to since 2008, all extolling its virtues, but I did come across this article by Andrea M. Seielstad ‘Enhancing the Teaching of Lawyering Skills and Perspectives through  Virtual World Engagement’ in which she concludes that ‘virtual worlds hold great potential for teaching law and developing lawyer skills’. I tend to agree. One thing that OU law programme students lack is the ability to develop the key legal skill of effective argument.

So has it been adopted since? Well, I thought this would be difficult to emulate outside of the law school setting, but then I found this…

Yule et al., (2010) in Mooting and Technology: To What Extent Does Using Technology Improve the Mooting Experience for Students considers the use of Second Life to practice mooting with Law students. Interestingly, the conclusion was that although good for learning the basics, Elluminate provided a more authentic experience. I suppose this is the issue with innovative technology; what is innovative in one context may not be quite so in another.





  1. I’m curious as to why Elluminate would be better, after all, most of its affordances could be replicated in a virtual world. Is it to do with the reluctance of learners?

    • I was surprised also but it is basically to do with the fact that the ‘crude gestures available to avatars being a poor substitute for the subtleties of human faces and bodies’. A key part of developing advocacy skills is being able to read what the judge is thinking from their mannerisms e.g. nodding in agreement, raised eyebrows about ones argument etc. The mooters found that, although a good mock-up of the court setting, they ended up developing bad habits like reading and poor stance, which defeated the object. With Elluminate one has real people to observe.

  2. Of course – I never think of the impact of body language in a court room….but of course its obvious when pointed out!

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