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Law School Education & ICT

Shinya Tsuchida

Shinya Tsuchida
Professor, Chuo Law School
Area of Specialization: Administrative Law

1. Background for ICT-aided lectures attracting attention

It has been pointed out that the current law school system harbors various problems. One of those is the length of time and the financial burden required for studying at a law school. Especially for those who are aiming to be admitted to the Bar while working or living in rural areas, it is said that this problem heavily afflicts them and may be one of the reasons for them to give up on this career. To counter this situation, it was proposed a few years ago that ICT (Information and Communication Technology) should be actively utilized at law schools so that working adults and those from rural areas would be able to study more easily. After numerous discussions, the new framework for popularizing lectures utilizing ICT was laid down.

2. Types of lectures utilizing ICT

There are many different ways to utilize ICT in lectures. Our discussions concentrated on the following three types.

The first type is the satellite-type remote lectures in which universities are connected via the Internet to share the lectures. This type of lectures enables attendants to enjoy the support from faculty and staff at regional universities, and also with the locations and networks fixed, the occurrence of equipment troubles is relatively low. On the other hand, if those who wish to attend these lectures live in the areas where it is not feasible to commute to the satellite campus (i.e. the remotest of the remote areas), they are still excluded from these remote lectures.

The second is the mobile-type remote teaching in which students access lectures given at law schools via mobile communication devices. This type of lectures enables anyone, including those who live in the remotest of the remote areas mentioned above, to access lectures at their workplaces or at home, as long as they can access the Internet. On the other hand, as these lectures are accessed outside the university settings, it may make it difficult for the students to receive supports from the university faculty and staff and equipment troubles may be encountered more often as personal equipment is used.

The third type is on-demand lectures: students access the recorded lectures given at law schools after the lectures took place. The merit of this type is that the lectures can be watched anywhere and at any time. On the other hand, this type of lectures lacks bi- and multi-directional qualities as well as the immediacy and may result in the lowered educational effect.

3. New directive

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has recently indicated that out of the above-mentioned three types, the satellite-system lectures are to be fully regarded as official lectures. This means that even if one lives in a rural area, as long as he/she can technically access the lectures, given at a law school in the Tokyo metropolitan area at a regional university for example, he/she is able to graduate from the law school without leaving his/her region.

The mobile-type lectures are only partly approved as official lectures. For example, out of the 15 mobile lectures, one might be allowed to claim 5 of those as official lectures but the remainder will not be approved (however there is no clear rule yet as to how many lectures should be counted as official). This means that, even one attends all lectures via this mobile system, he/she will not be regarded as having attended the lectures above the certain number of lectures, and therefore will not be able to obtain the credits in the end.

The on-demand type is not approved as official lectures for the reason that it does not ensure bi- and multi-directional teaching that is considered necessary at law schools.

4. Assessment of the new directive

It has been pointed out that the satellite-type remote lectures utilizing ICT may be suspicious of violating related laws and regulations. In this sense, the new directive should be highly commended for removing this doubt and confirming the lectures’ official status.

Its decision to accept the mobile-type remote lectures as official should also be commended positively. This enabled those who are not able to attend the lectures at law schools, for example working adults having to travel for work, to access the missed lectures at various locations. However, it has to be mentioned that I have some reservations about imposing the limit on the accepted number of mobile lectures, as doing so will likely make obtaining credits from law schools for those living in rural areas rather difficult, and may ultimately dampen the effect of ICT lectures from law schools.

As it was confirmed that on-demand type lectures cannot be recognized as official, I for one feel there should have been an option to accept them as official while limiting the number of lectures.

In any case, the idea behind the introduction of ICT-based lectures must have been born out of the aim to improve the studying environment of law schools for and lessen the financial and time-related burdens on the working adults and those who live in rural areas; therefore we should continue to observe how each law school would work under this new directive, and also whether the initial aims would indeed be realized.

5. ICT utilization at law schools and future development

Several law schools including the Chuo Law School have commenced providing the lectures utilizing ICT, mostly the satellite-type lectures. In the future, even closer ties between the law schools through the use of ICT are expected. In addition, I envisage further discussions to enable the collaboration of undergraduate schools and graduate schools in the form of granting of credits to credited auditors and joint lectures so that the law schools in Tokyo metropolitan area can offer their lectures to the law students at regional universities by utilizing ICT, in relation to the so-called “3 plus 2” (the legal training option consisting of 3 years of undergraduate studies and 2 years of law school training) which is being actively discussed currently.
Shinya Tsuchida
Professor, Chuo Law School 
Area of Specialization: Administrative Law
Shinya Tsuchida was born in Gifu Prefecture in 1971. After graduating from the Department of Law in the Chuo University Faculty of Law in 1994, he completed the Master’s Program in public law from the Chuo University Graduate School of Law in 1997. Having obtained his Master’s degree in the Graduate School of Law in the University of Würzburg in 2000, he returned to Chuo University to obtain his PhD in public law from its Graduate School of Law in 2003. After serving as a Full-time Instructor, Assistant Professor and Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Studies, Aichi Prefectural University, and as an Associate Professor in the Chuo Law School, he assumed his current position in 2014. His specialisms include the legal theories and systems behind public property such as roads and rivers. His written works include Basic Practices in Administrative Law, 2nd edition (Nippon Hyoron Sha, 2016) and more.