This unit consists of 13 topics, as set out on the iLearn website. Each topic is divided into sub-topics. Most sub-topics are accompanied by a short, recorded lecture. These will vary in length, with some as short as a few minutes. Lectures are available for download from iLearn (click on the ‘Echo 360’ logo on the right hand side of the screen). Lectures are intended to provide an overview of the topic, indicate its most important aspects and, hopefully, make the related readings more interesting and accessible.
Accompanying the lectures are lecture slides. These are available from iLearn in .pptx (Powerpoint) and .pdf format. The two are identical, so you need not download both versions. When listening to lectures, be sure to have the accompanying slides in front of you, since they will be referred to during lectures. Each slide has a number, which you will find in the bottom right hand corner. Note that the slides for all sub-topics are combined together in one file, which is downloadable from the top of each topic in iLearn.
The lectures should give you a broad overview of the subject, but it is vital that you then develop your understanding by completing the related readings. The prescribed textbook for this unit is:
- Stephen Hall, Principles of International Law (LexisNexis, 5th ed, 2016, ISBN: 978-0-409-34324-3).
References to 'Hall' on iLearn refer to the prescribed textbook. If you would like to buy a second textbook then you are particularly recommended the following, since it offers an affordable, concise and interesting survey of what we study (and more):
- Jan Klabbers, International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-521-14406-3).
Readings for the unit are categorised as follows:
- Essential readings largely consist of extracts from the prescribed textbook (Hall, see above). Students are expected to complete all essential readings each week.
- Recommended readings consist of chapters from the recommended additional textbook (Klabbers, see above). Students are not obliged to acquire or read this book, although you are likely to find the unit more interesting and easier to understand if you do so.
- Additional readings largely consist of chapters from other leading textbooks. These chapters are made available to you online in pdf format from the Macquarie library website (via Multisearch). Students are not expected to routinely complete the additional readings: they are offered as an additional resource, particularly in relation to assignments.
On occasion, assessable (and formative) quizzes may ask questions directly about the additional readings. It will be evident when they do so. All assignments assume knowledge of the essential readings and lecture content.
Each week's readings are listed in the Schedule of Readings available from iLearn. The pages of the essential readings relevant to each sub-topic are also listed on iLearn itself.
In addition to the secondary sources (book chapters, journal articles, etc) listed in the Schedule of Readings, you are expected to consult relevant primary legal sources (treaties, draft articles, cases, etc) as much as possible. It should be evident to you from the lectures and secondary sources which primary sources (and which parts of those primary sources) are most important. Sometimes you will need to consult primary sources in order to complete assignments. All relevant primary sources are available online and you are expected to have sufficient research skills to locate and download them. (We cover how to find and cite international law primary material in the two Citation Modules.) If you are having problems finding and citing international material even after completing the citation modules then the library website and staff are likely to be your best source of assistance, although your tutor may also be able to help.
Tips on active reading
Many of us find it difficult to concentrate when we read. If you find that there is a tendency for your mind to wander then there are various techniques for making the task more engaging and enjoyable. For instance:
- Before reading a chapter or article, skim its contents, looking just at the headings and dipping into the contents here and there. On this initial skim the goal is simply to establish what the reading is about and how it is structured. Then ask yourself, say, ten basic questions about the subject that you would like answered. Here the formative and weekly quizzes should help, since these will raise questions to which you will need answers. But you should also make up your own questions: just follow your curiosity. Then read, looking primarily for answers to the questions you have set yourself. Once you have all ten answers, if you have time, set yourself ten more questions to answer. This time you might be getting into detail, but your questions will also be better informed and so more useful. Repeat this exercise until you feel you have exhausted the reading. If you still have unanswered questions, try to find answers by, if necessary, going beyond the set readings.
- At least on an initial reading, do not be afraid to skim passages that do not seem important or interesting. If they turn out to be important then you can always go back to them.
- Imagine your job is to explain the reading to someone else. Better still, find someone to explain it to, such as a fellow student. How would you explain it? Think of the similes and hypothetical or real examples you might use. Think of the questions the other person might raise, and then find the answers to them.
- Challenge yourself to summarise the reading within a certain number of words. Be strict with your self-imposed word limit (eg 50 words for every page of the reading). Once you have achieved your goal, halve the word limit and then repeat the exercise. Keep doing this until you don’t feel you can go further. This will also provide practice in concise writing, a skill some students lack.
- Design diagrams, mind maps, etc. Flow charts are particularly helpful when it comes to working out how to apply the law. They take a while to devise, but in the process you should come to thoroughly understand how the law works.
- We are most likely to find something boring if we do not see how it relates to ourselves personally. For that reason, think about ways in which the issues we cover affect you, or might affect you in the future. Imagine you have to give advice on these issues tomorrow: that should bring sufficient anxiety to sharpen your mind!
All of the above should also encourage you to look for the big picture, rather than getting hung up on too much detail. But most importantly, they should help you to read actively and purposefully, which is the key to enjoyment of academic study.
Foundation Quizzes (Quizzes 1.1 - 1.4)
Students are required to satisfactorily complete the Foundation Quizzes. Satisfactory completion means getting 100% in each quiz. You may attempt each quiz as many times as necessary and your attempts are not timed. Even though you have until the stipulated deadline to complete the Foundation Quizzes, you are strongly encouraged to do so prior to your tutorial in Week 1.
The questions are designed to ensure that we all understand how the unit should run. The questions are available under the 'Topic 1' tab on iLearn. You should submit your answers via iLearn.
Formative Quizzes (Quizzes numbered 2.1 onwards)
Each sub-topic In Topics 2-13 has related to it certain online activities identified as numbered quizzes: Quiz 2.1, Quiz 2.2, etc. These quizzes are designed to test and enhance your understanding of the material, and to ensure that you are well prepared for attendance at the relevant tutorial. Participation in the formative quizzes is voluntary and is not assessed. Students are encouraged to tick the boxes on the right-hand side of the iLearn site in order to record when they have completed each formative quiz.
Unlike with the assessable, weekly quizzes (identified as Quiz A, B, C, etc: see above under Assessment Tasks), where you only have one go at answering each question, you may attempt formative quizzes as many times as you like. However, sometimes you will be unable to commence your second and subsequent attempts at a formative quiz until a certain number of minutes have elapsed after your last attempt. That is to encourage students to actively engage with the questions and not just guess the answers.
In addition to the 13 topics that make up this unit, you will find on iLearn two self-study Citation Modules. These are designed to train you in finding and then correctly citing important international sources. Citation Module A relates to UN documents, while Citation Module B relates to treaties. Completion of the citation modules is optional. However, you will be assessed on your ability to cite international sources in your answers to the problem question and the final online assessment. As with the formative quizzes, you are allowed an unlimited number of attempts at each exercise.
You are strongly advised to complete Citation Module A in between studying Topics 3 and 4, and to complete Citation Module B in between your study of Topics 4 and 5. (ILearn is structured in accordance with this sequence of learning.)
In order to encourage you to complete the citation modules in a timely manner, two citation tests have been set up. Students are permitted to attempt those tests even if they have not completed the citation modules, although they will find the tests far easier once they have done so. Each test will consist of two questions and each question will be worth one mark. Students only stand to gain marks from the citation tests if they complete the required citations with absolute accuracy. The smallest variation from the prescribed answer (eg entering two spaces instead of one, or incorrect capitalisation) will mean that the mark is forfeited. Unlike citation exercises, students are permitted only one attempt at the citation test questions. No half marks will be awarded.
Note on collaboration re formative quizzes and citation modules
When it comes to the assessable tasks (the weekly quizzes, citation tests, problem question and final exam), the normal rules relating to academic honesty apply. That means that your answers to those assignments should be your own individual work. Collaboration in relation to answering those assignments will constitute academic dishonesty.
The formative quizzes (including the citation exercises that make up the citation modules) are treated differently. I have no objection to students working collaboratively in relation to those tasks. Indeed, if you are finding the citation exercises difficult then you are positively encouraged to work on them in groups. That said, if you decide to collaborate in relation to formative quizzes or citation exercises then please do so actively. If you simply copy someone else's answers then you will be learning almost nothing.
In order to facilitate collaboration on formative quizzes and citation exercises, a specific discussion forum will be provided. Students are welcome to post to that forum if they are experiencing particular difficulties. When responding to another student’s request for help, please don’t just provide the answer. You need to exercise a basic skill of teaching, which is to let your fellow student work out the answer for themselves as much as possible. For instance, if there is a problem with a student’s punctuation in a citation then you might refer them to the relevant rule in the Australian Guide to Legal Citation. That way the student is required to find and read the rule and then apply it. That is far more beneficial to the student’s learning than simply saying something like ‘you need to place a full stop at the end’.
Having developed a basic understanding of each topic by completing the on-line activities, tutorials are your chance to discuss the issues raised, as well as ask questions in order to clear up any lingering doubts as to whether you understand the material correctly. Tutorials are meant to come towards the end of the learning process, not the beginning. Certainly they are no substitute for listening to the lectures or doing the readings, although if you are totally stumped by even a basic point then there is no shame in raising it in a tutorial.
There will be 13 weeks of tutorials during the Session, starting in Week 1. All internal students should register in a tutorial group. Places are available on a first-come, first-served basis. You should attend the tutorial in which you are registered. However, if it proves difficult to do so then you may occasionally attend another tutorial without asking permission.
Please try not to be late arriving at a tutorial. They will start promptly at five minutes after their advertised commencement time and should end at least five minutes before their advertised finishing time (in order to provide time for students and staff to move from one class to another).
How to make tutorials interesting and useful
Tutorials only succeed if students actively participate. Tutorials are not meant to be simple rehashes of the lecture. In order to participate you need to adequately prepare for each tutorial. This means listening to the lecture, completing the readings and online activities and thinking about the issues covered before you arrive.
Participation can take the form of answering the tutor’s questions, but you are also free to pose your own questions, either to the tutor or fellow students. You should also regularly contribute appropriately to discussions. This involves listening respectfully to what others say and responding courteously. We should all be trying to develop our own and each other’s learning, rather than scoring points off each other.
General discussion forum
A general discussion forum will be set up on iLearn. Students are encouraged to contribute to these discussions, provided the general rules of etiquette are observed. The forum is intended for discussion relating to the issues we are studying. Please post questions relating to administrative matters to the forum called ‘Discussion Forum re Administrative Matters’, while posting questions relating to the formative quizzes and citation exercises to the forum headed 'Discussion Forum re Formative Quizzes and Citation Exercises'.