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Volume 1, Number 3 August/September 2000

Harnessing the Power of the World Wide Web for Conflict Studies Courses

by Bill Warters

The World Wide Web is rapidly becoming an essential part of academic life. Email has become virtually unavoidable, campus libraries are serving up electronic full-text resources like never before, and first year students are routinely being provided with computers for use in their rooms. At the same time, faculty members are being encouraged to put at least some portion of their materials online and to make use of courseware tools like Blackboard, WebCT, or TopClass to manage their courses and connect with students.

Our new information technology is exciting and rich with potential, but at the same time it often feels a bit overwhelming and unfathomable. To help address these concerns, this article presents a range of ways that relevant information from the web can be located quickly and used to good advantage by faculty teaching conflict studies courses or workshops.

Course Development Tasks

Create a CourseGiven the rapid emergence of conflict resolution related courses and programs (see Warters, 2000 and Polkinghorn and Chenail, 2000), many faculty now find themselves faced with the responsibility of preparing new conflict studies courses. While faculty vary in their course design methods, this process typically involves a number of discrete steps such as

Clarifying course goals & objectives and its place within the broader campus curriculum,
Locating examples of similar courses,
Identifying relevant course texts and then choosing among them,
Identifying relevant journal articles and web-based info to supplement the texts,
Developing a coherent set of in-class and out-of-class learning activities,
Developing a grading and assessment strategy.

In this article, I will point readers toward web-based materials or tools that can help them accomplish each of these tasks quickly and resourcefully. Be forewarned, however, that this article also invites you to do a good bit of surfing, so it may take some time to get through if you're a curious type.

Clarifying Course Goals and Objective

Course planning efforts can be greatly enhanced (and wasted effort minimized) if one gets clear early on about the basic goals and objectives of the course. It is helpful to think about how your course relates to other conflict resolution courses available on campus, and to talk with faculty teaching these other courses to avoid covering the same material in courses that may have overlapping students. I have found the Visioning Your Course outline from UC Irvine to be a particularly succinct guide for clarifying the task you have before you. Consider printing a copy and using it to think through your basic course plan. For a somewhat more theoretical discussion of the instructional design process and current concepts of active and higher learning you might wish to view the materials provided by the University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program.

Looking for Examples of Other Courses
While we don't yet have a fully centralized web depository for conflict studies course syllabi, a number of online collections are now available that can provide useful insight into how people are structuring their courses and what materials they are finding most pertinent. The following links lead to groupings of relevant course outlines for possible review.

Course Web Pages for conflict and communication classes from the EMPATHY project

Directory of College and University Peace Studies Programs (Includes Links to Online Syllabi)

International Peacekeeping Syllabi collection from courses on various aspects of UN-sanctioned peace operations

Law School ADR Course Outlines from FindLaw

If you don't mind browsing a bit (and perhaps getting distracted by interesting side trips), you can also try searching for the term "syllabus" combined with some of your core topic words (try "conflict resolution" or "mediation" for example) using a search engine limited to the educational (.edu) domain. SearchEdu.com is one site that does this for you automatically. You can also use domain limiting search options built into existing engines. For example, at AltaVista.com, adding the search term "domain:edu" (without the quotes) to your basic query limits all your hits to those found at educational servers.

If you're not in a hurry or you wish to plan ahead for next term (what a concept!), the web can also facilitate the ordering of bound syllabi collections. A prime example is the Conflict Management Syllabi Collection from George Mason's Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. The George Mason University program is one of the most well-established conflict studies programs in the country, and the first to offer a Ph.D. specifically in the field. You might also want to check on the availability of the excellent 1998 Conflict Resolution Syllabi Sampler published by NIDR/CREnet, or the ASA's Teaching Peace and War collection mentioned in this issue.

Locating Appropriate Textbooks
A
s the conflict management field matures the number of relevant books is growing rapidly. The field is also by nature interdisciplinary. This combination makes keeping track of key books somewhat challenging, as useful books may be published in areas that are outside your "home" discipline. A 1995 delphi study (see Warters, 1999) addressed this question by asking a mixed group of conflict studies faculty to identify and rank key works in the field. This produced a list of core texts that while remarkably diverse, helped map out the field. Catherine Morris, former director of the UVic Institute for Dispute Resolution has developed a great resource (see Readings in Dispute Resolution: A Select Bibliography) that incorporates these readings and that is regularly updated and nicely categorized. Definitely worth a visit.

If you are interested in more descriptive or critical annotations of the books, you may wish to scan the reviews of dispute resolution literature produced by the late James Boskey in his Alternative Newsletter. Six issues of his reviews (March, 1999 - November, 1998 - July, 1998 - March, 1998 - November, 1997 - July, 1997) are posted online. To avoid having to scroll through the whole long text, in issues that don't provide a table of contents, you might want to use the "find in page" feature of your browser to search for authors or titles you are interested in.

A number of publishers are also now specializing in conflict studies. For example, check out the growing list of offerings at Jossey-Bass; Sage Publications (search on the word "conflict"); Syracuse University Press (go "books in print" ---> "series listing" --->"Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution"); or Harvard's Program on Negotiation. To search a varied group of university presses all at once, you can access the Association of American University Presses Online Catalog. I recommend searching on keywords for this one.

Deciding who to give your money to when you purchase a book is really a personal decision. If you don't want to or cannot order directly from a press or a local bookstore, you can use a variety of online stores to make your purchase. In addition to using individual stores like Amazon.com or Borders.com or Barnes and Noble (bn.com), if you know the title or ISBN of a book you are interested in, you can easily do comparison price shopping using tools like MySimon.com that check all the major online book dealers. Or you might wish to purchase from one of the bookstores hosted by organizations specializing in conflict resolution, such as the Academy of Family Mediators or the Network: Interaction for Conflict Resolution (a Canadian organization).

Locating Journals and Journal Articles
Most campus libraries now provide access to electronic reference services (FirstSearch, UnCover, WorldCat etc.) that can be used to help you track down articles pertinent to your work across a broad range of publications. Because libraries access these services by subscription, you usually have to be using a campus computer on the right network or have a password to gain access to them. Many of these tools can be accessed remotely (i.e., from home) if you have the password and correct dial-up number or web address, so you may want to check into it. FindArticles.com is a newly launched commercial service that provides free full-text articles from a range of journals and magazines. A number of free federally-sponsored databases are also available for searching via the web, most notably ERIC (providing broad coverage of the education field, including higher education) and the Library of Congress (not designed to locate articles, but good for books, manuscripts, films, etc.).

In addition to articles appearing in the traditional discipline-based journals in sociology, psychology, political science, management, etc., there is a growing number of specialized journals specifically supporting the conflict studies field. The list of dispute resolution journals maintained by Nova Southeastern University's Department of Dispute Resolution reveals the growing range of publications now available. This list also provides links to the actual publications or to their publishers. Some of these journal sites will let you search their archives as well.

While it is not a journal per se, you may also wish to visit Mediate.com's Resolution Magazine and check out their growing list of brief full-text articles on conflict resolution related topics. You can now search by topic to get quickly to the articles of interest to you.

To assist your research, library support staff sometimes produce specialized subject guides that point the way to relevant library resources. You may want to check locally to see if your library has developed anything on conflict resolution or peace studies. For a rather extensive example, check out the George Mason University Library subject guide on conflict management, which while designed to serve GMU faculty and students, includes links to non-password dependent materials as well.

Personally, I have found the use of citation and reference management software to be extremely helpful for keeping track of and appropriately using references that I have located. The latest versions of many of these permit you to hook up to library databases and directly search and then import references into your local computer. They also greatly facilitate the formatting for references in different styles depending on the publication you are writing for. My personal and longtime favorite is EndNotes from ISI ResearchSoft. Reviews of the full range of bibliographic programs is available from the UC Berkeley Writing Program if you want to shop for a program that meets your specific needs. Most of these programs also have a special educational discount price, so you may want to check with your campus bookstore or sites like StudentDiscounts before purchasing.

A number of free searchable reference collections focusing specifically on conflict studies are available online. These collections vary with respect to the amount of information provided, and some of them return information on articles or working papers that can be quite hard to put your hands on.

Conflict Research Consortium (large, built using reference lists from various Hewlett Theory-building Centers, resulting in sometimes inconsistent levels of information)

Conflict Resolution Center International (particularly helpful for identifying items that were not published in mainstream sources)

Restorative Justice Online (nice collection of articles and abstracts on Victim Offender Mediation related topics)

Indiana Conflict Resolution Institute (emphasizes empirical field studies and program evaluations on conflict resolution)

Law.com (while not exclusively focused on conflict issues, the site does provides access to full-text law-related ADR articles)

Readings in Dispute Resolution: A Select Bibliography (a subject oriented bibliography maintained by Catherine Morris as noted above)

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Page last updated 11/27/2005

A project of Campus Conflict Resolution Resources.
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo project.


Correspondence to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.

Please send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.

© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU, All rights reserved.