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Volume 1, Number 3 August/September 2000

Harnessing the Power of the World Wide Web for Conflict Studies Courses (page 3 of 3)

Roleplays and Simulations
Use of mock mediations, facilitations, and negotiations enacted by students is a very common teaching technique in conflict resolution courses. This is especially true for courses with a skill training component. Because of the frequent use of roleplays, most folks are regularly on the lookout for new case scenarios to use in class or in workshops.

Sample mediation roleplay scripts are featured regularly in the REPORT (see Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 examples), and printed collections of mediation roleplays are occasionally noted in the REPORT's Resource Reviews section.

Faculty interested in negotiation simulation scripts will want to check out the collections available from the Harvard Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse and the Northwestern University Negotiation and Decision-making Case Collection. While I am unclear on current availability, Willamette University has regularly sponsored a simulation writing contest that has produced roleplay script collections as well.

Multimedia Teaching Tools
Movies and videos have always been a popular teaching tool. For those wishing search through the educational media universe (as opposed to popular films), the National Information Center for Educational Media provides a free trial password providing access to their database of more than 450,000 educational media titles. As the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution has expanded, more videos specifically addressing conflict resolution have become available. While this is exciting from an instructional point of view, they remain rather hard to track down, although a list of videos relating to peace studies can be found online as well. In addition to videos aimed specifically at conflict resolution audiences, there have also been projects and conference presentations of late on using popular movies to teach conflict resolution themes. Along these lines, the Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute has developed a set of Conflict Resolution Leadership Case Studies based primarily on films, although the focus of the Institute's collection seems to lean more toward leadership than conflict resolution.

One of the outstanding multimedia training tools for campus use is the Allwyn Hall CD-ROM, a tool developed under a FIPSE grant for training residence life staff in basic conflict resolution skills. A few screenshots of the Allwyn Hall CD are available in the Resolve-it College site highlighted in the last issue. (Note: The Allwyn Hall website is down due to a change of servers, so you'll need to use the noted email address to get more information.)

Online Demonstrations and Tutorials
One nice benefit of the information technology era is the proliferation of online tutorials and demonstrations of many types. These materials can be used as homework assignments, or as in-class activity, or as part of a lecture demonstration of a core concept. Our field is developing it's own share of tools, especially in the area of negotiation skills. Links to some interesting examples are provided below.

Interactive Tools for Teaching Negotiation (See the Negotiation Course. Includes a spreadsheet exercise on BATNAs, and a negotiation introduction both developed by Marjorie McDiarmid using Adobe Acrobat)

INSPIRE: a Web-based Negotiation Support System (developed by the InterNeg group at Carleton and Concordia Universities. You or your students negotiate over the web with a real but unknown opponent.)

McGill Negotiation Simulator (computer-based interactive video simulation of business negotiations)

OneAccord Negotiation Simulation (Demo of a decision support and negotiation system, using hypothetical dispute between Syria and Israel set some thirty years in the future over the proposed building of a Disney themepark on or near what is presently referred to as the Golan Heights.)

Myers-Briggs style Temperament Sorter for use by Negotiators (by Lowell K. Halverson from his Negotiating Styles for Couples in Conflict site)

Mediation appears to be somewhat harder to simulate online based on the relative scarcity of sites offering demos. One sophisticated example worth a look is a computer-based conflict resolution "applet" developed by Ron Surratt called The Mediator.

Folks looking for Arbitration training tools may wish to examine the CALI Arbitration Exercises. The demonstration while not fancy by contemporary standards (i.e., few graphics and no video), does provide a nice introduction to what arbitration is and how it is conducted in various settings. To access the 5 lessons and the accompanying readings, your college (or more likely your Law School) must be a subscriber to CALI. Many schools are, and they are listed in a drop down list that you must use prior to accessing the lesson, so you have a quick way to find out.

While many online tools focus specifically on skill training or demonstrating new technologies, other sites are designed to introduce users to a set of important concepts (see for instance the Roots of Social Conflict exposition), or to provide insight into a complex dispute. The CyberLearning website exploring a Salmon Fishing Dispute, or the Conflict Yellowstone Wolves WebQuest are two good examples.

WebQuests such as the Yellowstone Wolves example noted above are a wonderful way to integrate the web into your courses. In a future issue of the REPORT we will explore more fully the ins and outs of developing conflict WebQuests. The method has been used primarily in elementary and secondary schools, but as more college classroom and labs get wired-up the technique is migrating to college campuses as well. Clearly the potential for conflict studies courses is great.

Online Courses
A number of campuses are developing distance learning courses covering conflict resolution topics, and over time we should begin to see a broader sharing of knowledge on how to best construct and deliver these types of programs. The International Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict developed at the University of Colorado is a nice example of a more comprehensive conflict studies tutorial that is currently freely available. Developed with funds from the USIP and the Hewlett Foundation, the core training program consists of ten basic units--one on introductory theory, and nine others, each focusing on a particular category of problem. Each unit has a overview section and a number of more specialized subsections describing common problems and potential solutions. Examples give more information about particular problems, or how solutions have been applied in different situations.

Another nice example of an online course, still under construction, can be found at the University of Bradford's Department of Peace Studies. The course "Introduction to Conflict Resolution: Draft Distance Learning Course" is being developed by the staff at the Centre for Conflict Resolution, and at least for now is freely available for study and comment.

Developing a Assessment and Grading Strategy
It would be nice if the web also provided a solution to the challenges of assessment and grading. The use of integrated courseware packages like Blackboard and WebCT is growing on campus. These programs include gradebooks, and various quizzing, testing, and anonymous feedback systems as part of the package. As use of these test-building tools grows among conflict studies faculty, we may begin to see some sharing among faculty of their conflict resolution question-banks. This could be quite helpful over time.

While these new tools are nice and can help with course organization tasks, they really don't get at the underlying challenge of determining what and how to evaluate student learning and skill performance. Nor do they focus our attention on techniques for assessing how we are doing as instructors as the course unfolds. In an essentially applied field like Conflict Resolution, many programs include a significant amount of skill training. At the same time, most programs I'm aware of seem to rely mainly on student papers, essays and written exams for grading purposes. This seems like a bit of a disconnect to me. Figuring out how to appropriately assess conflict resolution skill acquisition within the academic context remains a going concern.

While the web can't directly answer these questions, it can provide some great food for thought. For instance, you may want to consider how your course relates to the various dispute resolution standards of practice now in circulation. Are your students graded in a way that reflects mastery of these basic concepts? Or should academia have a different set of standards, raising the bar if you will, especially in terms of the theoretical knowledge base. Our delphi study on graduate study in dispute resolution came up with a set of core areas of knowledge and skills that might be used as one starting place for this discussion.

There is a lot of instructional support information on the web. For more generalized advice on grading, you might want to check out Quizzes, Tests and Exams and Grading Practices excerpted from Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis from University of California, Berkeley. For some basic advice on grading essays, visit A Method for Grading Essays in Any Course by Candace Caraco.

If you're really keen on sharpening your teaching skills and course design methods across the board, you're in luck. The growing network of Faculty and Instructional Development offices around the country are quite interested in these pedagogical challenges, and many provide online resources and workshops to assist faculty wanting to work in these areas. More workshops and conference sessions specifically addressing the teaching of conflict studies are now occurring as well (see for example the Second Annual Legal Educators Colloquium), suggesting that opportunities for networking and skill sharing among faculty are on the increase.

The World Wide Web has a tremendous amount to offer conflict studies faculty and conflict resolution skill trainers. Already we can relatively easily find sample course syllabi, specialized books, abstracts, full-text articles, news, and an interesting range of case studies and online tutorials all directly relevant to our field. And over time as bandwidths and modem speeds increase, and the number of academic conflict resolution programs and faculty grows, the harvest should be even richer. New tools like the CRInfo site should also help provide the field with a center of gravity on the net. And I believe we will be presented with many new opportunities to creatively collaborate on improving teaching quality and student and faculty satisfaction in conflict resolution courses and programs in the coming years. I hope many of you will join in these efforts when opportunity knocks. Clearly it is an exciting time for the field and for those of us teaching in it.

To provide quick access to many of the links found in this article, I've created a website entitled Teaching Conflict Management Courses in Academia: Resources for Success. While largely unannotated and not directly equivalent to this article, it does provide a useful starting place for further exploration. Feel free to drop by at

Bill Warters, Ph.D. is the Editor of the Conflict Management in Higher Education Report. He teaches in the Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution program at Wayne State University.

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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.