OnLine Model United Nations: Taking Global Youth Engagement in an Exciting New Direction

 

Online Model United Nations is the first serious attempt to bring one of the world's most popular academic role-playing simulations to an online environment. The focus of our program is high school students who wish to engage in serious discussion, collaboration and debate on pressing global issues. Students assume the role of an assigned country and act as a delegate to represent their nation's policies. Many tens of thousands of students participate in this kind of face to face simulation each year, and our program seeks to expand MUN to individuals wishing to participate in this new forum but do not have the ability to travel to conferences.

Online MUN (O-MUN) debates have been field tested four times in in the past 18 months, with enthusiastic student response. In one debate, over 40 students logged in from five continents, and in real time and across immense geographic distance, debated the future of Afghanistan. Most recently the issue of global food security was debated. Model UN seeks to have students run and organize these debates, providing leadership opportunities as well. An average debate takes five student moderators (chat moderation, white board/amendments moderator, technical troubleshooter, as well as Chair and back channel tallying of student participation (we use Google docs and Skype for this purpose). Students enjoy the technology component of debating online, opening up additional avenues for student engagement.

A Blackboard/Collaborate room would allow us greater flexibility in setting up debates, lobbying and caucusing (where students meet together to collaborate and draft a resolution to be debated). Given the time zone issues we encounter, having a dedicated room for our meetings would ease the scheduling challenges we face. Often student meetings run well over the two hour block of time we can book through Learn Central, and even before we roll out this program in the fall, we are discovering the very strong need for additional online space.

O-MUN was founded with a co-collaborator and experienced MUN delegate, currently attending the University of Texas. My own background includes 15 years of international education at the secondary level, with many years of MUN Directing experience. O-MUN is a not-for-profit organization run solely by a small number of volunteers. We hope to expand Online MUN significantly at the beginning of September. Extensive use of social media (Facebook and Twitter) will be used to get the word out.

More information about our program can be found at http://mun.orgsync.com/about. A quick peek at what an online debate looks like (in a room provided by Learn Central) can also be found at http://login.o-mun.org/zU5y0. With the online Model UN tested and proven, an expanded, dedicated environment will allow us at O-MUN to take online, global debate to a new level.

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Comment by Jingshen Zhao on July 26, 2011 at 12:09am

O-MUN will be able to actively utilize a dedicated room because of the frequency of the programs offered. For the upcoming academic year, online debates will be every two weeks with four or five lobbying sessions in each cycle, where student delegates representing different UN member states come together to share their research prior to the large public debate. As an active user of LearnCentral's public webinar room, O-MUN needs to host closed trainings and administrative sessions every week to make our public webinars entertaining for all. O-MUN currently has no funds to support a paid Blackboard Collaborate subscription for such an enthusiastic group of young leaders that are helping hundreds of others to reach their higher potential.

 

There are 170 active members on the roster: https://orgsync.com/33606/roster. O-MUN recently launched social media and has gotten 65 Facebook fans within one month http://facebook.com/onlinemun and 20 followers on Twitter http://twitter.com/onlinemun. Twitter lists will be used to help delegates research from a variety of government and non-governmental organization sources.

 

While a lot of We Collaborate competitors can probably utilize another meeting platform very effectively. O-MUN online debates utilize specific Blackboard Collaborate features like raising hand, polling, clapping, the magic wand on the whiteboard, breakout rooms, etc. that have been proven to relatively accurately simulate in-person Model United Nations conferences. We want to continue offering this ideal environment for those who cannot attend conferences in person and thus are missing out on a fantastic learning opportunity. Check out http://docs.o-mun.org/delegate for our student delegate guide which has screenshots of an online debate and the Blackboard Collaborate functionalities in use.

 

The functionalities of Blackboard Collaborate are perfect for O-MUN, and O-MUN is competing in We Collaborate because it has maximized the use of existing resources (free LearnCentral webinar room for the public debates, vRooms for leadership interviews and ad-hoc planning meetings).

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