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Virtual Total Immersion
Unformatted Document Text:  T EACHING D IPLOMACY WITH V IRTUAL T OTAL I MMERSION Anne Cullen, PhD Each September semester a keen cohort of students enrol in a subject simply titled ‘East-West Diplomacy’. They do so, now, knowing that they will work long hours, individually and in groups, for this subject. The students know they will lose sleep as the semester winds down, and their class exercises come to a crescendo of multiparty negotiations – negotiations which will affect their personal and social lives at University. They know the class structure (and embedded assessment) will demand them to formulate arguments to embed in complex negotiations, which will need to be articulately and skilfully delivered in order to politically neuter other nations’ ambitions: be they nuclear ambitions or power politics ambitions. All the students know they will struggle with the mountain of historical and current reading, and subsequent analysing, that will need to be done to get-up-to-speed to perform well in the early stages of the semester. They are all acutely aware that they will have to maintain a frenetic pace of data collection and analysis throughout the semester. All these keen students also know that the traditional rules of a University have been thrown out the window: they will no longer be judged as students, but rather their performance, from week one, is assessed purely along the lines of professionalism as demanded within all vocations where diplomatic skills are paramount. Essays, reflections pieces, exams and tests are replaced with the holistic testing of one notion: Professionalism. Professionalism need not be a slippery notion to students, it is simply the opposite to amateurism and, as such, sets a comprehensive benchmark against which all their skills can be tested. East-West Diplomacy ensures that all the students understand the demands of ensuring they are professional in every sense. From the second week of class they intuitively know to arrive to class appropriately dressed. There is an unspoken “2B” rule: no bras or boxers (should ever be revealed). But more than that, pride and self-confidence comes from wearing business clothes in all settings, and students rapidly understand the advantage of being comfortable in formal clothing. Addressing their peers is also monitored. Slang and profanity will initially attract a stern look from the teaching staff. Interestingly, that behaviour is also quickly ostracised by all members of the class who strive for the professional posture. Physical postures improve with the more formal dress and behaviour codes, which the cohort establishes and maintains throughout the semester. At no time in the history of the class, has the teaching staff needed to force these behaviours. Rather, positive, but non-verbal, support on the emerging standards in the classroom is usually sufficient as the standards are set by the students themselves seeking to practice professionalism, and have grades awarded for their own modelling of professionalism. To ensure holistic notions of virtual immersion, class assessments are set to mimic the paper trails needed in an office dealing with such complex negotiations, and again, the professional nature and language produced is a key assessment criterion, along with the quality of the information. Quality information is paramount in any professional setting. No employee remains long if they produce inferior work – and students in class are reminded of that throughout the semester and told when their work is not sufficient to maintain their employment. Consequently the demands of East-West Diplomacy are onerous. Students know they will work many long hours behind the scenes to shine in their weekly three hour meetings.

Authors: Cullen, Anne.
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background image
T
EACHING
D
IPLOMACY
WITH
V
IRTUAL
T
OTAL
I
MMERSION
Anne Cullen, PhD
Each September semester a keen cohort of students enrol in a subject simply titled
‘East-West Diplomacy’. They do so, now, knowing that they will work long hours,
individually and in groups, for this subject. The students know they will lose sleep as
the semester winds down, and their class exercises come to a crescendo of multiparty
negotiations – negotiations which will affect their personal and social lives at
University. They know the class structure (and embedded assessment) will demand
them to formulate arguments to embed in complex negotiations, which will need to be
articulately and skilfully delivered in order to politically neuter other nations’
ambitions: be they nuclear ambitions or power politics ambitions. All the students
know they will struggle with the mountain of historical and current reading, and
subsequent analysing, that will need to be done to get-up-to-speed to perform well in
the early stages of the semester. They are all acutely aware that they will have to
maintain a frenetic pace of data collection and analysis throughout the semester. All
these keen students also know that the traditional rules of a University have been
thrown out the window: they will no longer be judged as students, but rather their
performance, from week one, is assessed purely along the lines of professionalism as
demanded within all vocations where diplomatic skills are paramount. Essays,
reflections pieces, exams and tests are replaced with the holistic testing of one notion:
Professionalism. Professionalism need not be a slippery notion to students, it is
simply the opposite to amateurism and, as such, sets a comprehensive benchmark
against which all their skills can be tested.
East-West Diplomacy ensures that all the students understand the demands of
ensuring they are professional in every sense. From the second week of class they
intuitively know to arrive to class appropriately dressed. There is an unspoken “2B”
rule: no bras or boxers (should ever be revealed). But more than that, pride and self-
confidence comes from wearing business clothes in all settings, and students rapidly
understand the advantage of being comfortable in formal clothing. Addressing their
peers is also monitored. Slang and profanity will initially attract a stern look from the
teaching staff. Interestingly, that behaviour is also quickly ostracised by all members
of the class who strive for the professional posture. Physical postures improve with
the more formal dress and behaviour codes, which the cohort establishes and
maintains throughout the semester. At no time in the history of the class, has the
teaching staff needed to force these behaviours. Rather, positive, but non-verbal,
support on the emerging standards in the classroom is usually sufficient as the
standards are set by the students themselves seeking to practice professionalism, and
have grades awarded for their own modelling of professionalism. To ensure holistic
notions of virtual immersion, class assessments are set to mimic the paper trails
needed in an office dealing with such complex negotiations, and again, the
professional nature and language produced is a key assessment criterion, along with
the quality of the information. Quality information is paramount in any professional
setting. No employee remains long if they produce inferior work – and students in
class are reminded of that throughout the semester and told when their work is not
sufficient to maintain their employment. Consequently the demands of East-West
Diplomacy are onerous. Students know they will work many long hours behind the
scenes to shine in their weekly three hour meetings.


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