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Virtual Total Immersion
Unformatted Document Text:  therefore become: to facilitate learning that embeds the theoretical and practical skills in a vocational area that is traditionally closed to investigation by non-practitioners and theorists. To overcome such limitations, I have developed a teaching and learning methodology that has become known as VTI, Virtual Total Immersion. VTI utilises a combination of case-study, role playing and action research methodologies whereby the student becomes the virtual diplomat. By assuming the diplomat’s role through VTI, students are provided with opportunities to intellectually engage with a ‘real world’ issue and work towards a ‘real world’ solution. In order to achieve the above outcomes, the VTI experience relies on the investigation of a real world, complex, near-unsolvable, multi-party issue. The Six-Party Talks on the denuclearisation of North Korea provide near perfect conditions for VTI. Firstly, the negotiations involve multiple nations (USA, North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan) each with distinct political and cultural forms of organisation and practice. Second, all the individual nations have respective bi-lateral relationships that occur in distinct forms, and which occur concurrent with the multi-lateral fora of the Six-Party Talks. Third, all the nations have historical bi-lateral conflicts that have directly affected the current multi-lateral negotiations, and all the historical conflicts involve state and non-state actors. Fourth, and possibly the most important for the success of VTI, is that there exists a plethora of public documents regarding the historic and current Six-Party Talks, along with copious public statements by each nation regarding their position in the current Talks, and media coverage promulgating each nation’s posture for the Talks. Through this array of documents students can grasp a holistic, or virtual, understanding of the role of a diplomat and a nation in the Talks. Each student in the class is Virtually and Totally Immersed into diplomatic theory and practice as they adopt the role of their particular diplomat for their particular nation. Fifth, the real work 6-Party talks have a clear end-point demand of ‘verifiable’ and ‘irreversible’ disarmament. A clear point of optimum outcome is practical, and provides the students with a goal. However, the goal needs to be somewhat abstract, and the paths to the goal need to be multi-lineal and pot-holed with many historical, economic, ethical, and social dilemmas, otherwise students will shortcut to the optimum end-point. The 6-Party Talks are a perfect case-study for VTI as the optimum ‘verifiable’ and ‘irreversible’ end point of disarmament by the North Korean nation is an unlikely short-term outcome, guaranteeing future utility of the case in future classes – and yet, the shifting nature of the Talks ensures that no two concurrent classes have identical issues to negotiate through. The implementation of VTI ensures that each student encounters a holistic and innovative experience where the principles of International Relations and Diplomacy are learned in tandem with the development of critical skills in negotiation, conflict resolution, public speaking, independent research, group work and reportage. Moreover, students develop these theoretical and skill knowledges with a cross-cultural framework, integrated into a crisis scenario that incorporates many features of Problem Based Learning (PBL). The critical difference between PBL programs and the VTI project lies in its relevance to contemporary global challenges. PBL can pick and choose its problem from a wide variety of historical, theoretical, and current issues. VTI does not have this luxury. Historical global issues, for example, are often resolved to the satisfaction of the global community. This means that students within a VTI program would be able to research the problem and the outcome, divorcing the student from any motivation to fully adopt their role: the outcome is predetermined and the victors

Authors: Cullen, Anne.
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therefore become: to facilitate learning that embeds the theoretical and practical skills
in a vocational area that is traditionally closed to investigation by non-practitioners
and theorists.
To overcome such limitations, I have developed a teaching and learning
methodology that has become known as VTI, Virtual Total Immersion. VTI utilises a
combination of case-study, role playing and action research methodologies whereby
the student becomes the virtual diplomat. By assuming the diplomat’s role through
VTI, students are provided with opportunities to intellectually engage with a ‘real
world’ issue and work towards a ‘real world’ solution. In order to achieve the above
outcomes, the VTI experience relies on the investigation of a real world, complex,
near-unsolvable, multi-party issue.
The Six-Party Talks on the denuclearisation of North Korea provide near
perfect conditions for VTI. Firstly, the negotiations involve multiple nations (USA,
North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan) each with distinct political and
cultural forms of organisation and practice. Second, all the individual nations have
respective bi-lateral relationships that occur in distinct forms, and which occur
concurrent with the multi-lateral fora of the Six-Party Talks. Third, all the nations
have historical bi-lateral conflicts that have directly affected the current multi-lateral
negotiations, and all the historical conflicts involve state and non-state actors. Fourth,
and possibly the most important for the success of VTI, is that there exists a plethora
of public documents regarding the historic and current Six-Party Talks, along with
copious public statements by each nation regarding their position in the current Talks,
and media coverage promulgating each nation’s posture for the Talks. Through this
array of documents students can grasp a holistic, or virtual, understanding of the role
of a diplomat and a nation in the Talks. Each student in the class is Virtually and
Totally Immersed into diplomatic theory and practice as they adopt the role of their
particular diplomat for their particular nation. Fifth, the real work 6-Party talks have a
clear end-point demand of ‘verifiable’ and ‘irreversible’ disarmament. A clear point
of optimum outcome is practical, and provides the students with a goal. However, the
goal needs to be somewhat abstract, and the paths to the goal need to be multi-lineal
and pot-holed with many historical, economic, ethical, and social dilemmas, otherwise
students will shortcut to the optimum end-point. The 6-Party Talks are a perfect case-
study for VTI as the optimum ‘verifiable’ and ‘irreversible’ end point of disarmament
by the North Korean nation is an unlikely short-term outcome, guaranteeing future
utility of the case in future classes – and yet, the shifting nature of the Talks ensures
that no two concurrent classes have identical issues to negotiate through.
The implementation of VTI ensures that each student encounters a holistic and
innovative experience where the principles of International Relations and Diplomacy
are learned in tandem with the development of critical skills in negotiation, conflict
resolution, public speaking, independent research, group work and reportage.
Moreover, students develop these theoretical and skill knowledges with a cross-
cultural framework, integrated into a crisis scenario that incorporates many features of
Problem Based Learning (PBL).
The critical difference between PBL programs and the VTI project lies in its
relevance to contemporary global challenges. PBL can pick and choose its problem
from a wide variety of historical, theoretical, and current issues. VTI does not have
this luxury. Historical global issues, for example, are often resolved to the
satisfaction of the global community. This means that students within a VTI program
would be able to research the problem and the outcome, divorcing the student from
any motivation to fully adopt their role: the outcome is predetermined and the victors


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