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Student Instructor

Using Model Diplomacy in Online Learning 


Although Model Diplomacy was originally conceived as a blended learning experience involving both an online component and a face-to-face role-play, it can be run as a fully online experience. Exactly how to do so and which tools to use will depend somewhat on your specific situation: in most cases, it’s best to stick with tools and styles of engagement that everyone is familiar and comfortable with.

In all cases, keep in mind best practices for online learning. Educause recently published a great article about using online discussion forums effectively, the Chronicle of Higher Education published tips for teaching over videoconferencing, Zoom has some good nuts-and-bolts suggestions, and Edutopia has some good general principles for online learning. Undoubtedly your institution has also published suggestions for online learning, and they will be the best resources for details such as how to log in and which software is most familiar and convenient for your students. 


Running a Model Diplomacy simulation online generally takes longer than running an equivalent simulation face-to-face. One way to mitigate this is to break your group up: if you have a group of twenty and would normally have just run one big role-play around a table, for online learning you could break the group in two and either run them simultaneously, letting the National Security Advisor and President in each group run things, or schedule the two groups at different times so you can attend both. You can also consider making some or all of the role-play asynchronous. Here is a section-by-section guide for doing Model Diplomacy online, with tips for both synchronous and asynchronous approaches.

simulation on zoom

Sections 1 and 2

Sections 1 and 2 are straightforward to use online and can be completed asynchronously. Once participants have been invited to a simulation and have created accounts on the Model Diplomacy website, they can access all of the reading and videos. If you have enabled assessments, participants will be able to complete comprehension quizzes attached to Sections 1 and 2 as well, and you will be able to grade them on the Model Diplomacy site. You can also use the annotation feature to leave reminders or additional information for students as they read through these two sections.


Section 3

The writing assignments for Section 3 (position memos for NSC cases and draft clauses for UN Security Council cases) are also relatively straightforward to use online and can also be completed asynchronously. Instructions and exemplars for all writing assignments are on the Model Diplomacy website, and you can collect the completed work by whatever means you have established, such as email or your institution’s learning management system.

We suggest conducting the role-play in three rounds (see Section 3.4 of your simulation or our Tips for Running a Successful Role-play page for more details), and that three-round structure is a helpful way to approach chunking the role-play for online learning as well. You can conduct each round synchronously or asynchronously. The details of NSC and UN Security Council role-plays differ, but the suggestions below apply to both.

  • In round one, participants present their positions.
    • In a synchronous meeting, you can go through opening statements using videoconferencing software, allowing for live clarifying questions.
    • However, this is probably the easiest round to conduct asynchronously. You could disseminate positions in writing by having participants share their position memos or write a summary for the purpose of the role-play. You could also have participants record a video of themselves delivering their opening statement and disseminate it for all to watch.
  • In round two, participants debate the various policy options.
    • In a synchronous setting, you can simply run a full-class discussion for round two. If you need more structure or want to prod reticent participants, consider starting by randomly assigning students to breakout rooms, assigning each breakout room one policy option. After working through pros and cons, representatives from each breakout room can share out to kick off the general discussion.
    • In an asynchronous setting, consider a discussion forum, with a thread for each policy option. Coach the National Security Advisor and President to be active in the forum, raising questions and responding to points.
  • In round three, debate begins to coalesce around the policy options that the president favors or the draft resolutions that have substantial support.
    • This round can be approached similarly to round two. In an NSC simulation, the president should set the topics for breakout rooms or forum threads. In a UN Security Council simulation, organize breakout rooms or threads around each draft resolution.


Section 4

The debrief can be conducted synchronously over videoconferencing. If you want to use an asynchronous approach, you could use a forum or just skip straight to the policy review memo, which, like the position memo and draft clauses, is explained with an exemplar online and can be assigned asynchronously.


As always, please feel free to reach out to us by email if you have questions, feedback, or special needs that we can help with. And if your students have a good experience, we would love to hear about it on Twitter—tag us with @model_diplomacy.