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Online Deliberation Center

Online Deliberation Center

The three Debating Science pilot courses took place on the Online Deliberation Center (ODC). One of the goals of the project was to test and develop the ODC as a tool for conducting online deliberative dialogue that culminates in a group-authored document. The ODC combines open editing (“wiki”) software and a model for coherently structured deliberations. Wiki technology allows a group of people to add and edit information as they coauthor a document. The ODC creates exciting possibilities for cooperative deliberations. Working in this online environment allows people in diverse locations with different experiences and areas of expertise to learn from each other. The deliberative process involves cooperative intelligence and cooperative learning. Thus it requires consistent participation to be successful.

In addition the ODC allows for the potential to aggregate large quantities of information. However, it is different from encyclopedia type Web sites. The ODC does not merely aggregates information, but places information in the form of coherently organized deliberations. ODC pages are the parts of a practical reason argument. Cumulatively the pages constitute critical evaluations of alternative courses of action to reach particular goal. The ODC pages culminate in conclusions that are recommendations for courses of action.

The model that organizes the ODC pages is designed to be a simplified, but instructive representation of the deliberative process. The model is divided into six areas of discussion: (1) Background explanation, (2) goals, (3) alternatives, (4) practical obstacles, (5) unwanted side effects, and (6) conclusion. Each of the four areas of discussion can be revisited, and the conclusion can be revisited unless some point of no return has been reached. It is a dynamic, dialogical process. This flexibility accommodates changes and modifications in positions through dialogue and when new facts or developments come to light. For these last reasons the wiki technology is particularly well fitted for this model.

On this page you will find documents taken from the ODC pages created by the graduate students in the 2007 and 2008 Debating Science courses. Please note there are variations in the formats of the three courses due to differences in the subject matter and decisions made by the instructors and students. There are also links to a further explanation about the deliberative model and the roles of the instructors and students in the online deliberations. Finally, there is a link to the ODC used in the three courses that can be accessed upon request.  

National Science Foundation


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