Publication Details

McGreevy, P. D., Tzioumis, V., Degeling, C., Johnson, J., Brown, R., Sands, M., Starling, M. J. & Phillips, C. J. C. (2017). The use of a virtual online debating platform to facilitate student discussion of potentially polarising topics. Animals, 7 (9), 68-1-68-10.


The merits of students exchanging views through the so-called human continuum exercise (HCE) are well established. The current article describes the creation of the virtual human continuum (VHC), an online platform that facilitates the same teaching exercise. It also reports feedback on the VHC from veterinary science students (n = 38). First-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students at the University of Sydney, Australia, trialed the platform and provided feedback. Most students agreed or strongly agreed that the VHC offered: a non-threatening environment for discussing emotive and challenging issues; and an opportunity to see how other people form ideas. It also made them think about how to express their ideas and make arguments; and left them feeling more comfortable about expressing their views using it than they would discussing ideas face-to-face (98%, 84%, 79% and 76%, respectively). All respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the VHC encouraged them to consider other opinions. These data suggest that the transition of the HCE to an online platform facilitates dialogue on difficult ethical issues in a supportive environment.



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