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I did an online conference, here's what you can expect

Many of us who have done Model United Nations in the past have been hesitant about the prospects of what doing MUN feels like through the online format. As well, I'm sure those of you who haven’t even tried it before can understand how weird it seems to do something like Model UN online. I took no exception to this attitude during the summer, I was petrified about what the upcoming year would look like for my beloved extra-curricular. That’s why I decided to attend TIMUN 2020 over the summer.

Toronto International Model United Nations (TIMUN) is an online conference that was built by University of Toronto students in response to the pandemic. I was in a historical crisis committee about the Iran Hostage crisis, and I was in this committee with two other members of uOMUNA; Carina Harb and Cameron Cadogan. In this article, I will justify to you why things don’t have to be all doom and gloom for MUN this year, but I want to explain this through a realistic lens that gives you a good idea of what to expect.

The strongest thing about online conferences is debate. The structure of debate is almost entirely intact, particularly moderated debate, note passing, and document writing. It's helpful that many parts of debate have already heavily leaned on technology, even at in person conferences. Programs that are used to moderate debate in-person (like ChairMUN) translate very well. Some conferences, like CANiMUN, have already experimented with virtual note passing, and every conference I’ve ever been to has used google docs to write resolutions already. For the purposes of procedure in the conference itself, there were almost no drawbacks for the functioning of the committee.

From a technical perspective, you might assume that conferences in which hundreds of individuals are being coordinated might be a nightmare. I wouldn’t blame you for that assumption, but in all honesty things worked out very well. Day one was rough, but once things got into a rhythm there were almost no technical issues. The chair might need to get oriented with the software now that they have been put in front of a group of delegates. In addition, this experience I had might be even less significant now, given that students have been doing online classes for a couple months this Fall.

I have given online conferences a lot of praise here, but it would be dishonest to ignore some drawbacks. The social aspect of conferences suffers a lot. TIMUN didn’t hold any social events, but I assume this will be an exception to the rule because it was planned in a relatively short time frame. I was still able to make friends with other people in my committee. Even though the platform used by TIMUN had some built in solutions, unmoderated caucuses still suffered from the inherent awkwardness of conference calling. But these negatives in absolutely no way outweigh the positive experience that I had at TIMUN. I had a fantastic time debating with a skilled group of delegates, and I was able to bond with the other members of my delegation very well. Online Model UN is still Model UN, and I would seriously implore anyone reading this to give it a shot.

Entry by Michael Buettel


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