OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

Organization of Materials and Assignments

Revised 2/21/01


Students wishing to receive university credit or a certificate for the online course are expected to read all of the material presented on this website,*   and then try to apply some of it to their own lives by writing a series of papers about the material and about their own experiences relating to difficult, prolonged, or intractable conflicts.  Since the website is, indeed, a fairly complicated web, much of the material is interlinked. We suggest you go through it one unit at a time, reading the background (theoretical) material presented in Unit 1, and then moving on to Framing and Scoping Problems and Treatments in Unit 2, and so on.  Read the detailed write-up on each problem and each solution, as well as the material that links to each of those write-ups.  Since each problem, solution, and example is linked to several other problems, solutions, and examples, it will not take long for you to find that you are linking to things you have already read.  When this happens, you don't have to read the material again (unless, of course, you want to review it in the context of what you just read). 

Once you have read through all the material in a particular unit (including the full write-ups, the links to related problems, solutions, and examples), you will then need to write a six to eight page essay about the material presented in the unit.  (See below for more information). 

*NOTE:  Many of the problem and solution write ups have links to outside sources of information.  These are links to websites produced by other people and organizations, not the Conflict Consortium.  While we think you may find these sites very interesting and useful, they are not required reading for the course (they are far too extensive for that!)

Organization of Program Materials

The first unit covers background theoretical materials.  After that, each of the program sections lists common conflict problems (or solutions) with a short description.   When you click on a problem you will receive: 1) a more detailed description of the problem; 2) links to actual examples of the problem; 3) a list of possible solutions to the problem, and 4) links to closely related problems. You will get a similar list of choices if you go to the solution list for a particular problem. In this case you will see a list of possible solutions of each problem along with a two sentence description.  When you click on a solution you will receive: 1)  a more detailed description; 2) examples of  how the solution has been implemented in an actual conflict situation; and 3) see a list of other problems that this solution helps deal with.  To simplify programming, it is often necessary to go back to the previous screen to get the menu of other choices.   To do this use the "go back" arrow on your browser. You can also use the menu bar if you selected it at the opening screen.

The units presented in the course are divided into four parts.  The first part gives background information.  This part focuses primarily on general concepts, theoretical ideas, and overarching assumptions.  It provides background knowledge about the nature and functions of conflict, why and when it occurs, and how it can be approached both practically and theoretically. 

This introductory unit is followed by three groups of problem and treatment units.   The first problem/treatment group involves problem definition--defining what the conflict is about (framing), who is involved, and what the context of the conflict is (scoping). Without an accurate understanding of the people and/or issues involved and how the conflict relates to other situations (past and present), it is very hard to confront any conflict in an effective way.

The second problem/treatment part looks at complicating factors that often make conflicts worse than they really should be and more difficult to handle constructively, even if one takes care of all of the problems discussed earlier. These complicating factors include communication problems, fact-finding problems, procedural problems, and escalation.

The third problem/treatment section examines confrontation strategies. People involved in conflicts can do one of two things. They can withdraw from the conflict, or they can confront it in some way. When they confront it, they are trying to influence the situation in a way which will benefit themselves. They may use force, they may try to negotiate, or they may try to persuade the opponent to change his or her attitudes and/or behavior using what we call "integrative strategies."   Sections address each of these three topics as well as overall treatment strategies which combine multiple approaches.

There is one variation in this structure, however, involving unit 7.  This unit combines one complicating factor category (procedural problems and solutions) with one confrontation strategy category (exchange problems and solutions).  We combined these because most of the procedural problems involve negotiation and related processes which are the primary exchange strategies.  For this reason, we thought it most logical to combine these into one unit for the purpose of the course.

***Users should note that all of the sections in the core "problem" list are in one file, as are the complicating factor problems, the core treatments and the complicating factor treatments.  For this reason, if you scroll down through the framing and scoping problems, you will come to the communication problems. You can keep reading if you want to, but it is probably easier to stop, write your essay for the framing and scoping assignment, and then go on to the communication section. ***

 

Assignments 

Course Unit Papers 

(One is required for each of the eight units.)

For each unit write a six to eight page essay summarizing, from your perspective, the principal conflict problems discussed in that unit and the most effective strategies for dealing with those problems. While this essay should initially be based upon training program materials, you are asked to focus only on those problems and treatment strategies which, from your perspective, are  important and useful. (They might be particularly applicable to a conflict you know about or are involved in, or seem important to you for everyday life).  You should also feel free to criticize the ideas  presented in the materials and offer your own alternative approaches. Note:   Unit one is based on the background theoretical essays, not the problem and solution lists.  The assignment for this unit asks you to apply some of the key theoretical ideas presented in the theoretical essays to a particular intractable conflict.  See the suggested questions listed below.   Users for whom English is not their native language should not spend a lot of effort trying to get the English just right. We are very understanding about the problems of writing in multiple languages.  Assignments should simply be e-mailed to crc@colorado.edu and we will respond by return e-mail.

Percentages indicate the weight that is placed on each section in the grading process.

Unit 1: General Background 12.5%

Readings:   Theoretical essays

Assignment:  Write a six to eight page essay, briefly summarizing an intractable conflict of your choice.  Explain 1) why you think this conflict is intractable and 2) what factors are making it intractable.  In addition, answer the following questions: 3)  Have there been multiple disputes within the longer-running conflict?  4) What is the core conflict about?  Are any complicating problems especially evident?  (Don't go into detail here, as that will come in later assignments, but just think a bit about the distinction between core conflict and complicating factors.)  5) Have any conflict management, settlement, or resolution strategies been attempted?  If so what has been done?  Who was the third party, if there was one?  Was the attempt successful?  (Don't go into detail here either, just say briefly what strategies have been tried by whom and what happened.)

Unit 2: Framing and Scoping 12.5%

Readings:

Assignment:  Identify an intractable conflict you are interested in.  (It may be the same one you identified in Assignment 1 or a new one. If you choose a new one, be sure to give us enough background information so that we can evaluate what you are saying about framing and scoping problems and solutions.)  Then write a six to eight page essay summarizing, from your perspective, the principal framing and scoping problems that seem to exist in that conflict and the most effective strategies for dealing with those problems. While this essay should initially be based upon training program materials, you should focus only on those problems and treatment strategies which are  important or useful to your chosen case.  You should also feel free to criticize the ideas  presented in the materials and offer your own alternative approaches. THE KEY HERE IS TO APPLY THE READINGS TO A SPECIFIC CASE, DON'T JUST FEED BACK THE INFORMATION IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM.

Unit 3: Communication and Fact-Finding 12.5%

Readings:

Assignment:  Identify an intractable conflict you are interested in.  (It may be the same one you identified in Assignment 1 or 2 or a new one. If you choose a new one, be sure to give us enough background information so that we can evaluate what you are saying about framing and scoping problems and solutions.)   Then write a six to eight page essay summarizing, from your perspective, the principal communication and fact-finding  problems that seem to exist in that conflict and the most effective strategies for dealing with those problems. As before, this essay should initially be based upon training program materials, but you should focus only on those problems and treatment strategies which are  important or useful to your chosen case.   You should also feel free to criticize the ideas  presented in the materials and offer your own alternative approaches.

Unit 4: Escalation 12.5%

Readings:

Assignment:  This assignment follows the same pattern.   Take an intractable conflict (the same one or a new one) and  write a six to eight page essay summarizing, from your perspective, the escalation problems that seem to exist in that conflict and the most effective strategies for dealing with those problems.

Unit 5: Force 12.5%

Readings:

Assignment:  This assignment follows the same pattern.   Take an intractable conflict (the same one or a new one) and  write a six to eight page essay summarizing each of the major parties' force-based options for dealing with the situation.  Are any of the problems you read about relating to force evident in your conflict?  What might be done to deal with these problems?

Unit 6: Integrative System 12.5%

Readings:

Assignment:  This assignment follows the same pattern.   Take an intractable conflict (the same one or a new one) and  write a six to eight page essay summarizing each of the major parties' integrative options for dealing with the situation.  Are any of the problems you read about relating to integrative power evident in your conflict?  What might be done to deal with these problems?

Unit 7: Exchange (and Procedural Issues) 12.5%

(Although we consider procedural problems to be complicating factors and exchange strategies to be part of the core conflict, you will see there is a great deal of overlap between these topics. That is why we grouped them together for the readings and assignment. )

Readings:

Assignment:  This assignment follows the same pattern.   Take an intractable conflict (the same one or a new one) and  write a six to eight page essay summarizing the procedural problems that exist, as well as problems that have prevented successful exchange.    What might be done to deal with these problems?

Unit 8: Combination Approaches 12.5%

Readings:

This term refers to the combination of force, exchange, and integrative strategies. All of the techniques listed here are a combination of at least two of those approaches; many combine all three at once.

Assignment:  This assignment follows the same pattern.   Take an intractable conflict (the same one or a new one) and  write a six to eight page essay summarizing several "combination approaches" that might be useful in confronting this conflict in a more constructive way.

 

 

 


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