Ann E. Woodley 2013-01-16 04:16:25
Online Dispute Resolution: Top Advantages To Consider The time is ripe to introduce a new model of online dispute resolution that has marked advantages over the current methods for resolving commercial disputes. The way business is being conducted is changing rapidly, and commercial enterprises increasingly have turned to the use of the Internet to engage in transactions of national and international scope. At the same time, technological development is moving at a lightening pace; thus, business transactions take less time, expand into additional arenas, and more often occur between geographically distant parties governed by different governmental, legal, and cultural systems. Such changes have rendered litigation systems more cumbersome and possibly even obsolete for the resolving disputes that arise. And even the “traditional” alternatives to the courts embodied in the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) movement are increasingly outmoded for resolving these disputes. Both are severely limited in value for online transactions and/or parties or entities that live or operate thousands of miles apart and/or in different countries or continents. In addition, ADR mechanisms are not regulated on any national or international scale; vary widely in their use, effectiveness, and accountability; and some have themselves taken on time-consuming procedural formalities. These issues—and the rise in the number of disputes arising from online transactions—has sparked the creation of online dispute resolution (ODR), a new branch of ADR for resolving Internet conflicts in limited contexts and for some disputes. Current ODR mechanisms include the ability to file cases and conduct discovery online, communicate online, negotiate online, and track cases online. And although current forms of ODR provide some innovative and helpful ways to resolve online disputes, there are some substantial limitations to them as well. These include a lack of trust, some communication and negotiation difficulties caused by the lack of face-to-face interaction, misinterpretation issues inherent in written communication, and, finally, cultural issues, privacy/confidentiality concerns, and cost. Through the creative use of online educational technology in a law school course, I inadvertently created a new ODR model that offers some marked advantages over the current ODR systems. I am calling it “Integrated ODR”—in that everything one needs to conduct the dispute resolution process can be accessed from the same platform. It was created in the context of the first fully-online course (on ADR) offered at the Phoenix School of Law in the Fall of 2010. In this course, I used a learning management system called “ElluminateLive!” that was designed for online education. The features of the ElluminateLive! program include the ability of all participants to: meet synchronously (at the same time) in a virtual classroom; view a virtual white board (on which they can write simultaneously)--that also serves as a space for displaying a PowerPoint presentation, a video, Internet information, or a computer screen or a document; see a list of the participants’ names; view the professor’s face via webcam; speak orally and be heard by each other; display their faces via a web cam (up to six participants at a time); type comments in a chat box; answer a quiz or poll; participate in a discussion with an outside speaker who appears live through a webcam; etc. The software also includes private breakout rooms for small group work to which the moderator can transport the participants at the click of the button (or to which the participants can transport themselves). The virtual classroom is accessible by simply clicking on a link, no software needs to be downloaded, and the only piece of equipment needed is a web cam (if one is not installed in the participant’s computer). What led to the discovery of this new ODR model was my goal to find a way for students to be able to do virtual mediation role-plays, on their own, during the week—and not just during “class.” It turned out that by making all of our participants “moderators” (the same level of permission given to the instructor), they were able to use all of the ElluminateLive! features on their own. So the students started conducting mediation role-plays during the week, using the virtual classroom as the main “mediation room,” the breakout rooms for caucus sessions, and the other features as needed. And as we approached the ODR section of the course, I realized that the advantages of the virtual role-plays my students had been conducting far exceeded what is currently available in the real ODR world. The advantages of this Integrated ODR model include: 1. The participants can “see” each other’s faces via web cam, thus retaining the advantages of face-to-face interaction. (Video-conferencing technology—which is expensive and which necessitates being in a physical location—is not required.) 2. Separate caucuses can be conducted with the parties—without anyone having to go offline or try to resolve it at another time. 3. The whiteboard feature can be used to list the issues to be resolved, identify the parties’ underlying needs and interests, brainstorm possible solutions, etc. (And the simultaneous, anonymous brainstorming process would eliminate the “reactive devaluation” that often occurs when a party knows that a particular idea came from the opposing party.) 4. A PowerPoint presentation can be displayed, a document can be shared (perhaps in the process of drafting a settlement agreement), and a video or some other Internet information can be used. 5. An unlimited number of participants can join in (but only up to six can show their faces at the same time via web cam), their names will be listed, and each of them can use the voice and chat box functions. 6. This model eliminates problems with written communication, such as misinterpretation and mistakes. 7. This works not only for online disputes but for those participants in any kind of dispute who cannot travel because they are physically disabled or ill; have family, work, or other life responsibilities that make travel difficult; and/or who live hundreds or thousands of miles from the opposing party and cannot afford to travel. 8. This process could be used for other forms of dispute resolution, such as arbitration and negotiation, as well. In conclusion, the future use of the Integrated ODR model would provide numerous advantages for the resolution of commercial (and other types of) disputes—in online, national, and international contexts.
Published by Target Market Media . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/FROM+THE+PROFESSOR/1286630/142685/article.html.