Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Using Negotiation Exercises in an Asynchronous Business Law Course
I’m finishing my second semester of teaching Legal Environment of Business, an introductory undergraduate business law course, asynchronously. One of the challenges of an asynchronous course is creating a sense of community among students. I’ve previously blogged about using negotiation exercises in my business law courses (here and here). In this post, I want to share with readers how I’ve continued to use such materials in my asynchronous courses to promote experiential learning and to create a sense of community.
Canvas is the learning management system for my courses. My asynchronous courses are organized into weekly modules. Students can find all materials for a specific week (assigned readings, videos, assignments etc.) in that week’s module. The feedback I’ve received indicates that students find this an easy to follow format. So, for any week in which there is a negotiation exercise, the students’ role assignments, the negotiation materials, and the assignment itself will be posted in that week’s module. For each exercise, I use Canvas groups to randomly organize students into negotiation teams. Use of Canvas groups also facilitate students’ ability to contact each other, coordinate their negotiation, and complete their assignment. I group students into a different team for each negotiation. Students can negotiate by Zoom or in person. I recommend that a date be set by which students must have a date/time arranged for the negotiation and the completion of the assignment. In the related assignment, students are generally asked to reflect upon the negotiation and to apply the related chapter materials to the negotiation context. Readers are welcome to reach out to me for additional logistical details/advice/assignment information. In the remainder of this post, I’ll mention a bit about each negotiation exercise that I’ve used in my asynchronous courses this semester.
House on Elm Street. I use this negotiation with the chapter on business ethics. It’s a great exercise and its free (thank you, Professor George Siedel)! It not only raises ethical issues, but it also powerfully demonstrates the importance of creative thinking and of understanding your negotiation counterparty’s underlying interests.
Waltham Construction Supply Corp. v. Foster Fuels, Inc. In this negotiation, Waltham trucking alleges that antifreeze purchased from Foster Fuels had a corrosive impact on its trucks. I use this negotiation with the chapter covering alternative dispute resolution because the materials themselves include both a bilateral negotiation and a video mediation of the case. Students can watch the video after the exercise to learn about mediation. Another great thing about this exercise is that once the video is purchased from Harvard’s Program on Negotiation (PON), you can use the accompanying negotiation materials without paying additional fees.
DirtyStuff II. In this negotiation, a variety of stakeholders are negotiating the text for an administrative agency rule set for proposal about the regulation of an industrial by-product. Naturally, I use this six-student negotiation in covering administrative law. I think it’s a great way to promote students’ understanding of the administrative rulemaking process.
Super Slipster. I love this negotiation because it reminds me of using backyard water slides when I was a kid! From a quick Google search, I see that these slides are way fancier now than back then (well, I guess it has been a few years…)! Fortunately, I don’t recall anyone becoming seriously injured from such products. Unfortunately, Adam Sidwell suffers serious injuries after using the Super Slipster, making this negotiation exercise a perfect accompaniment in covering tort law/products liability.
Finally, Harborco, a six-player negotiation about the building of a new port, is one of PON’s most popular exercises and generally a student favorite. It’s a great capstone exercise (I use it at the end of the course) and way to have students apply contract law in an experiential context.