The use of a virtual online debating platform to facilitate student discussion of potentially polarising topics

Paul D. McGreevy*, Vicky Tzioumis, Chris Degeling, Jane Johnson, Robert Brown, Mike Sands, Melissa J. Starling, Clive J. C. Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number68
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • discussion tool
  • ethical frameworks
  • online debating
  • safe learning
  • virtual human continuum

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