Computer-Aided Negotiations of Water Disputes: An Interdisciplinary Role-Playing Course


  • Paper No. JAWRA-12-0037-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.


This study examines the evolution of a microworld created in a stakeholder process into educational materials used in a classroom setting. Microworlds have been used to stimulate learning through engagement in classroom and professional settings, but to our knowledge this is the first example that demonstrates utilization of the same process in both settings in the field of water resources, involving collaboration between the educational and professional sectors. An interdisciplinary role-playing course in Computer-Aided Negotiations (CAN) of water disputes is used as a case study. Upper-level undergraduate students of varied academic backgrounds interacted in both the CAN process and river basin management model used in the CAN process as microworlds for one semester. We found evidence of meaningful engagement with both the process and model by all students. This finding has implications for engaging stakeholders without technical backgrounds in CAN processes. Students reported learning gains on surveys and pre/posttest scores improved, although only one item showed a statistically significant increase. During and after the teaching of this course, there was feedback of work products from the students to river basin managers. The course also provides the opportunity to learn the art of collaborative modeling through example and practice. Course materials are available at