Guide to Competing Online

Every competition is different, every event or debate format has different conventions and every individual or team who competes has different expectations about their experience. Adding online competition to those differences makes a complicated undertaking even more challenging.

This guide doesn't intend to provide answers to all the questions that must be asked, but instead to pose the questions that Tournament Directors must consider. It also offers some best practices that can be used to frame your own answers to these questions.

How should we adjust event rules for online competition?

The ideal is to recreate, as faithfully as possible, the F2F tournament experience. That said, there are some things that need to be addressed: connectivity issues, contraints on communication, information sharing (especially of evidence in debate rounds) and the like are all considerations that warrant a close examination of your event rules. We'll post a collection of others' online event rules as we collect them.

What if our connection is dropped, interrupted or glitches during a round?

The simple answer to this question is that things stop until the problem is resolved and resume once the problem has been solved. Judges should be instructed to stop time when connectivity problems arise.

The longer answer depends on how well you prepare for contingencies. Having participants and judges share cell numbers, a Zoom or Google Hangouts link or some other means of connecting should one person's connection fail is strongly recommended.

How do we keep people from cheating in an online competition?

Any competitive event presents opportunities for those determined to cheat. Remember that even in F2F tournaments competitors can text, chat and share documents with coaches or others who should not be assisting during a round. Of course, online tournaments present even more temptation. We recommend discussing the issue and articulating expectations explicitly with all participants. Having participants sign an honor code can reinforce these expectations.

How will competitors communicate privately during a round?

Yaatly has several options: direct chat between teammates and private prep breakout rooms accessible within the Competition Rooms provide ample opportunity for partners not co-located to communicate. It's also useful to have a secondary means of communication (SMS, text-based chat, etc.) lined up.

What about equity concerns for student competitors?

Access to dependable, broadband internet service, adequate technology and spaces within which to compete over an extended period are legitimate concerns for an online competition. Often, schools have resources (computers, mifi cellular routers, etc.) that can be made available to students who lack such resources.

In the end, we're hopeful that the significantly lower costs of online competitions (i.e.: no travel costs) will make speech and debate competitions more accessible to students.