NGS Super National Virtual Debating Guide

The following guide is a general overview of the rules and conditions for the competition. All school coordinators and competition adjudicators should be familiar with this guide prior and during the competition.


How Does it Work


The Virtual Debating Program utilises the Zoom Video Conferencing platform to host all debates. Once a match has been scheduled the school coordinator will be informed (via the match-up screen) of the link to the Zoom host room for that debate. Participating teams should join the debate using this link via their VC Encoder or laptop/desktop device at least 5 minutes prior to the start time.

All competitions will be "Double Elimination" structure in 2019 meaning all schools would need to lose twice before exiting. This structure means more debates for each team in most cases as compared to a straight knockout competition.


Eligibility to Enter

All Australian independent schools are eligible to participate in the program as long as they meet the minimum equipment requirements below. Schools may enter up to one team per division and must assign a staff coordinator to each team who will be the main point of contact in scheduling.


Background

Virtual Debating kicked off in 2015 as a trial for participating TtEDSC project schools and was run a joint program between AISNSW and ISQ. In 2016 the competition was moved to the ZOOM platform and was opened up to all independent schools. A full national competition was run involving 4 age divisions, 35 schools and 64 teams. 2017 saw the competition grew to 96 teams and in 2018 over 100 teams and almost 250 debates were completed.

In 2019, The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW) has taken over sole administration of the competition and moved it from the ISDCN website into the AISNSW website. We look forward to continuing the growth of this competition in the years to come. 


Equipment Requirements

To participate in the Program, schools should ensure they can meet the requirements listed below, a test connection will be done with all participating schools prior to the competition start.

  • reliable internet connection
  • Video conferencing encoder (codec - H323/SIP) OR
  • Desktop/laptop computer with the following peripherals
    • Microphone - ability to pick up participant input from anywhere in a reasonable sized room. They are also “echo-cancelling” which means output from the speakers is detected and not permitted to loop back through the microphone; very disconcerting for those speaking at the other end and unacceptable in a debate scenario.
    • HD Camera - HD quality cameras that can ZOOM and PAN to any position in the room. Digital ZOOM acceptable but optical zoom desired. Programmable pre-set positions are highly desirable.
    • Speakers - sound output sufficient so incoming audio can be heard comfortably anywhere in the room
  • TV or projector for input

If you do not have this equipment already, you must commit to purchasing it prior to the competition starting.


Debate Dates and Times


The 2019 competition will begin in late February and run through to mid November, across 9 rounds of debating. 

Each round has a specific start and end time, all debates in this round must be completed within this time frame. Please refer to the global calendar or the individual age division pages for these round listings. 

It is up to the school coordinators from each school to negotiate a suitable time for the debate in the lead up to the round. As soon as a match-up is confirmed on the draw, school coordinators may begin negotiating. Once a time has been agreed upon it should be entered via the appropriate link in the match-up screen.


Time Zones

As this is a National initiative it is important to remember that there are a number of time zones in place, please keep these in mind when negotiating with interstate schools. All debates shown in the Match Centre will be in either AEDT (Feb - April approx) or AEST time post Daylight Savings.

Daylight Savings:

  • AEDT: ACT, NSW, VIC and TAS
  • NT: minus 1.5 hours
  • QLD: minus 1 hour
  • SA: minus 30 minutes
  • WA: minus 3 hours

Non-Daylight Savings

  • AEST: ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC and TAS
  • SA and NT: minus 30 minutes
  • WA: minus 2 hours


Structure of Debates


Debates are formatted as a three on three debate, there are no PsOI or Replies in this format. 

The debates will have different structure and rules depending on the age groups of the competitors. Allowance for younger age groups is made in an attempt to make this a more formative experience for students at this level. All teams will have 3 speakers with an optional 4th silent speaker who may help out team mates during preparation and during the debate. See descriptions for each age level below:

  • Senior Debates (Years 9+10 and Open) are “impromptu” with one hour of preparation time. Teams do not know the topic or which side of the debate they are on until 1 hour before the debate starts. The adjudicator/host will reveal the topic and affirmative/negative assignments at the beginning of the preparation time . Schools will then mute the microphones but leave their cameras running. After an hour the adjudicator will re-join the session and start the debate. This level will allow an “authentic” approach to preparation and teams will be able to access the Internet and other content sources during their hour of preparation.

    • Year 9 + 10: Staff/Coordinater may assist during preparation time for technique and approach only. No assistance can be given on content/argument. There is to be NO input from the staff/coordinator during the actual debate. Staff/coordinator should be visible on camera.

    • Open: No staff/coordinator input is allowed at this level. Staff/coordinator should be visible on camera.

  • Junior Debates (Years 5+6 and 7+8) teachers in this division can access their topic and indication of Affirmative or Negative position a week before the debate. All resources can be utilised to build arguments.

    • Year 5 + 6: Staff/Coordinator at this level can provide input on technique, approach and content in the lead up to the debate. There is to be NO input from the staff/coordinator during the actual debate. Staff/coordinator should be visible on camera.

    • Year 7 + 8: Staff/Coordinator at this level can provide input on technique and approach in the lead up to the debate but NOT content.  There is to be NO input from the staff/coordinator during the actual debate. Staff/coordinator should be visible on camera.


Use of computers during debates

As outlined above, authentic preparation using internet enabled devices is allowed for all levels of debates in the competition regardless of a one-hour (impromptu debates) or a one-week preparation.


However, during debates the use of computers/tablets/phones is restricted to speech note summaries only. Active use of the internet/apps or documents are not allowed once a debate has started. The use of computers by students effectively as palm cards is allowed but obviously the straight reading of speeches may influence a student’s “manner” score.


Time Allowances


  • Primary (Years 5 + 6):
    • Topic released on the Monday prior to the scheduled debate time (all teams will have at least a week preparation time)
    • Debate, including adjudication will be approximately 1 hour
    • Individual speaking times are 4 minutes per speaker with a single clap warning at 3 minutes, 2 claps at 4 minutes and a continuous clap at 4 minutes 15 seconds.

  • Junior (Years 7 + 8):
    • Topic released on the Monday prior to the scheduled debate time (all teams will have at least a week preparation time)
    • Debate, including adjudication will be approximately 1 hour
    • Individual speaking times are 5 minutes per speaker with a single clap warning at 4 minutes, 2 claps at 5 minutes and a continuous clap at 5 minutes 15 seconds.

  • Middle (Years 9 + 10): 
    • Topic released at the start of the debate - teams given 1 hour research/preparation time
    • Debate, including adjudication and preparation time will be approximately 2 hours
    • Individual speaking times are 6 minutes per speaker with a single clap warning at 5 minutes, 2 claps at 6 minutes and a continuous clap at 6 minutes 15 seconds.

  • Senior (Open): 
    • Topic released at the start of the debate - teams given 1 hour research/preparation time
    • Debate, including adjudication and preparation time will be approximately 2 hour
    • Individual speaking times are 7 minutes per speaker with a single clap warning at 6 minutes, 2 claps at 7 minutes and a continuous clap at 7 minutes 15 seconds.


Scoring and Adjudication


An adjudicator will be assigned to each debate, either live or post the debate via a review of the recording. Where possible the adjudicator will deliver the result at the conclusion of the debate. The final score sheet will also be loaded into the match-up screen in the Match Centre after the scores have been submitted by the Adjudicator

Scoring will be between 70-80 with the average speech receiving a 75. The scores will further be divided into three sections: Matter (or content: the logical construction of arguments and the level of engagement in refutation), Manner (or style: the use of verbal and nonverbal techniques to engage the audience) and Method (or structure and strategy: the organisation of the speech to maximise clarity and persuasiveness). Matter and Manner will be worth 40 marks each and Method will be worth 20 marks: a speech with average Matter or Manner will receive a 30, and a speech with average Method shall receive a 15, etc.

For further information on scoring or the technical aspects of debating please consult the Australasian Debating Guide website


Behaviour and Etiquette


The normal patterns of good behaviour and manners expected in normal face-to-face debates are also expected in virtual debates, respect for opponents must be shown always. In a virtual debate this includes:

  • Student team members on both sides should, and will be visible on camera always and should be respectful at all times. Gesticulations of any kind (besides polite applause) towards the camera and opposition are not appropriate. Coordinators are asked to monitor their students to ensure appropriate behaviour.
  • Being muted when the other side is speaking. An advantage of virtual debating is that the observing (non-speaking) team can verbalise thoughts to an extent as it will not be discourteous to the other team who can’t hear.
  • All students, staff and spectators in the room should be visible on camera whenever possible.


Connection and Testing


Due to the nature of the competition and the reliance on all three parties being able to connect at once it is essential that the following protocols are followed:


Perform a test connection

As soon as your debate time is scheduled, the link will be available in the match-up screen via the Match Centre. You MUST connect to this link in the lead up to the debate (at least 24 hours before the debate) with the computer or encoder you will be connecting to the debate with to ensure you can connect.

Any issues connecting should be resolved well before the debate.


Join before the start time

On the day of the debate, please ensure you enter the Virtual Room at least 5 minutes prior to the start time, so that the debate can begin on time. Remember that the other parties involved may not have much time either side of the debate, so it is essential that they begin on time. 

In the event that a team is not present in the room after 15 minutes a forfeit will will be handed to the opposition. In the event that an adjudicator is not present please contact the AISNSW Communications Team to enable to session to be recorded and reviewed later.


Microphone use during the debate

Please mute your microphone unless it is your time to speak. It is also good etiquette to to applaud the opposition speakers at the start and completion of each speaker, at these times the microphone can be 'on' and the muted again afterwards.


Camera use during debates

In a debate at least two camera ZOOM and PAN positions should be utilised:

  1. A close up of the current speaker – possibly at a lectern. All speakers should assume the same position
  2. A frame including the whole team – this pre-set could be used when the other team is speaking. For schools without software adjustable ZOOM and PAN on their web cameras these changes will need to be made manually and as quickly as possible.