Ethical Concerns with Open and Distance Learning

Ethical Concerns with Open and Distance Learning

Glenn Russell (Monash University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-867-3.ch006
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Some of the more important ethical concerns associated with open and distance learning are not those that may be faced by learners. Instead, the challenges faced by those that design ODL or use it in their teaching can be seen as increasingly important. These challenges include globalization, which has emphasized instrumental rather than social aims of education, and the use of cognitive rather than affective pedagogies. For ODL designers and teachers, this has resulted in a concentration on cognitive tasks and market-driven aspects of open and distance learning at the expense of the social harmony that might otherwise be achieved. The overarching ethical concern for ODL practitioners should be to implement an appropriate pedagogy that will satisfy both instrumental and social aims. While this can be achieved, in part, through the use of the pedagogies outlined in this chapter, the problem is seen as being associated with deeply interwoven social and cultural contexts. Consequently, there is a greater responsibility for all ODL practitioners to ensure that the choices that they make are ethical at all times, irrespective of the demands of any employer, institution or authority.
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Meanwhile, so long as we draw breath, so long as we live among men, let us cherish humanity. Seneca, Roman Philosopher, CA 4BC-AD65 (Seneca, 2007)


Prologue: Ethical Dilemmas And Odl

Increasingly, the enthusiastic adoption of Open and Distance Learning Systems (ODLS) in higher education has resulted in the increased availability of tertiary courses for students and benefits for the organizations that provide it. The concurrent emergence of theory and practice related to open and distance education (ODL) has highlighted emotional and psychological issues, and it has raised questions related to the role of virtual learning environments and pedagogies in promoting human and social needs. The future development of ODL as a mature discipline requires mutual trust between students, teachers, developers and researchers. This development is at a critical stage, because rather than anticipate ethical problems, and plan appropriate procedures to meet the challenge, it has too often been the practice for those associated with ODL to take the easiest and most pragmatic path, without adequate consideration of the long-term effects of their work on individuals and society. As Russell (2005) suggests, “It is…possible for educators to become overly preoccupied with online technologies, financial considerations, and utility at the expense of ethical and community considerations.”

It is likely that the statement in the code of ethics from the Australian College of Educators that “Teachers are responsible for what they teach and for the way that they relate to students” (Haynes 1998, p. 176) probably has counterparts in similar ethical codes from other countries. It suggests that there is a continued ethical responsibility that must be faced by every individual working with ODL which cannot be excused by any characteristics of the technology itself, or by institutional constraints. One of the problems associated with ODL has been that the long-term consequences of choices between alternatives are often unclear. Russell (2004) suggests that examples of irresponsible behaviour, including the actions of surgeons, motor vehicle manufacturers and operators of radiation equipment, are more easily identified when there is an empirically verifiable cause and effect.

In this respect, a comparison between the work of scientists and practitioners involved in ODL is instructive, in that disinterested observers can identify moral dilemmas more easily with the work of scientists. This is because the potential of a technology to result in harm is clearer when death or a physical injury is likely to result from its use. In the case of ODL designers and teachers, alleged disadvantages such as psychological effects, or long-term changes to the nature of society, are likely to be disputed.

Two examples related to scientists’ approaches to moral dilemmas illustrate this point. Jungk (1958) describes the attitude of scientists who worked on the first atomic bombs. He gives the example of a brilliant mathematician at Los Alomos, whose work had contributed to the first nuclear explosions. However, his interest was in science rather than in the effects of his work on people. He did not watch the trial explosions of the bombs, and refused to look at pictures of destruction that they had caused. A second example can be found in the work of Louis Feiser (1964), whose work contributed to the development of napalm. Feiser’s book describing his experiments is a well-written explanation of the scientific method used to develop napalm. However, despite discussion of incidents in his personal life (and unlike Oppenheimer, 1948), there is little evidence that he was preoccupied with the moral consequences of the technology that he was developing. Indeed, in an interview with the New York Times (“Napalm inventor discounts guilt”, 1967), Feiser stated that he felt no guilt about his work, and that it was not his business to deal with political and moral questions. It is this same concept of the pure technician who is not accountable beyond his area of expertise that is criticized in Sammon’s (1992) condemnation of Albert Speer as a moral failure.

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Table of Contents
Alan Tait
Ugur Demiray, Ramesh C. Sharma
Ugur Demiray, Ramesh C. Sharma
Chapter 1
Ugur Demiray, Ramesh C. Sharma
Education is intimately connected with ethics, because holistically speaking education is more than simply passing examinations and acquiring... Sample PDF
Ethical Practices and Implications in Distance Education: An Introduction
Chapter 2
Michael F. Beaudoin
Launching and sustaining innovative new academic programs is typically a complex enterprise, especially distance education projects, and more... Sample PDF
Ethical Conundrums in Distance Education Partnerships
Chapter 3
Paul Kawachi
This chapter presents the desirable interactions involved in teaching and learning at a distance. In these interactions, there are considerable... Sample PDF
Ethics in Interactions in Distance Education
Chapter 4
J. S. Dorothy, Ugur Demiray, Ramesh C. Sharma, Ashwini Kumar
In an era when the distance teaching institution, irrespective of their type, namely single mode, dual mode, mixed mode and consortium, is involved... Sample PDF
Ethics in the Ambit of Distance Education
Chapter 5
Dele Braimoh, Jonathan Ohiorenuan Osiki
The current process of democratizing education has inevitably led to the explosive demands by the citizens of the different countries for... Sample PDF
Creating a Firewall Against Unethical Behaviours in Open and Distance Education Practice
Chapter 6
Glenn Russell
Some of the more important ethical concerns associated with open and distance learning are not those that may be faced by learners. Instead, the... Sample PDF
Ethical Concerns with Open and Distance Learning
Chapter 7
Deb Gearhart
Are our students prepared to use technology ethically? This is a question of concern to this author and addressed in this chapter. Experience as the... Sample PDF
Preparing Students for Ethical Use of Technology: A Case Study for Distance Education
Chapter 8
Rocci Luppicini
There is growing recognition of the important role of conversation ethics in open and distance learning systems, particularly within online learning... Sample PDF
Conversation Ethics for Online Learning Communities
Chapter 9
Terry D. Anderson, Heather P. Kanuka
The emergent world of network-based education creates challenges for researchers who wish to further our understanding of the opportunities and... Sample PDF
Ethical Conflicts in Research on Networked Education Contexts
Chapter 10
Michael Sankey, Rod St. Hill
The changing nature of distance education in the higher education context is investigated in this chapter, particularly in relation to... Sample PDF
The Ethics of Designing for Multimodality: Empowering Nontraditional Learners
Chapter 11
Shalin Hai-Jew
This chapter examines the importance of cultural sensitivity and localization in the delivery of global e-learning. The branding, course ecology... Sample PDF
Why "Cultural Sensitivities" and "Localizations" in Global E-Learning?
Chapter 12
Ormond Simpson
The increasing multiculturalism in its society has recently encouraged the study of ethical dimensions in higher education in the UK. Distance and... Sample PDF
Open to People, Open with People: Ethical Issues in Open Learning
Chapter 13
Chi Lo Lim
Open and distance learning systems (ODLS) brought about immeasurable advancement in the delivery of education. Albeit all the benefits ODLS offers... Sample PDF
An American Perspective of Ethical Misconduct in ODLS: Who's to Blame?
Chapter 14
Patrick J. Fahy
Ethics review of research involving humans is intended to protect human dignity by balancing harms and benefits. The foci and methods used in... Sample PDF
Ethics Review Concerns of Canada's Distance Researchers
Chapter 15
Judy Nagy
This chapter discusses the globalisation of education and the challenges and opportunities arising from technologies that can impact cheating... Sample PDF
Market Forces in Higher Education: Cheating and the Student-Centred Learning Paradigm
Chapter 16
Leslie Farmer
Case studies provide an authentic way to teach ethical behavior through critical analysis and decisionmaking because it reveals nuanced factors in... Sample PDF
Using Real Case Studies to Teach Ethics Collaboratively to Library Media Teachers
Chapter 17
Tina J. Parscal, Peter Bemski
This qualitative case study was designed to determine the extent to which a framework for exploring ethical principles for online facilitation is... Sample PDF
Preparing Faculty to Integrate Ethics into Online Facilitation
Chapter 18
Yavuz Akbulut, H. Ferhan Odabasi, Abdullah Kuzu
This chapter focuses on academic work on computer ethics conducted at a computer education department in Turkey. The chapter starts with the... Sample PDF
Computer Ethics: Scenes from a Computer Education Department in Turkey
Chapter 19
Donna Harper, Petra Luck
The aim of this chapter is to investigate ethical issues such as individual integrity and rights affecting online students who are Early Years... Sample PDF
Ethical Practice and Online Learning—A Contradiction? A Case Study
Chapter 20
Carmel McNaught, David M. Kennedy
This chapter is an essay about a new ethical problem that has become apparent to us in recent years. Bilingual plagiarism is the act of passing off... Sample PDF
Bilingual Plagiarism in the Academic World
Chapter 21
Ugur Demiray, Ramesh C. Sharma
The changing dimensions of distance education methodologies, new roles of distance teachers, and learners and use of modern communication... Sample PDF
Ethical Practices and Implications in Distance Education: Lessons Learned
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