The aim of this chapter is to investigate ethical issues such as individual integrity and rights affecting online students who are Early Years Managers, leading a range of child care and education settings. This study has as its focus the student experience and explores student attitude from the perspective of participants who are transferring knowledge and skills on a day-to-day basis in an ethically and socially responsible Early Years sector via online learning. This type of learning has been characterised by distance and perceived reduced empathy. The research adopts a case study approach and proposes that Pelz’s (2004) “three principles of effective online pedagogy” perspective could be used to explore the tension and ethical issues experienced by online and distance learners. Questionnaires were used and semi structured interviews conducted to collect data. Analysis of the data found no significant ethical concerns in terms of individual integrity and rights perceived by the students. The contributions of an effective pedagogical approach and the students’ professional context to the positive findings are highlighted.
Much of the discussion and research around ethics and on online learning has been restricted to the following key areas: learning and teaching strategies, plagiarism, intellectual property and copyright issues. Luck and Norton (2002) pointed to the long standing argument that, as the distance between people increases, the possibility for genuine empathy decreases. This study analyses ethical dimensions of relationships online. It is acknowledged that the nature of human dignity forms the basis of our consideration of individual rights. Human beings are considered worthy of respect and should always be treated with dignity and respect. This research poses the question:
How are the students’ integrity and rights affected by online learning?
As the ethical dimension and the distance factor is a much unexplored area, this chapter then addresses a further question:
What ethical issues are identified by online students themselves?
This study has as its focus the student experience. These students are managers in the ethically and socially responsible Early Years sector. Yet their vehicle for learning has been characterised by its distance and perceived reduced empathy.
Therefore, this chapter sets out the background to the study, providing the theoretical and the professional contexts in which students are engaged, and gives some information about the online course studied. An outline of the methodology is followed by presentation and discussion of results arising from the study. Finally, conclusions are drawn and implications of the findings suggested.