Education is intimately connected with ethics, because holistically speaking education is more than simply passing examinations and acquiring degrees. Education is character building and life long learning. Savants and philosophers throughout the history of humankind have borne testimony to this aspect of education. Today there is a great deal of emphasis on continuous and life long learning which implies that education is a continual learning process and not merely relegated to certification. Our experience in the field of distance education indicates that the profile of distance learners varies, cutting across barriers of gender, class and caste. The distance learner may be suffering from a sense of isolation as he/she makes a return to study after a gap of time or while working. It is there that the distance educator makes a positive, ethical and interventionist role by helping the student to learn beyond the stereotypical classroom situation and can act effectively as the friend, philosopher and guide of the learner. Thus practicing what you preach is the moto of ethics in distance. This chapter deals with ethics in general, its role in distance education and its significance to educational agencies.
The most striking feature of IT in education is to open the doors of global education to the student at his desktop. What is critical to the success of this mode of education is to have ethics in place; this is a world which is based on mutual trust and respect. These ethical concerns have been carried on from the traditional education to the online education, and thus form a very significant base for the future of online education. Ethics has become a buzz word as each discipline of work, say, engineering, medicine, or education, is trying to create standards of its own, thereby aiming to keep an edge over the competitors and peers. One is aware of various jargons like situational ethics, business ethics, business to customer ethics, management ethics, engineering ethics, medical ethics, and educational ethics to name a few. The simplest meaning of “ethics” is “moral principles.” The word “ethics” is derived from the Greek “ethos” which implies “custom or character.” The Oxford English Dictionary explains ethics as the moral philosophy or (set of) moral principles. It pertains to what and what not to do of behaviour by an individual in a right and righteous manner. An individual is expected to conduct himself in a manner so as not to be looked down upon by society.