Open to People, Open with People: Ethical Issues in Open Learning

Open to People, Open with People: Ethical Issues in Open Learning

Ormond Simpson (Open University of the United Kingdom, UK)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-867-3.ch012
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The increasing multiculturalism in its society has recently encouraged the study of ethical dimensions in higher education in the UK. Distance and open learning has long had such a dimension, but this chapter will argue that ethical issues need to be reviewed in the light of recent developments. Three examples in distance education are taken: the increasing use of e-learning, dropout rates, and the development of methods of predicting student success. Some evidence suggests that e-learning may harm the openness of open learning given the numbers of educationally disadvantaged potential students which it will exclude. Dropout rates in distance education appear to be markedly higher than in conventional learning, which raises ethical issues of honesty and openness, and finally the use of methods in which a student’s success can be predicted raises ethical issues about if and how that information should be communicated to that student. Considerable work has gone into the development of a discourse of medical ethics in response to modern developments in medicine. But this chapter suggests that medical models are inadequate to judge ethical issues in distance and open learning and it calls for the development of a similar discourse in the ethics of distance and open learning.
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Ethics In Open And Distance Learning

It has indeed long been clear that open and distance learning attracts its fair share of ethical issues for practitioners. Gearhart (2001) suggests that the increasing use of information technology in distance education may actually enhance unethical behaviours because of the effects of “psychological distance”; when acts are carried out at a distance they feel less personal because the person acted on cannot be heard or seen in the exchange. Yet Visser (2001) noted that “a search of the literature including documentation on the World Wide Web reveals little explicit concern with ethical questions among the community of professionals in the area of distance education and open learning” (slide 5).

Despite Visser’s comment, there have been some examinations of ethics in distance learning. Some early work by Reed and Sork (1990) suggests that ethical dilemmas in distance learning can arise in each of six areas:

  • 1.

    Admission intake and retention of students: For example, dealing with issues around how fair an admissions process might be;

  • 2.

    Programme and course marketing: For example, the temptation to put the “best face” on programmes when describing them in a course catalogue, or what Simpson (2004a) calls the “recruitment vs. retention” tension;

  • 3.

    Programme and course administration: For example, how far the institution’s various regulations are fair to both students and society as a whole as the ultimate customers of qualifications awarded by the institution;

  • 4.

    Leaner/facilitator interaction: For example, given that learning can expose the learner to difficult emotional situations, how far does the institution and its tutor have a duty to take some responsibility for the learner’s emotional state and offer support?;

  • 5.

    Course development and presentation: For example, how far should course writers develop materials that reflect diversity rather than “pre-digested material that students are in danger of soaking up uncritically” (Cole, Coats, & Lentell, 1986). This is a concern shared by Tait (1989), who is concerned about the potential of distance learning to be undemocratic; and

  • 6.

    Programme, course and learner evaluation: For example, what are the ethical issues in ensuring that assessment is fair to all interested parties (learners, employers, and society) as a whole?

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
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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