Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ethics And Distance Learning

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The impact of technology on teaching in both the traditional classroom, as well as distance learning is huge. Distance education in the form of online or web-based has emerged as a core educational strategy. The Internet and other networking technologies have given us, the students, different avenues through which a formal education can be obtained. Most higher education institutions have found the online classroom to be cost effective, wide reaching, as well as a technologically worthwhile program. They have recognized the ability to be able to reach vast student populations, who for whatever reason would not be able to attend otherwise.

Today, students participate in these distance learning education programs for a variety of reasons, the most common being, convenience, flexibility, and autonomous learning. All of this is a draw for many students who work full time, manage families, social obligations, as well as professional commitments.

All individuals embarking on any educational journey are concerned with the ethical and social responsibilities, which surround these technologies and the virtual classroom. This technological revolution has impacted assessment, access to libraries, laboratories, classrooms and campuses. Discussions and collaborations with our fellow students are only a few buttons and commands away. There are obvious advantages as well as disadvantages to these distance-learning forums. It is up to the educators and those being educated to make sure we handle all changes ethically, as well as providing a quality educational experience to all.

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The Ethics Of Distance Learning Today

The ethical use of information technology in our distance-learning forum can be described as a form of psychological distance. When we attend class on campus, we are interacting with other individuals face to face daily. If we act in an unethical or inappropriate way, we are immediately made aware and visually see the results of such actions.

When we attend class through a distance-learning forum, we are now relying on and using information technology. Some individuals use this technology inappropriately and in a way that does harm to others. They don’t recognize this because the act feels less personal due to the inability to see the face of the other individual or hear their voice (tones).

Traditionally, morals and values are learned at home and then reinforced in the educational system. Today we see this is no longer the norm. Morals and values are not being taught in some households and our educational system is now restricted in their role of teaching these social values. This causes the psychological distance of individuals in their interactions with others.

Today’s college student has been raised in an era of moral decline. They have been witness to public scandals and corruption by government officials, major corporations, as well as individual citizens. These events definitely affect their attitudes about ethical behavior and what is morally right. High school student embarking on their college career may not have a clear understanding of the collegiate issues of ethics.

It seems as though some of these students are completely unaware of Internet ethics and how this forum can be abused and misused. There are so many breaches of ethics within this forum on a daily basis, such as harassment, defamation of character, and infringement of intellectual property rights, just to name a few. These breaches may be unintentional and often stem from the innocent ignorance to the policies that are in place to hinder these types of actions.

How Distance Learning Ethics Could Evolve

First, distance learning ethics could evolve by making sure that all participants have reviewed all guidelines and policies by the university, the internet service provider, other member networks that they connect to, as well as any other services or resources that they connect to or make use of, and have them sign a contract acknowledging the proper ethics that they should be engaged in.

Second, the educational institution could also address the ethics of distance learning by setting a policy that provides a model for all students to follow, incorporate technology issues into the curriculum, and create a workable definition of the distance education forum and what is expected by each individual.

Third, the educators would need to consistently review the policies and keep them current and ethical. As technology changes, so will policies, procedures, and ethical guidelines. The best way to do this would be to implement an assessment procedure. This would help in the implementation of the necessary changes as they arise.

What I Recommend The Ethics Of Distance Learning Be In The Future

There are basic day to day ethical practices that should be followed no matter what forum you are attending. These practices are honesty; respect for others; keeping your word; and being fair. The educators, as well as the students should utilize these ethical practices. These practices are the golden rules of distance learning, traditional classrooms, and life itself.

I believe that the development of a guideline of the ethical practices expected within the educational forum is critical to its success. There is a definite need to review all higher learning institutional policies to make sure that they apply to the distance-learning forum, as well as to make sure they are ethical within that forum. It may become necessary to develop new policies for the distance education forum. In the developing of these policies, we must remember the diversity of our student population in the distance-learning forum.

Higher learning institutions must constantly provide information to the students over and over again. They must make sure that all means of communication are identical for students attending class on campus or those who have chosen distance learning.

Higher Learning institutions must continuously develop and improve the policies and the technology used in distance education. This can be achieved by working with the students to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t work in this virtual environment. After all, the students are the experts.


When it comes to the impact of technology on teaching in both the traditional classroom setting and the distance learning setting, there are only a few possibilities for what lies ahead. There is always the possibility that traditional higher learning institutions may become extinct as the number of on campus students continues to decrease, while the number of distance learning student continues to increase.

A second possibility is that the continuous evolution of the telecommunications and information technology revolution will have little impact on the traditional setting of the higher learning institutions.

A third possibility is that all higher learning institutions will continue to exist, but in a completely different capacity.

Whatever the future may hold for higher learning institutions, one thing is for sure, the Internet and distance learning forces us to deal with ethics on a more global educational scale. This new technology is continuously changing the way we educate our students and in turn creates ethical issues unique to that.

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