The use of information and communication technology has grown at an unprecedented rate and provides a revolutionary way of learning because specific information is easy to find on the Internet. One of the technology approaches in learning is e-learning or electronic learning.
Ethics is about ‘what people should do’. Ethical questions arise, when different interests of individuals conflict and thus there is need for a higher level of principles that are fair to the rights of all concerned. Ethical principles mean cooperative and rational norms that have higher priority when compared with self-interests of the participants. This is why ethics in a learning environment denotes sensitivity to multicultural understanding, tolerance and civility. Ethical considerations in e- Learning are derived from both communication ethics and instructional ethics.
Ethics in education means, granting educational opportunities to anyone on equal basis; disregarding nationality, gender, ideological differences or mental/physical disabilities. Through this perspective, online learning environments have an important potential, owing to their nature to reach international audiences. Considering the number and diversity of students in e-Learning environments, policies balancing different expectations and studying how the participants perceive ethics in online learning environments are important. During online courses, like in the face-to-face classes; students have to show respect to their instructors and course mates.
Code of instructional ethics for educational administrators:
- Making the well-being of students, the fundamental value for all decision making
- Honesty and integrity for fulfilling professional responsibilities
- Protecting civil and human rights of all individuals
- Obeying the local, state and national laws
- Implementing the administrative rules and regulations of the affiliated institution
- Pursuing appropriate measures to correct regulations that are not in conformity with sound educational goals
- Avoiding use of position for personal gains
- Accepting the academic degrees of the accredited institutions only
- Maintaining standards and making research for continuing professional development
- Honoring all contracts until fulfillment or release.
ELearning is the fastest growing sector of the higher education industry, e-Learning environments require policies balancing different expectations of participants and considering how the users perceive ethics during online learning. As in the case of face-to-face classes; learners must show respect and tolerance among each other, and conduct civil relations and interaction based on pre-determined rules. Contrary to the understanding that there must be some norms, there are academicians that assert; using codified solutions, rigid rules does not lead to the real solution of the ethical problems at higher education institutions.
An understanding of ethics depending on detailed codes of rules and regulations is very restrictive and takes professionals’ autonomy away also limiting their critical thinking about their own practice. Collaboration of different professionals may ease solving the ethical issues, since the combination of different experiences can lead to some constructive decisions as guide to be followed by users of learning environments.
For an e-Learning environment, etiquette provides the framework for civility of interactions, by providing standards of considerate behavior. Respect, patience are among these principles. In both a/synchronous communications, instructional ethics requires granting educational opportunities to anyone on an equal basis; disregarding nationality, gender, ideological differences or mental/physical disabilities. Through this perspective, online learning environments have an important potential, owing to the nature of the learning environment, to reach large audiences.
Ethics in e- Learning, considering the number and diversity of students in these environments necessitate policies balancing different expectations and studying how the users perceive proper conduct. It is mainly the responsibility of the higher education institutions to prepare the related frameworks and monitoring them. This is crucial for both the successful functioning of the system and meeting the expectations of the users. Online ethics emanates from computer ethics and the ethical implications of technology.
Article by Blessing Bassey