Ethics and Social Responsibility, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction

The concept of distant education has opened up enormous possibilities for those students unable to attend a full-time, on campus education.  The flexibility of the model allows for instruction to be carried out over electronic media i.e. computers. This taking advantage of modern communications and software.  The new approach does however have a number of important ethical considerations that impose a social responsibility for both the student and education provider.  These ethical considerations are further explored here. (Carroll, A.B. 2008)

Top 5 Ethical Issues

A research study was carried out at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. This based upon the social ethical responsibilities of virtual Universities and distance learning concepts. They identified the following top ethical issues:  (Brey, P. 2003)

  1. Can distance learning activities from virtual universities be conducted on the same lines as conventional universities without compromising quality and standards of education?
  2. Are academic values compromised in the concept of distance education such that moral and ethical considerations become eroded?
  3. Within the concept of academic freedom – does distance learning go too far and facilitates cheating by means of sub-contracting elements of the teaching process?
  4. How does one control ethical responsibility of both staff and students in a virtual distance learning concept?
  5. Are the ethical considerations of equality and diversity adequately catered for in a distance learning environment?

Can distance learning activities from virtual universities be conducted on the same lines as conventional universities without compromising quality and standards of education?

The issue of education  has  long been viewed as a money-making machine.  The importance of paying money for accepting and adding new departments,  studies , or shifting the path of studies to a different way has been dropped down to a level of normalcy. This issue is the core root of many other issues that arise quite often in universities, be it in America, Europe, or anywhere else in the world that has a prestigious name. There is, of course, a major dilemma when it comes to the financial issue of these universities which is that they don’t have enough money to finance most of these departments  and in some cases have no choice but to accept these contributions. Not always, but in many cases these contributions turn into a weapon of harassment and force these universities to take a different shift in their research (Davis, K. 1975)

One example was the instance at UCLA with the endowment of a Turkish Chair financed by the Turkish government. In return the Chair was going to publish researched materials which would deny the event of the Armenian Genocide. (Fisk, R. 2011)  This, however, is only one of many instances that take place on yearly basis.  The only way to cease this immoral factor from our academia is to accept contributions with no “catch” and only as a way of good-hearted deed.  In addition, they should sign a document stating that the contribution will not force the department or the research center to seek a different area of study than that of their own.

Are academic values compromised in the concept of distance education such that moral and ethical considerations become eroded?

The transfer of cultural values was considered to be a prime asset of the traditional University; the ability to mix amongst a group of peers and interchange ideas, values and cultural experiences. This was deemed to be an integral part of the social learning experience and expand individual horizons from moral and ethical standpoints.  It may be argued that this side of education is lost in the virtual or distance learning model concept. The concept of avatars on computers adds little in terms of getting to know the real individual. In this sense it is useful to consider the earliest University concept as provided  by Socrates and Plato; they provided a discussion forum to advance education, theory and understanding by the interchange of ideas amongst individuals.

Within the concept of academic freedom – does distance learning go too far and facilitates cheating by means of sub-contracting elements of the teaching process?

It may be argued that certain students are obtaining degree qualifications under false pre-texts by using ghost writers to complete academic term papers for them.  This as opposed to using such services merely as a support function to the compilation of research papers.  This ethical dilemma falls under the control of the Professors and Students in order to manage this process in an ethical manner.

How does one control ethical responsibility of both staff and students in a virtual distance learning concept?

The earliest concept of distance learning, as offered by the Open University in the UK was to allow less advantaged students the possibility of obtaining a University Education.  This did lack the quality checks on student entry and the teaching staff.  This has improved over time but still remains a concern in a number of distant learning teaching establishments. Many professors do not get accepted based on their academic resume but because of their connections with departments. This is not a major problem since  most of the professors do have, to some extent, information and knowledge in their field. In order to solve this problem the university needs to have a neutral committee in hiring process.

Are the ethical considerations of equality and diversity adequately catered for in a distance learning environment?

Social justice and equality have been important considerations in the concept of fair treatment for all.  In this sense the Distance Learning model scored high from a moral and ethical perspective. It is less elitist and has a more open perspective in the treatment of teaching individuals.  Nevertheless there is a need for distance learning institutions to have a formal ethics manual that describes items such as copyright, expected behavioural conditions, legal considerations in terms of how they should conduct themselves as a student. (Demiray, U.  2009)

References

Archie B. Carroll, A. K. (2008). Business and Society: Ethics and Stakeholder Management. Mason OH: Cengage Learning.

Brey, P. (2003). Ethical issues for the virtual university. Amsterdam, Netherlands: University of Twente.

Fisk, R. (2011, 12 8). Turkish money fails to blot out the stain of genocide. Retrieved from The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/middle-east-turkish-money-fails-to-blot-out-the-stain-of-genocide-1139089.html

Keith Davis, R. L. (1975). Business and society: environment and responsibility. London: McGraw Hill.

Uğur Demiray, R. C. (2009). Ethical Practices and Implications in Distance Learning. In R. C. Uğur Demiray, Ethical Practices and Implications in Distance Learning (pp. 87-88). London : Information Science Reference.

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