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Ethics in online Education

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Northeastern Illinois University

Ethics in online education

Group 5

ABF 350: Management Information systems

Dr. Charletta Gutierez

9/27/15

Ethical practices in online education evolve just as technology does. Each academic institution has their own codes of ethics and their online programs have their own methods to enforce them. Some online schools use proctors to ensure tests are taken online without violating the school’s academic integrity policy and their cheating policy. “At Salt Lake City-based Western Governors, nearly all 39,000 students have been supplied with Kryterion webcams to monitor tests and scan the room for visitors or cheat sheets.” (Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times)

With advancements in technology it’s becoming easier for students to cheat online, universities have to adapt and find ways to enforce their policies in efforts to show that their exams and diplomas are valid. It has become such a crucial part of maintaining a credible brand that companies have emerged to help combat online cheating. Use of webcams; monitoring keyboard keystrokes, reviewing the speed in which questions were answered, comparing and cross-checking papers against data banks for plagiarism are some of the method used.

An ethical problem with the use of webcams is the invasion of privacy, students allow proctors to view their every move in exchange for taking the online courses. Students are subject to be called out as cheaters if the proctor sees something suspicious. What may be suspicious to some may not be suspicious to others. Moreover, the fate of the student relies on the ability of the proctors doing a good job. In addition to being evaluated by humans, students are also being evaluated by technology as a whole. “technologies worthy of the C.I.A. can remotely track every mouse click and keystroke of test-taking students. Squads of eagle-eyed humans at computers can monitor faraway students via webcams, screen sharing and high-speed Internet connections, checking out their photo IDs, signatures and even their typing styles to be sure the test-taker is the student who registered for the class.” (Anne Eisenberg, The New York Times)

Advancements in technology owned by students are a threat to online classes. Students use smartphones to store data that can potentially be used to cheat. Students can also take pictures of exams and forward it along to someone that may help them get the right answers. Some policies prohibit the use of cell phones during test and if proctors notice a student using them, the exam would be remotely terminated and the incident notified to the university. This can be unfair to students that may encounter an emergency in which a family member calls with no bad intentions but can result in the student dealing with repercussions. Academic integrity policies vary between universities but common consequences for cheating include a failing grade for an assignment or a failing grade for the course if caught cheating in an exam.

        Group 5 does not condone cheating and believe that cheating only brings limited and immediate benefits. Everyone has witnessed cheating at one point and are aware of the infinite ways to cheat. The difficulties this brings to professors and universities who try to prevent cheating are known among the group. Initiatives that involve human though and ethical practices such as making students collaborate and cooperate throughout the course is something that is recommended. “It can be argued that some forms of cheating, such as collaboration when the course doesn’t permit it, are students’ way of helping themselves learn more effectively” (Sarah Smith, Pearson) Using technology to fight online cheating is one way to approach this growing issue. The use of an alternative that doesn’t violate privacy and encourages students to learn material rather than cheat is perhaps not the most enforceable approach but possibly the most ethical. Being watched and being evaluated by computer programs is not the reason why some students enroll in online courses. More often than not, the reason why is simply because universities can’t operate within the student’s busy schedule. Being a parent, having a job, taking many classes, forces students to accept the terms of the online class. Trading in privacy and being judged by proctors is something the student has to do out of necessity.

        Where cheating will get you in the long run is an involved question.  It could be argued that cheating is a temporary means to success that the cheater views as necessity out of either lack of time or poor time management.  This type of person may or may not later consider that more time needs to be allotted for studying and homework to correct their actions.  Cheating for the sake of cheating, or taking the easy way out of something without actually putting in the work, is pretty straight forward.  You end up with a limited grasp of the knowledge even if your grades show otherwise.  This will leave you at a disadvantage when you find yourself in the workplace attempting to apply that knowledge that you never actually took the time to learn.  It is possible for either type of person to realize this before it becomes an issue in the workplace and do studying on their own, but more likely they will just continue to fall behind.  

        Ethics should be a topic studied much earlier than college.  In some majors it’s not even a required course, but simply a choice made by the student.  There are many reasons why a student would cheat including but not limited to a fear of failing or being viewed as “below average,” poor time management, or even sports or extracurricular activities.  Unfortunately, parents and teachers alike can put a lot of pressure on kids to do well in certain areas like sports and because of this their grades can fail.  The student would rather spend time training for a sport they enjoy than studying for classes they view as unimportant.  That is not to put the blame on the parent or the teacher necessarily, but it is a thing that happens.  Professional athletes are, after all, glorified in most senses and given legal passes in situations where they obviously broke the law.  So why shouldn’t a student be able to get away with cheating to pass their courses and spend more time on sports?  What this type of student probably doesn’t know is that somewhere around 1% of college athletes, depending on the sport, actually end up making it to professional sports and will get much more use out of studying for their classes.  So if schools began teaching ethics as a required course much earlier than college, these students may rethink making unethical choices when armed with the knowledge of where unethical choices will get you (I.E. Jeffrey Skilling of Enron, Martha Stewart, et.al.).  

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