Social And Professional Issues In Computing Computer Science Essay

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This article presents an ethical analysis of distance learning. How distance learning is use, the advantages and disadvantage of distance learning, and if cheating is a major problem in distance learning. Distance learning, sometimes called e-learning, is a formalized teaching and learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication. "Distance education is beset with a remarkable paradox - it has asserted its existence, but it cannot define itself." (Shale, 1988, p. 25). How distance education is best defined or differentiated from other educational approaches has been the subject of much debate. From the perspective of many educational technologists, distance education is "inexorably linked to the technology" (Garrison, 1987) and seems to be viewed as different from other forms of education, a factor which may contribute to course development and acceptance problems.

Focusing on the distance factor and on technology takes the emphasis off the "dialectical relationship between teacher and student" which Shale feels is the foundational principle in the educational process (Shale, 1988, p. 25). To Shale, "distance" (and the technology which accompanies it) is an incidental consideration and not a "defining criterion" for education.

A broadening of the definition of distance education is urged by Barker, Frisbie and Patrick (1989) who acknowledge correspondence study as the historical foundation of distance education but suggest that there is really two forms of distance education. One is the traditional correspondence- based distance education which is independent study oriented and the second is telecommunications-based distance education which offers the teaching and learning experience simultaneously (1989, p. 23).

The Garrison and Shale definition of distance education (1987a, p. 10-11) offers a minimum set of criteria and allows more flexibility. They suggest that:

Distance education implies that the majority of educational communication between teacher and student occurs non contiguously

Distance education involves two-way communication between teacher and student for the purpose of facilitating and supporting the educational process

Distance education uses technology to mediate the necessary two-way communication.

Distance learning technologies include video centered technology such as CD, MP3, or Webcasts. They also include video technology such as DVD and video conferencing. The distance learning began in the early 1700s in the form of correspondence education, and it might be linked to the introduction of audiovisual devices into the schools in the early 1900s. The U.S. Depart of Education did a report finding out some statistics about distance learning.

One-third of all postsecondary schools offer distance learning courses.

8% of postsecondary schools offer college-level degree or certificate programs completely through distance learning.

55% of 2-year and 4-year institutions offer college-level credit-granting distance learning courses a either the undergraduate or graduate level.

The top 3 technologies used to deliver courses involved internet-based, two-way interactive video, and one-way prerecorded video

In the 2006-07 academic year, 66 percent of the 4,160 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the nation offered college-level distance education courses. The overall percentage includes 97 percent of public 2-year institutions, 18 percent of private for-profit 2-year institutions, 89 percent of public 4-year institutions, 53 percent of private not-for-profit institutions, and 70 percent of private for-profit 4-year institutions.

Sixty-five percent of the institutions reported college-level credit-granting distance education courses, and 23 percent reported noncredit distance education courses. There were a total of an estimated 12.2 million enrollments (or registrations) in college-level credit-granting distance education courses in 2006-07. Of these enrollments, 77 percent were reported in online courses, 12 percent were reported in hybrid/blended online courses, and 10 percent were reported in other types of distance education courses.

In 2006-07, there were approximately 11,200 college-level programs that were designed to be completed totally through distance education; 66 percent of these programs were reported as degree programs and the remaining 34 percent were reported as certificate programs.

Distance learning has lots of advantages such as flexibility in time, learning while working, and lowered cots. On the other hand distance education has lost of disadvantages such as social isolation, lack of human interaction, and dishonesty among online students. The major ethical issue in distance education is cheating. Distance learning increases the percentage of cheating by students, but nowadays there are lots of ways to prevent cheating in online education.

There are lots of advantages for taking distance classes. Some of the distance learning advantages are:

Distance learning does not require commuting. This saves you money and time that you'd otherwise spend on travel back and forth to school. You can schedule learning around other aspects of your personal and professional life.

You can complete most of the classes at your convenience. Most of the classes are asynchronous, which means you don't have to attend a lecture at a particular time and place. You can review the assignments and do your homework during off-hours or from home.

Live anywhere, study from anywhere while pursuing the education of your choice. You don't have to live in the same city or the same country to attend the learning institution of your choice. You can study wherever you have access to a computer and Internet connection.

Gain extra knowledge. You can transfer the computer and Internet skills that you'll gain in the process of your distance learning experience to other facets of your life.

Self-paced learning. For slow and quick learners. This reduces stress and increases satisfaction.

Accessibility. Online classes address physical accessibility issues that some people with limited mobility encounter when taking traditional classes. You don't have to worry about gaining access to a classroom or sitting on uncomfortable desks. Instead, you can use your comfortable furniture in your home while enjoying free movement and a chance to further your education.

On the other hand, distance learning has many disadvantages:

Costly and complex technology. Despite the many opportunities of distance education, there are inevitable accompanying costs. Live video communication for example, requires careful planning of the equipment and facilities. For online learning, you must own a computer (possibly with access to the internet) or have access to one. Thus required technology is not always available. Some learners may also be afraid (technophobic) of technology.

Advance planning. Both the instructors and students involved in distance learning may need to make sacrifices times to get things done in time.

Hidden costs. If you work for the military for example, and you are on the ship, how do you get your materials? They may need to be mailed in advance incurring extra shipping and handling costs.

Distance learning does not offer immediate feedback. In a traditional classroom setting, a student's performance can be immediately assessed through questions and informal testing. With distance learning, a student has to wait for feedback until the instructor has reviewed their work and responded to it.

Distance learning does not always offer all the necessary courses online. Students pursuing a specific certificate or degree program may not have all the necessary courses available through distance learning so it is not suited for all subjects. While you can study a history lesson completely online, you cannot perform nursing clinical online. Thus physical classroom attendance will be mandatory to complete the course.

Distance learning may not be acknowledged by all employers. Although most employers do acknowledge distance learning, certain employers do not. Students who want to work for a specific employer upon graduation should be sure of that employer's perspective about online education.

Distance learning does not give students the opportunity to work on oral communication skills. Students in distance learning courses do not get the practice of verbal interaction with professors and other students.

Social isolation. Most often you'll be studying alone. Distance learners may feel isolated or miss that social physical interaction that comes with attending a traditional classroom. However this impersonality has been lessening with advances and use of communication technologies such as bulletin boards, threaded discussions, chats, email and conferencing.

When a student scores well for an online assessment, does that mean that they know the material? This question is becoming increasingly important as online distance-learning programs become popular. Nowadays, lots of people say that online learning increases the cheating by students. And here are the problems of cheating in online education.

Problem 1: Getting assessment answers in advance

A big problem with online assessments is that it is hard to ensure all students take them simultaneously (Olt, 2002). Otherwise, earlier students can supply answers to later students if some of the same questions are used: The earlier students could memorize questions or even take screen shots (copies of wha is on the screen), something easy under most operating systems. Creating "windows of availability" for assessments as in WebCT and Blackboard helps a little but does not solve the problem unless the windows are on the order of minutes in width, not days. An interesting idea is to reward by a grading factor those answers that are the most a typical, but that will not work when there is only one correct or good answer.

Problem 2: Unfair retaking of assessments

Another serious problem with online assessment is that it may be possible for students to retake an assessment multiple times until they are satisfied with their performance, even if that was not the intention of the instructor. WebCT and Blackboard use "server" architecture for assessments where the answers and assessment software are stored on a central machine. If the server software is not properly designed, students can break their connection to the server during an assessment, then claim they lost power and test answers and need to start over, giving them extra time to consult collaborators or unauthorized reference materials. Students could also crash (stop) the server after the grading is done but before the grades have been recorded; crashing is not difficult with the many hacker tools currently available. Another trick is to change the system clock so the grading server thinks that a new test assessment is actually prior to an earlier assessment; many operating systems do not adequately control access to their system clock. Thorough testing must be done to ensure that these problems cannot occur, and WebCT and Blackboard have never provided the necessary test data. Password theft of the instructor's password as discussed above also permits a student to change previous grades, since instructional software must allow instructors to correct grading mistakes. Blackboard doesn't even bother to tell the instructor when they last logged in, a key clue to this kind of manipulation. Again, computer forensics can detect these unauthorized activities, but this is often not easy.

Problem 3: Unauthorized help during the assessment

Probably the most serious problem with online assessment is confirming that the student is in fact who they say they are. Since several distance-learning methods such as online discussion groups and email between students encourage collaboration, students have an excellent excuse of habit for unauthorized collaboration on assessments. A poor student could easily hire a good student to take their tests, or a team of good students, or could arrange "consultants" to contact for the hard questions during an assessment. Just because the student provides their password doesn't mean they are the ones answering the questions a a remote site. This issue of "authentication" has been subject of much research in computer security, but usually the problem is that of ensuring that a given person is present, not that they are alone, which requires different methods. Note that "high-tech" solutions of infrared or electromagnetic monitoring of test-takers are not adequate for preventing unauthorized collaboration because communication can take many forms including aural, optical, and olfactory (as for instance, signaling by smells).

The most recent study of academic dishonesty in online courses, published in 2010 by George Wason and James Sottile of Marshall University in West Virginia, compared cheating by 635 students in online versus live courses. The results are surprising: While students thought they and their peers were far more likely to cheat in online courses than live courses, in reality there was not much difference in behavior between the two. Indeed, the study found slightly higher rates of cheating in live courses. Wason and Sottile write that "One possible explanation is that classroom social interaction in live classes plays some part in whether students decide to cheat. . . . Familiarity with fellow students may lessen moral objections to cheating as they work through assignments and assessments together over the course of a school term."

These findings are similar to those of an earlier study of cheating in online courses published in 2009 by three researchers -- Donna Stuber-McEwen, Phillip Wiseley, and Susan Hoggat -- a Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. The study surveyed 225 students and found lower levels of cheating in online courses than live or "on ground" courses. The authors offer some intriguing explanations to explain the variation:

on ground students may engage in more "panic cheating" than their online counterparts. Although planned cheating involves more substantial preparation, it is likely that online students usually have the opportunity to do their coursework off campus and a their own pace, and thus, are less apt to engage in panic cheating. Additionally, online students who are proctored during exams expect to be watched and may come to the exam more prepared. However, even in on ground classrooms where students expect to be monitored, cheating still occurs.

Non-traditional students reported less cheating. Most online classes a our institution are offered through the adult (evening) program, which means the average age of our online sample was older. Although arguably the online and on ground samples were not equivalent, non-traditional students in the on ground sample also reported significantly less cheating than their younger peers. These findings support previous studies that show non-traditional students are less likely to engage in academic misconduct.

Because faculty anticipates online cheating, they may develop assignments and exams to reduce the likelihood of such misconduct. For example, instructors may give challenging or timed tests, personalize written assignments, allow students to use outside materials, or work in groups, thus reducing the incidence of cheating.

Finally, online students may be more motivated or able to learn independent of traditional classroom settings, which could substantially reduce their desire to cheat. Non-traditional students, which made up the majority of the online sample, are more likely to be actively engaged in the learning process. These students are also more self-directed and motivated to learn, are better equipped to make connections between book learning and real life experiences, and enjoy the course content when they perceive that what they are learning will help them cope with real life tasks or problems. 

Also, a new study published in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration reports that online students are actually less likely to cheat. Researchers explain:

"The focus of this study was on whether students cheat more in on-line or live courses, and, somewhat surprisingly, the results showed higher rates of academic dishonesty in live courses. One possible explanation is that classroom social interaction in live classes plays some part in whether students decide to cheat... Familiarity with fellow students may lessen moral objections to cheating as they work through assignments and assessments together over the course of a school term."

Interestingly, when students are away from traditional classrooms where cheating is somewhat normalized, they are more likely to turn in honest work. According to the study, traditional students cheat as much or more than online students in all but one way. Online students are more likely to receive answers from someone else during the course of taking a test. That's one reason why so many online colleges now require students to test under the oversight of a proctor.

All that makes a lot of sense.

On the other hand, nowadays there are lots of ways to prevent cheating online. On way is the quiz maker to prevent cheating on online test.

Access ability to quiz

The ability of accessibility to quiz is a telling strategy to assure the security of your quiz. You can protect your quizzes from spread spitefully by some bad man. It would be better if you have more options to set the access ability with quiz maker. Take Wonder share Quiz Maker for example, it supply four ways for users to access the quiz. Access with password only, access with user ID and password, online access control and domain limit online access. Of course, if you want the quiz spread anywhere by anyone, you also have the option to not set the accessibility.

Time quiz

Looking up answers to questions in textbook/reading or searching the answers from website are the common issues for cheating. This is obvious when give giving a chapter check quiz. However, timed quiz is one of the most effective ways to eliminate such cheating. When students should answer the questions in a timed quiz in a certain amount of time, they won't have time to look up all the answers if you give enough questions and make the time short enough. Such as the quiz with timer below which created by Wondershare Quiz Maker.

Shuffle choices

If the quiz maker let you shuffle choices, it means that the order of choices within each question will be randomly shuffled each time an examinee attempts this quiz. So this makes it a little harder for students to copy from each other. It is an effective way to prevent cheating to some extent. Many quiz tools have such features, such as Articulate QuizMaker below.

Randomize questions

Randomizing questions reduces the chance of cheating. I will expound the reasons from the following two points. Firstly, randomized questions make the printouts a lot less useful. Especially, when there are amount of questions in the question banks, students can only print a small number of questions a a time, if they want to get the full questions they will need to view the test again and again, and then sort the questions to eliminate duplicates.

Secondly, if students are on the same campus, they may get together in a lab and try to take the quiz together. Random question order is an easy strategy to thwart cheating. If my screen doesn't look like yours, then it's harder for students to quickly answer all of the questions.

Limit answer attempts

Set a reasonable time limit for completion. Limiting the amount of time to answers attempts for which students can access a test makes any form of cheating difficult to implement. Note: Don't be too restrictive, but don't give students forever either. Do not make the test available until the day you want students to begin taking it.

Multiple question types supported

The more quiz types the quiz maker has, the more efficacious the quiz to overcome online cheating. Particularly, Essays, case studies, and other complex question types can be challenging to answer even if students look up book. Students have to understand the material and apply it creatively to answer the questions. So how many question types a quiz maker supports is an important factor when choosing a quiz maker.

Some new students assume that when it's time for that mid-term exam in an online degree course, it's probably going to be a lot easier to cheat - maybe just a little - to bump up their test scores. After all, in e-learning, the professor can't see you, right?

Not necessarily. As distance learning has grown and matured, schools have gotten smarter about every aspect of the online class experience - including tests and quizzes. As a result, nowadays it's tougher than you might expect to improve your grades by using notes or trying to look for answers on the internet while a test is going on.

Open Book Tests, Time Limits & More

One way online teachers can keep you honest is by giving classic open-book style tests, with questions that test higher-level thinking and reasoning skills rather than simple factual questions. Be careful with these kinds of tests. Because students often don't take them seriously and don't prepare for them well, scores on open book tests are very often lower than on tests requiring simple memorization.

Another basic approach used on tests given in synchronous fashion (where all students are online taking the test a the same time) is to simply set a strict time limit for giving answers. Professors will often give just 90 seconds for you to answer a question, making it pretty tough to go looking around for something you don't know.

Version After Version

Thing you can email another student in the class and find out what the answer is to question number 3? It won't work if your online professor is smart enough to create a few different versions of the test. The selection that's right for someone else on a multiple choice question may be wrong in the version of the quiz you're taking.

Technology Prevention

Last but not least, technology is being used against cheating in the more sophisticated online colleges and universities. New programs running the school portals where online tests are given prohibit students from printing, copying and pasting anything, clicking back to previous parts of the course or even surfing the web or school search engines while the test is being given.

As online learning gets more grown up, college university programs aren't just getting better a keeping students interested in the course work. They're also getting a lot more skilled a keeping them honest.

Ethics, Honesty, and Fairness in Distance Education

Cheating and dishonesty aren't specific to education, but they are particularly important to address in educational, character-forming settings (and especially in distance learning programs).

Technology has given cheaters and people with low ethical standards more options for dishonesty. Via the Internet, one can buy term papers, look for old tests and answers, and even find someone to act as an impersonator throughout an entire course.

No one feels good about cheating, and most regret having damaged their character and cheated themselves out of an education. The notoriety of being a dishonest person doesn't wash away easily, so don't exchange your values for a grade in a class.

Don't believe the spin that cheaters try to sell you-everybody is NOT cheating or lying. It is always just a few. It shouldn't be you.

A school, college, or training program will have a code of ethics. This set of policies informs you that you can be thrown out of your program if you are caught doing anything dishonest.



Plagiarism means using someone else's writing as your own, or presenting the ideas of others without crediting those people.

The typical infraction is copying a term paper (or parts of a term paper) word for word and then not providing a footnote or other credit to the original author. There are websites and programs used by online instructors that can determine whether a student has quoted passages from the known literature without providing a citation. SOLUTION: Limit any quotation to a phrase or a sentence or two; then provide a citation. Write the rest of the paper yourself.

Copying a distinctive idea (something along the lines of the thesis of a book, essay, or article) also constitutes plagiarism. Even if you do not quote or copy word for word, single ideas as well as entire arguments must be attributed to their sources. SOLUTION: If you use an argument or idea that you've read or heard before, credit the original author. Come up with your own, new argument to make your essay original.

You must cite factual information, unless it is well known. For example, saying, "France does not use a death penalty as punishment," is not plagiarism, since the information is commonly known. Saying, "In 1999 France prosecuted 78 people who were accused of homicide," would be plagiarism if the source of that statistic were not cited. SOLUTION: When in doubt, provide a citation.

Cheating on Tests

In-person examinations: if your tests are live and in person or proctored, either on the campus of the class you are taking or a another designated site, then "cheat sheets," "crib notes," and sharing or stealing answers constitute cheating (just like in the traditional school setting).

For "open book" and "take home" exams, the instructor will give you the details of whether you can use any source other than the book for the test. If he or she doesn't, ask.

With Blackboard, WebCT, and other online platforms, multiple-choice tests can be taken online. Generally your instructor will tell you that you CANNOT use your text or notes for such a test. However, such online tests are not proctored. No one from your course will see you if you chea. Only you might know if you have compromised your morals.

One approach the instructor can use to help you stay honest is to put a time limit on the online test, so that those who know the material have enough time to perform well on the test, while cheaters might be able to look up only SOME of the answers, and therefore perform poorly on the test overall.

Turning in work that is not your own AS your own (without giving credit) is always cheating. So, in an online course, you cannot have another person help you unless it is specifically allowed (an unlikely event). Your work must be entirely your own.

If you and your friend are both taking the same class, do yourselves a favor by taking the test at different times, and don't cheat by talking about the test if such talk violates the rules of the course.

Group Work

The group's work must come from the group, not from outsiders. However, most instructors carefully draw a line between those assignments you can work on as a group and those, such as tests, you must perform alone. You may be asked to report on a group activity, and such a report should be honest.

What can be done to stem the tide of cheating that is likely to increase in distance learning classes in the future? It seems safe to suggest that cheating based on technology must be countered by technologically based countermeasures. Several of the suggestions offered by our faculty respondents offer potentially viable alternatives.


Table 1

Number of male and female faculty respondents reporting greater ease

of cheating in electronic classes.

No "Easier to Cheat" Yes

Male 8 25


Female 17 19

Table 2

Number of faculty respondents reporting greater ease of cheating in

electronic classes as a function of having taught such a class.

No "Easier to Cheat" Yes

Male 3 20

Have Not Taught Elect. Class

Female 10 11

Table 3

Number of student respondents reporting greater ease of cheating

in electronic classes as a function of having had such a class.

No "Easier to Cheat" Yes

No 18 38

"Had Such a Class"

Yes 52 54

Table 4

Number of male and female student respondents reporting greater ease

of cheating in electronic classes.

No "Easier to Cheat" Yes

Male 15 27


Female 56 65

Table 5

Number of student respondents reporting greater ease of cheating in

electronic classes as a function of academic classification.

No "Easier to Cheat "Yes

Seniors 19 12


Graduate 37 54