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Part 2 - Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility - De ...

Chapter 5: EducationPenny Duquenoy

EducationSocial Responsibility in the Information AgeThe vision of Virtual Education is beingtransformed into a practical reality.What are the ethical and social issuespertaining to education and learning in avirtual context?The context of Virtual EducationSimon Rogerson (1999) points out that therewas a distinct gap between the perceivedpotential of virtual education, and theactuality of achieving that potential.The driving forces behind virtual education(VEd) were meeting with a number ofpractical constraints.Driving forces:• technology suitability• increasing obsolescence of knowledge• increasing quality through enrichingvariability• perception of a market place for expansionwithout cost increases• need for access to education forisolated learners• expectations of policy makers.Practical constraints:• lack and cost of network access,computerless learners• copyright restrictions• high start up costs• demand for equitable access forisolated learners• technology aversion by teachers• independent vs dependent learners.The vision of VEd includes a ‘global’education community thereby introducing avariety of cultural approaches and attitudes toeducation. Issues such as mode of address,voice tone, attitude to assessment, languageand understanding, and the type ofpedagogical approach (student-centredconstructivist or teacher-centred transmissive)may have an impact on learning.The IssuesThe issues under discussion were wideranging, but can be categorised under theheadings of infrastructure, human factors inteaching and learning, and wider socialimplications.1 InfrastructureThe infrastructure supporting virtualeducation is a combination of technologicaland human resources. The most pressingconcerns are:• Technological- capability- reliability- predictability- controllability- cost of access (in terms of equipment,software and telecommunications).It must be remembered that there is usually aconsiderable performance difference betweeninstitution-based resources and home-basedresources.• credit transfer20

Social Responsibility in the Information AgeEducation• Human resources- adequate training and technicalsupport (for tutors and students)- increased opportunities forsurveillance and/or censorshipby managers- potential loss of autonomy bylecturers, leading to loss ofprofessional status- working conditions (with the potentialfor 24hr access will tutors be asked towork increasingly unsociable hours,will technical support be available24hrs?)- working environment (will it besuitable for tutors and students?)- teaching redundancies- the role of educational establishmentsas employers and resources in thecommunity.2 Human factors in teaching and learningThere is a great deal of concern about the lossof face-to-face interaction. Education ischaracterised as “more than information orknowledge transfer”. Even in establisheddistance learning initiatives (the OpenUniversity is a well-known example) contacttime is considered a vital ingredient. Face-tofacecommunication carries a wealth of subtleaids to mutual understanding, giving vitalfeedback to both tutors and students.provide support to the student. Although textmessages and/or video conferencing can beused in this way (video conferencingcurrently has severe limitations), thesemethods are not as efficient as face-to-faceinteraction: more time and effort may beneeded on the part of both the student and thetutor to get the same results.Virtual education emphasises a mechanicalapproach to learning. This mechanicalapproach views learning as simply a matter ofworking through units of assessment. Thisignores the inspirational effect an enthusiastictutor can have on students, bringingexcitement and motivation to learning. It ishard to see how such a quality could bereplicated virtually.Face-to-face communication both betweentutor and student, and students and theirpeers, is an important factor in the integrationof students in a social world. Aside from thecommonly voiced concerns with regard toisolation through extensive engagement withcomputers, learning is enhanced throughinformal and ad hoc discussion with others.Shared experiences forge relationships, buildtrust, and build self-confidence. Studentpresentations (individual and group) arecurrently encouraged in higher education forall these reasons – what is the virtualequivalent?Contact time between tutors and students isimportant to clarify misunderstandings,provide alternative explanations, correctincorrect assumptions, and to encourage and21

EducationSocial Responsibility in the Information Age3 Wider social issuesA predominant concern regarding technologybasedlearning is the question of equal access.It is obvious that economic factors and levelsof literacy (both in the traditional sense andcomputer literacy) are constraints to equalaccess. Less obvious, in the UK at least, arecultural constraints and language barriers.Methods of teaching and approaches tolearning vary between cultures. Learning canbe inhibited in a cultural context that differsfrom that of the provider of the learningmodule. Most of the development of virtualeducation has been carried out from a westernperspective, and uses the English language.Yet much VEd development aims to sellwestern education, through the Englishlanguage, to other parts of the world. Thecombination of these factors (cost, literacy,culture and language) are likely to widen theeducation gap, in contrast to the utopianpicture of “education for all” painted by theadvocates of ICT and VEd.Questions about the appropriateness ofeducation to the importing country need to beasked.• Does the education provided meet localneeds?• Is it in “tune” with local issues andpractices?• Does virtual education support or hinderlocal education resources?The quality of education provided is also acause for concern. There are perceivedfinancial incentives for the providers ofvirtual education – who are those providerslikely to be, and will standards bemaintained? Will we see the promotion ofeconomically viable projects to the detrimentof other courses? Will advertising be broughtinto the picture, and is this appropriate?The ‘reality’ of Virtual EducationThe implementation of virtual education isstill at an experimental stage. The three casestudies summarised below consider differentperspectives: (1) operational; (2) access; and(3) questions of viability.1 The automated learning of IT skillsThe reported (Begg, 1999) advantages for thisparticular project were that students were ableto learn IT skills, there were no handouts andtherefore a saving of paper and preparationtime, and the marking was automatic with afurther saving of staff time.In practice, a number of problems arose.A server error meant that some automatedtests had to be abandoned. Students accessedthe program using individual passwords butthere was nothing to stop unscrupulousstudents from asking friends to do the tests ontheir behalf. There was also an assumptionthat the students' had a good command ofEnglish and had a western culturalbackground. Yet a proportion of students didnot have such strong command of Englishand had a different cultural background.2 Access Issues• Telephone support may be available forresolving technical difficulties, buthands-on help is not provided (Wilkinson,1999), when sometimes hands-on helpwould get the problem solved many timesmore quickly22

Social Responsibility in the Information AgeEducation• Where practically available, staff andstudents may be limited to the number ofhours they can use dial-up access to theuniversity network each month. Beyondthese hours they are dependent on acommercial service provider (Wilkinson,1999), and thus have to pay attendant costs(whether obvious or hidden costs)• Computers attached to university networksare (largely) equipped to handle graphics,video, sound and various plug-ins – manyhome users are not• Increasingly libraries offer access tomaterials on CD-ROM. Many of these canbe accessed outside the library building,improving access to library referencematerials. However, often CD-ROMslicensed to university libraries are onlyprovided for staff/students using theinternal university network, not to thoselinking from home. Courseware providedin the university or college is likely to beeven more restricted (Wilkinson, 1999)• Postgraduate students who live at adistance have the advantage of workingfrom home, but incur costs for computer,telephone connection time, software andprinting.23

EducationSocial Responsibility in the Information Age3 ViabilityThe following is an extract from "What Virtual Education Means to (Australian) Universities"(Simpson, 1999):My own current attempt at Virtual Educationhas stalled. The subject is called ProfessionalIssues in Information Technology (PIIT). Ihave been requested to "put the subject up onthe web", which concerns me deeply, as it isframed largely in terms of Computer Ethicsand thus depends enormously upon humaninteraction, dynamic discussion, immediateresponse and body language, all of which aredeficiencies of Virtual Education.Let me demonstrate my dilemma by analysingeach element of the course as it stands with aview to transmutation into Virtual Educationformat:• Lectures: These are mainly by guestlecturers. Most have been video-taped andare available in the library. Is this VirtualEducation? Possibly it is Flexible Delivery.However, via video, a student missesspontaneity, ambience, body language, seesonly what is on the screen and cannot askquestions. Why not use Video-on-demand?No, this is far too resource-hungry to be anoption at one hour per lecture. Why not putthe transcript on the web? Where atranscript exists, it would be feasible, but apoor substitute• Plenary Debates: These have not beenrecorded and would be very hard toemulate without total emasculation. Whynot replace them with an asynchronousemail debates? It may be possible, but itwould be a totally different dynamic andrequire much longer periods of time perdebate• Plenary Discussions: These follow thedebates and relate not only to the debate,but also to separate scenarios. The samecomment applies as for the debates• Tutorial: It is currently structured as anentirely social phenomenon, dependentupon the week's activities. It also involvesself-assessment (in public) on one handand group support on the other• Presentation at the Tutorial: How could apresentation be done by Virtual Education?It cannot! Essays are not an alternative.They are required for the logbook anyway• Logbook: This is the one remote activitythat can survive. It would be desirable tomaintain regular check-points if thetutorial forum is replaced. An on-linetutor's workload would be much greater• Conclude from this analysis that for a nontechnical,socially dependent subject,transmutation into Virtual Education isquite out of the question, if not suicidal.On the other hand, total re-design may bean option, but would require muchingenuity and experience to minimiselosses. Yet in every case, some face-to-facecontact is essential for a high quality,higher education, philosophical subject.24

Social Responsibility in the Information AgeEducationSummaryThere are a wide range of social and ethicalimplications inherent in the adoption ofVirtual Education. Despite the apparentnegative theme here, it is widelyacknowledged that Virtual Education hassomething to offer. The apparent emphasis onthe problems and potential adverseconsequences of education delivered via ICTis a reaction to the heady utopianism ofadvocates and initiators of Virtual Education(mainly policy makers in higher education,governments, and commercial educationproviders). It arises from a desire to seek abalanced perspective. This is not to say thatthese concerns are in any way trivial – farfrom it. What is evident is that the vision ofvirtual education as the answer to "educationfor all" does not match the current reality,either in technical or human terms. A numberof questions need to be answered, and mythsexposed, before virtual education is taken upas the route to the ‘promised land’ ofeducation and lifelong learning.Further researchWithin any new field there are bound to be anenormous number of areas requiringinvestigation. Research at all levels andacross disciplines is recommended.Empirical research, particularly case studies,would be valuable. Some of the suggestedareas follow.Definitions• Fundamental to the role of virtualeducation is an analysis of what educationis perceived to be; its aims and objectives.Appropriateness• How appropriate is virtual education?For example:i) Remote access may be an advantagein areas having a widely dispersedpopulation but less so in more denselypopulated areasii)Some programmes of teaching are likelyto be more suitable in this environmentthan others• Is it really necessary per se, or will itadd an extra dimension to the learningexperience?• Is it dehumanising, a political exercise orjust an expedient?• What are the limits of virtual education?The process of teaching and learning• Is virtual education the best way ofteaching and learning?• How does communications and IT alter thenature of the interactions between theparticipants in the educational activity?Is it a collaborative or a competitiveventure between:- staff-employer- staff-staff- staff-student- student-student• Is access to learning and resource materialequal for all?• How are decisions made about delivery ofmaterials?25

EducationSocial Responsibility in the Information Age• What is the best way of presentingmaterial? (and what are the losses andgains?)• The role of face-to-face communication inteaching and learning• The role of the tutor as mentor, inspirer,and motivator• Does the educational community maintainindependence and objectivity?• What are the implications of commercialfunding?Cultural issues• Teaching and learning concepts andmethods• Language• Cultural context• Homogeneous education in a diverse world.ImpactWhat is the impact of virtual education on• Local communities• Other avenues of learning(e.g. experiential, books)• Learning skills (writing, researching).Human needs• Social interaction (i.e. does virtualeducation encourage social isolation)• Building trust in the learning environment• Physical disabilities- is working from home beneficialor isolating?- usability issues• Identity in a "textual" environment• What is the effect on personal confidence?ReferencesBegg, Mohamed M, 1999, “Virtual Education – Encounter with WebCT” online at accessed 22.05.2000Rogerson, Simon, 1999, “Virtual Education in the real world” online at et seq.Simpson, Chris, 1999, “What Virtual Education Means to (Australian) Universities” onlineat, Ann, 1999, “Social and Ethical Impact of Virtual Education” online at accessed22.05.200026

Chapter 6: Privacy

PrivacySocial Responsibility in the Information AgePrivacy in the Information AgeIn the early 1990s, as many as 78% of theUS population agreed “that computertechnology represents a threat to personalprivacy and that the use of computers mustbe restricted sharply in the future, if privacyis to be protected” (Culnan, 1993). Yet ratherthan being ‘restricted sharply’, computers areused in ever more ways that give rise toprivacy concerns.A huge proportion of the information thatdrives the information age is derived fromdata that is about individuals, or can be linkedto individuals. On top of this, it is easier thanever to store, duplicate, manipulate andcommunicate that data, which can take theform of text, images, and recordings ofsound, video and at times even touch. It isalso easier than ever to associate these datatypes with each other.It is technically easier than ever to quicklygather, and search, vast amounts of data aboutindividuals. The technologies that facilitate‘data mining’ and matching large data sets arebecoming ever more commonplace (Jefferies,2000), with legally sanctioned ‘Crime andDisorder Partnerships’ and attempts to detectfraud resulting in new data matchingprogrammes (Simpkins, 2000).One result of the increases in data collectionand data mining is the practical possibility of“Data surveillance . . . the omnipresent andoften hidden monitoring of the business oflife” (Davies, 2000). This means that “Ahuman being can now be tracked across theglobe by the data shadow they leave behindthem – petrol here, cash machine here, cctv inan airport, credit card purchase in anothercountry, logging on to collect email”(Simpkins, 2000). Privacy is ever more anissue in the information age.Key WorriesAs with so many other issues in life, theimpacts of loss of privacy will not fallequally or equitably. Due to distinctivenames, or less common skin colouring, ordisability, some people are easier to identifythan others – equally some people are easierto mistake for each other. Beyond simpleidentification, some people have more needfor privacy than others. Not everybody isequally likely to be targeted as a potentialvictim by criminals. Similarly, well educated,articulate, native speakers of English aremore able to pursue the legal remediesavailable to protect their privacy.Thus a key question is how to prevent abuseof data in the first place. The most worryingkinds of abuse seem to fall into two maincategories:1) individuals seeking illegitimate personalgain, perhaps through criminal acts2) authoritarian governments seeking tocontrol populations (Davies, 2000).Legislation and its LimitsUnder the 1998 Data Protection Act, datacontrollers in the UK are required to takemeasures to prevent data being used inillegitimate ways by individuals. Thesemeasures include a requirement to ‘takereasonable steps to ensure the reliability of28

Social Responsibility in the Information AgePrivacyany employees . . . who have access to thepersonal data’. However, without rights tocheck criminal records of these employees“it is difficult to perceive how a datacontroller might comply with thisrequirement”. (Heaton, 2000).While there is legislation to protect privacy invery many jurisdictions, there is a mismatchbetween the size of these jurisdictions and thelargely global nature of trade, especially indata for which the transport costs are so nearzero. Thus “Global trade is threatened by dataprotection and privacy legislation formulatedby one trading block if due regard is not paidto other trading blocks.” (Howley, 2000).Given the all-conquering power of globaltrade, it seems apposite to ask “What degreeof protection is feasible or acceptable in atechnological age that demands greater datacollection, provides for easier surveillanceand provides increasingly limited scope forwithholding information?” (Jefferies, 2000).Even if legislation remains of some practicaluse, it depends for its force in deterringbreaches. Short of repressive enforcement,this will need those with access to data andinfluence over security measures to actresponsibly. A key question is how toengender this (Jefferies, 2000). Will certainstyles of regulation be more adept at fosteringresponsible behaviour?• There is a need to work out criteria forevaluation of the regulation that exists atany given time for its adequacy and robustness• There is a need for feedback into currentimplementation and feed forward to informfuture regulation.Privacy inter-relates with a raft of other issues.For example, as well as Data Protection laws,Human Rights and Freedom of Informationlegislation may also have an impact, puttingpressure on public bodies to releaseinformation about which there are privacyconcerns (Bhoot, 2000). Other legislationwith an impact includes the Public InterestDisclosure [‘whistleblowing’] Act and theCrime and Disorder Act (Simpkins, 2000).Looking ForwardPrior (2000) asks “why are so many of uscolluding with the collection of our personaldata, not all of it secure nor its uses protectedby law?” On one level we do so because it ismore immediately convenient to do so than toresist such collection, but the issue is morecomplex than that.• There is a need for economic analysisacross different privacy regimes – howmuch is privacy worth in short term andlong term? Does Data Protection impaireconomic growth? Both macro – andmicro-analyses are appropriate.Future technologies raise new issues aboutprivacy. For example ‘intelligent agents’(programs that make decisions in a largelyautonomous way) could be making decisionsabout highly sensitive personal data outsidethe human context that might beautomatically implicit to any other human(Duquenoy, 2000). Similarly, GeographicalInformation Systems can have privacyimplications when tied to systems monitoringphysical mobility.29

PrivacySocial Responsibility in the Information Age• There is a strong argument for an impact assessment whenever a new technology isdeveloped that takes account of privacy effects, although it is not widely thought that it shouldbe an absolute requirement in every case – research is needed on what form such assessmentsshould take.ReferencesBhoot, Jody, 2000 “Personal Data: Issuesof Ethics and Regulation” online at accessed22.05.2000Culnan, MJ, 1993 “How Did They Get MyName: an Exploratory Investigation ofConsumer Attitudes Towards SecondaryInformation Use” pp341-361 in MISQuarterly Vol 17, as quoted in Jefferies,2000.Davies, Jennifer, 2000 “Personal Data:Issues of Ethics and Regulation” online at accessed22.05.2000Duquenoy, Penny, 2000 “Personal Data:Issues of Ethics and Regulation” online at accessed22.05.2000Heaton, Debbie, 2000 “Personal Data:Issues of Ethics and Regulation” online at accessed22.05.2000Howley, Richard, 2000 “Observations onPrivacy” online at accessed26.05.2000Jefferies, Pat, 2000 “Personal Data: Issuesof Ethics and Regulation” online at accessed26.05.2000Prior, Mary, 2000 “Personal Data: Issues ofEthics and Regulation” online at accessed25.05.2000Simpkins, 2000 “Privacy Issues in thePublic Sector” Case Experience presentedat Personal Data: Issues of Ethics andRegulation Seminar held at De MontfortUniversity, Leicester, 27.01.200030

Chapter 7: Participants

ParticipantsSocial Responsibility in the Information AgeThere were 70 participants in the series.The following attended one or more of the seminars.Industry1. Heaton, Debbie – Abbey National2. James, UrsulaCommunity Affairs Manager, IBM UK3. Jay, Rosemary – Masons Solicitors4. Kershaw, Sylvia – The Post Office5. Lake, AndrewThe Home Office Partnership6. Parrott, Wayne – The Post Office7. Shipway, Colin – BG Technology8. Starbuck, Paul – The Post Office9. Tuppen, Chris – British TelecomEducation1. Begg, Mohamed – De Montfort University2. Butler, Laonie – De Montfort University3. Bynum, TerrySouthern Connecticut State University4. Byrne, Brian – University of Salford5. Cameron, Euan – De Montfort University6. Coomey, Marion – Middlesex University7. Davies, JennyUniversity of Wolverhampton8. Duquenoy, Penny – Middlesex University9. Fairweather, N BenDe Montfort University10. Gooday, Graeme – University of Leeds11. Gotterbarn, DonEast Tennessee State University12. Gough, Tom – University of Leeds13. Hardcastle, AlanUniversity of Wolverhampton14. Hargreaves, MartinDe Montfort University15. Hemingway, Chris – University of Leeds16. Howley, RichardDe Montfort University17. Jefferies, Pat – De Montfort University18. Jones, Matt – Middlesex University19. Lander, RachelDe Montfort University20. Langford, DuncanUniversity of Kent at Canterbury21. Lau, Lydia – University of Leeds22. Leadbitter, Jim – Leicester College23. Logan, Bert – De Montfort University24. McBride, Neil – De Montfort University25. Megone Chris – University of Leeds26. Oram, DeniseNorth East Wales Institute27. Pouloudi, Nancy – Brunel University28. Prior, MaryNene University College Northampton29. Raab, Charles D.University of Edinburgh32

Social Responsibility in the Information AgeParticipants30. Rafferty, JackieUniversity of Southampton31. Rahanu, HarjinderUniversity of Wolverhampton32. Rake, Steve – University of Southampton33. Rogerson, SimonDe Montfort University34. Rourke, Graham – Southbank University35. Rowe, MatthewDe Montfort University36. Shiner, Janice – Leicester College37. Simpson, ChrisSwinburne University of Technology38. Spence, Laura – Kingston University39. Storey, Andrew – Sunderland University40. Thimbleby, HaroldMiddlesex University41. Thompson, BarrieSunderland University42. Trezise, Edward – Cheltenham andGloucester College of Higher Education43. Turner, Eva – Middlesex University44. Urwin, Paul – De Montfort University45. Weckert, JohnCharles Sturt University, Australia46. Whyte, Bill – Leeds University47. Wu, Xiaojian – De Montfort UniversityLocal Government1. Bhoot, JodyLeicestershire County Council2. Butlin, Norman – Devon County Council3. Gill, ParmjitLeicestershire County Council4. Griffith, Bob – SOCITM5. Hunter, David – FITLOG6. Pickup, SarahHertfordshire County Council7. Simpkins, PaulCity of Bradford MDCGovernment Agencies1. Attewell, Jill – The Further EducationDevelopment Agency (FEDA)2. France, ElizabethData Protection Commissioner3. Jones, Philip – The Office ofThe Data Protection Commissioner4. Smith, David – The Office ofThe Data Protection CommissionerOther Agencies1. Bowden, Caspar – Foundation forInformation Policy Research2. Devereux, LindaNational Group on HomeworkingCentral Government1. Hughes, Martin – Individual MemberParliamentary IT Committee33

Published byDe Montfort UniversityThe Centre for Computing and Social ResponsibilityThe GatewayLEICESTERLE1 9BHwebsite: 0116 250 6143© N Ben Fairweather and Simon Rogerson, 2000ISBN: 185 721 3149

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