Ethical and legal values

Your context

It is important to understand the policies and regulations on...

Useful links

JISC Legal provides guidance in the UK on technology use in...

Having considered the principles behind good online design, and thought about how you might structure your online course, it is also important to have an understanding of how certain legal and ethical policies apply to online learning environments when you design and develop an online programme. These guidelines can vary with nationality, region and institution, so it's very important to be familiar with the policies local to your own context. In any event, you should understand the basic (and ever-changing) policies related to:

Academic integrity

Observing moral and ethical values in relation to learning, teaching and research.

Each of these policy areas was put in place to promote a certain set of values and responsibilities, and each plays an important role in the ethical and legal grounding of higher education. You need to be aware that in online education the rules in these areas aren't always the same as they are for traditional face-to-face learning. Moreover, online courses that target international students living in their home countries may be subject to the policies and regulations of those countries.

In the following activity, we will look in more detail at academic integrity, intellectual property and copyright law. Click on one of these policy areas on the menu screen of the activity and then use the tabs at the bottom to learn more about what the policy area involves, why it is important and some key points to remember. Use the 'Back' button to return to the menu and select the next policy area.

The following paragraphs will outline the three policy areas in further detail.

PROGRAMME | Teaching Online
COURSE | Designing and developing your online course
UNIT | 2 : Things to consider before you start designing your course
PAGE TITLE | Legal and ethical policies related to online learning

Intellectual property (IP)

What is It?

  • IP refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.
  • There are two categories: (1) industrial property (inventions/patents, trademarks, etc.) and (2) copyright (original works).

Why is it important?

  • IP provides an understanding behind the basis of copyright, which is highly relevant to us as teachers and designers.

Key points:

  • Legislation around intellectual property law aims at safeguarding creators and other producers of intellectual goods and services by granting them certain time-limited rights to control the use made of those productions.
  • Literary, artistic and scientific works belong to the copyright branch of intellectual property.
  • Depending on your institution's and country's laws, intellectual property may involve ownership issues related to the online course(s) you create.

Copyright law

What is It?

  • Copyright is actually a subset of intellectual property law. It's a form of protection for original works, both published and unpublished. Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, films, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright protects the fixed expression of ideas in a work, rather than the ideas themselves.

Why is it important?

Copyright grants owners the exclusive rights to:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted original
  • Distribute copies of the copyrighted works
  • Perform the copyrighted work
  • Display the copyrighted work publicly.

Key Points:

  • Copyrighted materials could include lecture notes, documents produced for a course (e.g. PowerPoints, images), email messages and discussions, and work produced by the students. Live discussions or chats, unless captured or recorded, are not copyright protected.
  • Copyright varies between territories, so be sure you are familiar with the legislation in your country and context.
  • There are 'Fair Use' exceptions, which are discussed in more detail in the 'Useful links' pod at the end of this section.

Academic integrity

What is It?

  • A set of ethical principles that are generally set by cultural values and norms and individual institutions; including but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, and academic dishonesty.

Why is it important?

  • Academic integrity allows students, teachers, and designers to keep a high level of worth for the education being gained and provided, fostering trust and demanding personal accountability.

Key points:

  • When policies are in place within an online course, a contract is formed between students and teachers. This contract can help alleviate issues, or provide solutions when they occur. Policies that are not stated may be difficult to enforce.

Getting to grips with copyright

Did you know?

A Creative Commons Licence (CCL) can be applied to copyrightable...

Each country has its own set of copyright laws. Whilst the overarching principles are common to most regions and territories, the details of how intellectual property can and can't be used (including in online learning), and the permissions required, can vary subtly between jurisdictions. Make sure you understand the copyright laws specific to your context before you begin designing and developing your online course. See the 'Useful links' pods on the right-hand side of this screen for further details on copyright in different territories.

Each country has its own set of copyright laws. Whilst the overarching principles are common to most regions and territories, the details of how intellectual property can and can't be used (including in online learning), and the permissions required, can vary subtly between jurisdictions. Make sure you understand the copyright laws specific to your context before you begin designing and developing your online course. See the 'Useful links' pods at the end of this section for further details on copyright in different territories.

In the following activity, consider the questions related to copyright law and click on the 'Hint' button for a prompt. Click 'Feedback' to view our thoughts, and 'Next' to move through the questions.
Consider the following questions related to copyright law. In the case of each question, pause to consider your response, use the 'Hint' to guide your thoughts, then continue on to consider some feedback.

Useful links

Copyright in the UK: www.ipo.gov.uk/home.htm
Copyright in Australia...

Question 1 of 3:

A teacher would like to use student contributions to an online wiki as part of a research presentation at a conference. Names will be removed from the student contributions but text will be intact. Are there any protocols the teacher must follow?

Hint: Who are the creators of the product? The teacher? The students?

Feedback:

Yes, the teacher must obtain permission from the students as copyright holders of the works.


Question 2 of 3:

As a teacher you have traditionally provided course packs to your students. Can you provide e-course packs to your online students?

Hint: Consider the fair use rules and your current use of course packs at your institution. Would policies be stricter for online students?

Feedback:

Different rules may apply for a course pack and an e-course pack. Check with librarians at your institution. They can obtain copyright clearance, which allows you to provide your students with the readings. At some institutions, the librarian will provide a website with links to the readings, which require students to authenticate or provide their student ID for access.


Question 3 of 3:

A teacher makes a recording of a lecture. Has he/she violated any copyright laws?

Hint: Was all of the content of the lecture contributed by the teacher?

Feedback:

Where the content is created by the teacher, their employer (the university) would hold the copyright. However, problems arise when the lecture contains content created by others. For example, did the teacher play a video during the lecture? Was student work displayed? In these cases, the original copyright holder would need to be consulted.

This screen has introduced the three concepts of intellectual property, copyright law and academic integrity. Having looked in some detail at the issues relating to copyright, we will explore academic integrity in more detail in the screen on 'Thinking about academic integrity'.

This section has introduced the three concepts of intellectual property, copyright law and academic integrity. Having looked in some detail at the issues relating to copyright, we will explore academic integrity in more detail in the screen on 'Thinking about academic integrity'.


Your context

It is important to understand the policies and regulations on academic integrity, intellectual property, and copyright at your own institution. Locate the relevant information and then bookmark any relevant documents or webpages for future reference. You should also find a contact person and the office that oversees each of the policies.

Useful links

Did you know?

A Creative Commons Licence (CCL) can be applied to copyrightable materials and allows you, the copyright holder, to give permission to others to use your copyrighted work. In a similar manner, if you wish to use materials that have a CCL, you are free to do so as long as you are in compliance with the licence. In most cases that involve education, Fair Use will allow you flexibility for use of materials, but if you are looking at a commercial prospect, CCLs will have a greater impact on your work, in terms of both what you can use and what you can license to others. Find out more about CCLs here: http://creativecommons.org/

Useful links