Friday, September 29, 2006

Ethics and Mobile Learning - E-learning Queen

Susan Smith Nash (the e-learning queen, no less) has posted an interesting piece about ethics and mobile learning. I think the whole discussion of ethics relating to e-learning content is underplayed anyway. How is this impacted by the extension to mobile? Probably, quite a lot, as the context for usage goes outside the typical business environment and into the everyday. I think Susan has prompted an interesting discussion.


susan smith nash said...

This is so true!! I really like the points that you're making about ethics. What do you see as a few problemmatic ethical areas in e-learning, but which are overlooked?

David Wilson said...

Susan - I expect that we will see a lot more focus on ethics in future, particularly in large public and private sector organisations. Historically it seems to have been a minority sport.

I expect to see both greater focus on ethics as a topic, and also on ethics as a set of behaviours or requirements associated with learning processes (and HR more generally). Ethics as a topic will be driven by a combination of corporate governance and social responsibility agenda. What is interesting is how this in most-challenged across geographical and cultural boundaries - trying to apply the believes and morals of say a US or UK head office, to a multi-geography/cultural distrbuted organisation. We are already seeing this in some of our bigger mutlinational clients, all of whom have diversity learning as mandatory, and increasingly specific programmes on ethical business etc.

Ethics in the learning process tends to focus primarily in my view in one area, disability and access. Section 508 (and the DDA in the UK) have been well-publicised, and again most companies and providers now factor these requirements in, although there is still a mass of content out there that isn't compliant. The trend for rapid e-learning tools is however creating further challenges as much content production becomes the domain of the non-professional developer again.

But your original blog, also targets other areas or concerns beyond disability and access. Many of these exist in traditional e-learning but have not received anywhere near enough attention, partly out of ignorance, and partly out of the difficulty to know what to do about them.

Areas for concern would in particular include: data privacy for learning process data including embedded assessment choices and failure, speed of completion, responses to simulated scenarios that might show inherant bias. Also include embedded learning assumptions re age/sex/background of the learner, or of the characters being portrayed in the learning material. Also issues of access, not relating to physical ability to access, but more about desire to access or actually complete e-learning. (There are many issues in this area). Also the more collaborative the learning process, the more interpersonal ethical issues could be prevalent.e.g. the need for english-only communication, the potential ethics of blog/sms/im language and usage.

All seems a minefield to me! (oops, not very ethical metaphor to use).


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Leonard Low said...

I've read some interesting stats that show that mobile devices such as mobile phones are generally more prevalent amongst people of poorer socio-economic status than among more affluent groups. Are there any other factors that might indicate that m-learning could, in fact, help to overcome problems we've had in the past with other learning approaches?

Leonard Low