Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 411–437 | Cite as

The ethics of instructional technology: issues and coping strategies experienced by professional technologists in design and training situations in higher education

  • Hong LinEmail author
Research Article


To correspond to the Association for Educational Communication Technology (AECT) Code of Professional Ethics and the professional journal TechTrends’ ethics columns, this paper provides empirical data regarding ethical issues associated with the use of instructional technology in design and training situations. In-depth interviews of 20 professional technologists were conducted. The three most prominent ethical concerns reported were copyright, learner privacy, and accessibility. The results of this study also identified three ethical issues that have not been discussed extensively in the literature: diversity, conflicts of interest, and professionalism/confidence. In addition to identifying ethical issues, the findings of the study also contribute to the current literature through identifying coping strategies of ethical issues adopted by professional technologists. Finally, implications to researchers, managers, and practitioners were discussed.


Ethical issues Instructional technology Professional technologists Design Training 



Author would like to thank Dr. Steven Ross and the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback.


  1. AECT Code of Professional Ethics. Retrieved March 2, 2006, from Scholar
  2. Aragon, S. R., & Hatcher, T. (2001). Ethics and integrity in HRD: Case studies in research and practice [Special issue]. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 3(1), 1–1–2.Google Scholar
  3. Bassi, L., Buchanan, L., & Cheney, S. (1997). Trends that affect learning and performance improvement: A report on the members of the ASTD benchmarking forum. Alexandria, VA: The American Society for Training and Development.Google Scholar
  4. Brookfield, S. (1988). Ethical dilemmas in evaluating Adult education programs. In R. G. Brockett (Ed.), Ethical issues in adult education (pp. 88–102). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, K., Schwier, R. A., & Kenny, R. F. (2005). Agency of the instructional designer: Moral coherence and transformative social practice. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(2), 242–262.Google Scholar
  6. Carnevale, D. (1999). Colleges strive to give disabled students access to online courses. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved February 25, 2006 from Scholar
  7. Clark, C. R. (1993). Social responsibility ethics: Doing right, doing good, doing well. Ethics & Behavior, 3, 303–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Finn, J. D. (1952). Professionalizing the audio-visual field. Audio-visual Communication Review 1(1), 6–18.Google Scholar
  9. Foley, A., & Regan, B. (2002). Web design for accessibility: Policies and practice. AACE Journal, 10(1), 62–80.Google Scholar
  10. French, D., & Valdes, L. (2002). Electronic accessibility: United States and international perspectives. Educational Technology Review, 10(1), 1–13. Retrieved February 24, 2006 from Scholar
  11. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  12. Gordon, W., & Sork, T. J. (2001). Ethical issues and codes of ethics: Views of adult education practitioners in Canada and the United States. Adult Education Quarterly, 11(2), 179–185.Google Scholar
  13. Han, I. (1994). Caught between inescapable ethics and unavoidable distance learning technology: The grammar of discovering knowledge. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Union Institute.Google Scholar
  14. Hatcher, T. (2002). Ethics and HRD: A new approach to leading responsible organizations. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.Google Scholar
  15. Inouye, D. K., Merrill, P. F., & Swan, R. H. (2005). Help: Toward a new ethics-centered paradigm for instructional design and technology. IDT Record. Retrieved February 2, 2006 from∼idt/articles/documents/ethics.htm.Google Scholar
  16. Kebbati, K. (2001). Dealing with ethical issues in technology use in a high school classroom. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Kansas State University.Google Scholar
  17. Lan, J., & Dagley, D. (1999). Teaching via the Internet: A brief review of copyright law and legal issues. AACE Journal, 1(11), 25–30.Google Scholar
  18. Lee, M. (2003). On codes of ethics, the individual and performance. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 16(2), 72–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Mabry, C. K., & O’Driscoll, T. (2003). Lessons from adult education: Identifying and exploring emerging ethical issues in technologically enhanced performance. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 16(4), 78–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mason, R. O. (1995). Ethics to information technology issues. Association for Computing Machinery: Communications of the ACM, 38, 55–57.Google Scholar
  22. McDonald, K. S., & Wood, G. S. (1993). Surveying adult education practitioners about ethical issues. Adult Education Quarterly, 43, 243–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nichols, R. G. (2002). Meeting our ethical obligations in educational technology. TechTrends, 46(1), 52–53.Google Scholar
  24. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Piskurich, G. M., & Sanders, E. S. (1998). ASTD models for learning technologies: Roles, competencies, and outputs. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.Google Scholar
  26. Pourciau, L. J. (1999). Ethics and electronic information in the twenty-first century. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University.Google Scholar
  27. Rossett, A. (1992). Analysis of human performance problems. In H. D. Stolovitch, & E. J. Keeps (Eds.), Handbook of human performance technology (pp. 97–113). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. Rossett, A., & Arwady, J. W. (1987). Training needs assessment. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Rothwell, W., & Kazanas, H. (2004). Mastering the instructional design process: A systematic approach (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.Google Scholar
  30. Saettler, P. (1990). The evaluation of American education technology. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.Google Scholar
  31. Schwier, R. A. (2005). A grand purpose for ID? IDT Record (AECT 2004 IDT Futures Group Presentations). Retrieved January 19, 2006 from∼idt/shortpapers/documents/IDTf_Schwier.pdf.Google Scholar
  32. Seidman, I. (1998). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  33. Smith, M. (2001). Managing the Internet controversy. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.Google Scholar
  34. Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College.Google Scholar
  35. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  36. Swanson, R. A. (1999). Foundations of performance improvement and implications for practice. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 1, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Taylor, M. J., & Moynihan, E. (2002). Analyzing IT ethics. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 19, 49–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. The American Library Association (ALA). Retrieved April 28, 2006, from Scholar
  39. UCLA Online Institute. Retrieved June 20, 2006, from Scholar
  40. Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  41. Visscher-Voerman, I., & Gustafson, K. L. (2004). Paradigms in the theory and practice of education and training design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(2), 69–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Waddell, C., Thomason, K. (1998). Is your site ADA-compliant...or a lawsuit-in-waiting? Retrieved from the World Wide Web March 15, 2006.Google Scholar
  43. Waters, S. H., & Gibbons, A. S. (2004). Design languages, notation systems, and instructional technology: A case study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(2), 57–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yeaman, A. R. (2004). Professional ethics: The misuse of technology. TecrhTrends, 48(5), 16–18.Google Scholar
  45. Yin, R. K. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods (applied social research methods) (vol. 5). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Teaching and Learning ExcellenceOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

Personalised recommendations