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Grappling with professional ethics in instructional technology by participating in an online service-learning course


In this qualitative study, we engaged in a narrative inquiry to examine what graduate students in an online service-learning course grappled with while learning about professional ethics in instructional technology. This study took place in a service-learning partnership between community partners, students, and the course instructor. Students in the course worked collaboratively to address a design problem identified by community partners. Our research question was: In an online graduate-level instructional technology service-learning course, what do participants grapple with when learning about professional ethics through shared experiences? Eighteen students volunteered to participate in this study from three iterations of the course. Data included student narratives shared in synchronous and asynchronous discussions as well as written reflections. Narrative data was analyzed with the constant comparative method (Charmaz in Constructing grounded theory, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, 2014; Corbin & Strauss in Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, 2014) using NVivo 12, a qualitative research data analysis tool. The findings from this study indicated that, while engaging in authentic ethical problem-solving within the context of an online service-learning course, participants grappled with ethical challenges, leadership, reflecting on experiences, legal issues, and social responsibility.

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Correspondence to Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch.

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Appendix: Ethical leader statement guide

Appendix: Ethical leader statement guide


You will write a statement to explore and articulate who you are as an ethical instructional technology leader who is committed to designing, developing, and supporting learning environments that are safe, ethical, and accessible for all learners. You will discuss your beliefs, how those beliefs are enacted in your everyday practice, and how you see you would be balancing your personal beliefs and your commitment for continuing to be an ethical instructional technology leader in your future practice.

Statement requirements

Your statement should include the following sections:

  1. 1.

    Title Page: Provide the title of your statement, your name, date, and the word count of your paper excluding the title page and reference list.

  2. 2.

    Introduction: Provide a clear overview, purpose, and plan for your statement. In this introduction state what you plan to accomplish by preparing the statement and what types of discussions the reader can expect from your statement.

  3. 3.

    Ethical Commitments: Provide a discussion about your ethical commitment to others including yourself, employer, clients/students, stakeholders, community, and any other groups that apply to your work/future work situation. Refer to relevant readings, discussions with other participants, and personal experiences that help clarify your arguments to the reader. In this discussion provide reasons to why these commitments are part of your core values as a professional.

  4. 4.

    Enacting Ethical Commitments: Provide reflections on how you currently are enacting your ethical commitments as a professional, and how you plan to enact them for future professional roles you anticipate to take. How would you balance engaging in ethical practice for all and ensuring that individuals are treated ethically? Refer to personal experiences or cases from class discussions/readings/news appropriately to provide a context for the reader to better understand your arguments.

  5. 5.

    Concluding Remarks: Provide a conclusion that explains what you intended to accomplish in this statement, your assessment of how you accomplished them, and impact on your current and future practice.

  6. 6.

    References: Cite sources you included in your statement.

Your statement should be between 2300 and 3000 words double-spaced using 1-inch margins 12-point Times New Roman font excluding title page and references following APA style guide 6th edition. If you exceed the required word count your work will not be read past that point. On the title page please include the exact word count of your document excluding the title page, reference, and appendices.

Relevance to your future work

As a professional at some point in your career you will be presented with ethical dilemmas. You may even be in a position where you need to interpret why a specific situation is an ethical workplace case and make critical recommendations, decisions, or policies in response to that situation. This assignment is designed to prepare you for such a situation by clarifying your personal beliefs and examine how your personal beliefs are likely to interact with your professional responsibilities.

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Yamagata-Lynch, L.C., Garty, E.R., Hostetter, S.T. et al. Grappling with professional ethics in instructional technology by participating in an online service-learning course. J Comput High Educ 34, 189–210 (2022).

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  • Ethics education
  • Instructional design and technology
  • Online learning
  • Narrative analysis