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What difference does openness make to ethics? This session will examine this question both from the perspective of research into OER and the use of open resources in teaching and learning. An outline of the nature and importance of ethics will be provided before the basic principles of research ethics are outlined through an examination of the guidance provided by National Institutes of Health (2014) and BERA (2014). The importance and foundation of institutional approval for OER research activities is reiterated with a focus on underlying principles that can also be applied openly.
I argue that with a shift to informal (or extra-institutional) learning there is a risk that we lose some clarity over the nature and extent of our moral obligations when working outside institutional frameworks – what Weller (2013) has termed "guerilla" research activity. Innovations of this kind could be free of licensing permissions; they could be funded by kickstarter or public-private enterprise; or they could reflect individuals working as data journalists. But we might also speak of "guerilla" education for innovations taking place on the fringes of institutional activity – from using social media to going full-blown "edupunk" (Groom, 2008). These innovations which employ variants of opennesss can also bring out morally complex situations.
I show how the principles underlying traditional research ethics can be applied openly while noting that, whether working within or outside institutions, there is almost no existing guidance that explains the ethical implications of working openly. Similar issues are raised with MOOC, which operate outside institutions but while drawing on institutional reputations and values. With this in mind I sketch out scenarios we are likely to encounter in the future of education:
- Issues around privacy, security and big data
- Intellectual property conflicts
- Ensuring fair treatment of class students and equivalent online students
- Meeting obligations to content creators
- The ethical status of MOOCs and their obligations to their students
- Moral dimensions of open licenses
- The ethics of learning analytics and the data it produces
I argue that, while models for ethical analysis have been proposed (e.g. Farrow, 2011) more attention should be paid to the ethics of being open. I conclude with an examination of the idea that we have a moral obligation to be open, contrasting prudential and ethical approaches to open education. At the heart of the OER movement, I argue, is a strong moral impulse that should be recognized and celebrated rather than considered the preserve of the ideologue: openness is not reducible to lowering the marginal cost of educational resources. Openness is a diverse spectrum and to leverage its true potential we need to reflect deeply on how technology has the power to challenge the normative assumptions we make about education.