Activity 6.3: Ethics in earlier research (1 hour)
Look back at the paper you read in Week 1. Can you see any ethical weaknesses or practices that might come under the scrutiny of an ethics committee today?
I highlighted two potential ethical problems when I first read this paper. The first was that the material on Virtual Classroom was mainly in a written format and this may cause problems with those students with SpLD or other print disabled students.
The second was that use of pen names could encourage disclosures/comments that were unwise in a class situation and, as course progressed, identities may be inadvertently revealed.
On re-reading I would also highlight the problems with the degree of author involvement in the interviewing. The author was also a lecturer on the course and this may affect the answers that the students were willing to offer both for written and face to face interviews.
I am also concerned about the fact that Virtual Classroom was a development project developed by the New Jersey Institute of Technology with extensive funding from the Annenberg Foundation which supports not-for-profit organisations. There are two ethical questions here in that the technology was being developed for lease to other institutions and so the authors had a vested interest in a positive result; and that money intended for not-for-profit research has funded a technology project that was intended for lease.