Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Ethical dimensions of Massive Open Online Courses

Rolfe, Vivien



Joseph Rene Corbeil

Maria Elena Corbeil

Badrul H Khan


The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is challenging the core values and practices of education. As academic tuition and resources are opened up to online learners of all ages and backgrounds, and with publically-funded institutions entering into partnerships and agreements with private providers in doing so, ideas about ethics in education and the accompanying research need to be considered closely.

This chapter functions as an early examination of the way the ethical dimensions of education are being considered in practice. As one would expect in an emerging field, the literature is patchy and sporadic, and in many cases severely lagging behind practice. The ethical dimensions identified from the literature have been mapped to those related in Khan’s “eLearning Framework” (Khan, 2003) – a model that predates the MOOC but not, of course, open education. Using this established categorization allows new areas of ethical debate to be identified, and offers a re-interpretation of other dimensions in the context of online learning delivered to hundreds and thousands of users on a global scale.

It is clear from this review of literature, that technology-driven changes within the education landscape alongside the growth in global learning opportunities, a scenario emerges where the speed of advancements has out-stripped the ethical constructs supporting it. Here, it is not my intention to provide a detailed philosophical argument regarding ethical approaches, but to offer a view of current processes and practice involving the use of the web in education, and highlight gaps in the literature that set out where further research is needed.


Rolfe, V. (2015). Ethical dimensions of Massive Open Online Courses. In J. R. Corbeil, M. E. Corbeil, & B. H. Khan (Eds.), The MOOC Case Book: Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development and Implementation. Linus Books

Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Book Title The MOOC Case Book: Case Studies in MOOC Design, Development and Implementation
ISBN 9781607975618
Keywords MOOCs, massive online open courses, ethics of higher education, ethics of online education
Public URL
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs