A Code of Ethics for Distance Education

Brazilian Association for Distance Education
Approved by the General Assembly of the Association
(17 August 2000 in Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Although institutions of Distance Learning (DL) vary greatly as to their objectives, types of activity, resources and size, it is important to attempt to establish a set of principles applicable equally to all of them, and respected by all of them, thereby guaranteeing the orderly and qualitative development of DL in Brazil. Such principles can serve various functions: as internal policies of institutions for the task of continuous qualitative improvement; as specifications for quality standards permitting the evaluation of DL courses; and as indicators serving to protect the interests of students who are the consumers of such educational services. This Code should be revised frequently since the development of new pedagogical strategies and technological advances is a permanent phenomenon, and rules and criteria can easily turn obsolete and become barriers for progress in the practice of DL.

The institutions affiliated with the Brazilian Association for Distance Education agree to comply with the following principles:

  1. Institutions should give ample prior notice, for any course or program of study to be offered, of a formal plan describing in detail the objectives, content, criteria for evaluation, nature of student work, basic bibliography, calendar of activities, types of support to be given to individual students, requirements for a diploma or certificate (and the legal status of such; that is, whether or not it carries official accreditation, and by whom), and the financial responsibilities of both institution and individual.

  2. Institutions should use as the authors of courses, teaching assistants, and all those who will participate in the teaching/learning process and have contact with students, individuals of proven competency and probity.

  3. Institutions should maintain legal contracts, stating the obligations and rights of each party, with authors, teaching assistants and consultants.

  4. Institutions should protect the freedom of expression of instructors and students, avoiding any type of ideological, political or religious censorship, and creating conditions for the manifestation of diverse tendencies of social or scientific opinion. Likewise, they should permit their pedagogical staff to enjoy freedom in the selection of the best strategies and forms of arranging content and methods.

  5. Institutions should attempt to guarantee that the pedagogical strategy used always be centered in the student and his or her needs, and not centered in the instructor.

  6. Institutions should amply disseminate the criteria for admission to their courses.

  7. Institutions should systematically accompany the progress of each student (through tutorials, didactic support and counseling) and motivate each to complete his or her program of studies with the best results possible.

  8. Institutions should continually evaluate the materials used in their study programs. with special attention to:
    • the academic content and the level of the approach to it;
    • the methodological and pedagogical goals;
    • the adaptation of the material for the type of students enrolled;
    • the linguistic aspects of the material used;
    • the appropriateness of the media chosen for use;
    • considerations of democratic access to knowledge, of special needs, and questions of gender, ethnicity and social class.

  9. Institutions should guarantee that all information and pedagogical methods used in their courses be the most up-to-date possible.

  10. Institutions should make avaliable those human resources and material infra-structure adequate to the type and quantity of students enrolled in each one of their courses.

  11. Institutions should offer to authors, teaching assistants and consultants that orientation and training appropriate to the operations and pedagogical specificities of DL, so as to guarantee quality in their work.

  12. Institutions should guarantee the rapid return of material sent by the student for purposes of correction and evaluation, and in general carry out all of the administrative routines involving students and institutional staff with transparency, promptness and fairness.

  13. Institutions should be capable of justifying the choice of media of their courses and of the learning materials used based on the didactic goals of the course and on the necessities, qualifications and possibilities of the students.

  14. Institutions should experiment with new pedagogic strategies in courses offered as long as students receive prior notification of this fact and in no way run the risk of having their learning penalized.

  15. Institutions should maintain a regular policy of research, publishing in respected academic journals the results of research with regard to the learning performance of their students, the didactic strategies used by the instructional staff, the media used, and the the situation of the workplace in the community.

  16. Institutions should do all in their power to preserve the right of privacy of their students and their instructional staff, avoiding the furnishing to third parties of information concerning any aspect of their private lives.

  17. Institutions should, by easily identifiable means, differentiate in course materials pedagogic material from publicity material and merchandising.

  18. Institutions should never use as parts of their pedagogic or promotional materials any texts, images or sounds for which they have not obtained the proper authorization from the holders of the rights of intellectual property or clear evidence that the materials are in the public domain.

  19. Institutions should avoid, both in their pedagogical and promotional material, any presentation of information purposely altered by electronic means which leads the student to erroneous conclusions. When the motive is clearly to avoid false representation, it is recommended that tags or indications be used with warnings such as: "Simulation," "Digitally Reconstructed Image," or "Digitally Altered Information."

  20. Institutions should follow the strictest criteria of honesty and transparency in their announcements and other promotional techniques to attract students, avoiding any type of exaggeration or fraudulent representation.

  21. Institutions should assiduously respect all current laws.

  22. Institutions should agree to use the Brazilian Association for Distance Education as the focal point for resolving eventual infringements of the present Code of Ethics, reporting to the Association any practice or act whose nature could be considered a violation of this Code or the interests of DL as an educational strategy.

  23. Institutions formally compliant with this Code of Ethics will have their names listed in all the publications of the Association as being "In Compliance with the Code," and will receive authorization from the Association to publicize this fact in the announcements of their courses. Institutions which are proven to have violated the principles of this Code will have their names struck from the list of institutions "In Compliance with the Code," and will lose the right of announcing the support of the Association for their courses.

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