Information Ethics Education for a Multicultural World

By Fleischmann, Kenneth R.; Robbins, Russell W. et al. | Journal of Information Systems Education, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Information Ethics Education for a Multicultural World


Fleischmann, Kenneth R., Robbins, Russell W., Wallace, William A., Journal of Information Systems Education


1. INTRODUCTION

Information systems students will face a wide range of ethical dilemmas throughout their careers, related to issues such as trust (Kelton, Fleischmann, and Wallace, 2008), transparency (Fleischmann and Wallace, 2005, 2009), and security (Fleischmann, 2010; Jaeger et al., 2007), and they must be prepared to solve these ethical dilemmas as members of an increasingly globalized workforce. Information systems professionals routinely engage in multinational collaborations, where they face important value conflicts (Fleischmann and Wallace, 2010). They must work with coworkers from across the globe, and in many cases they may work temporarily or permanently in countries with cultures that are dramatically different from the one(s) in which they are raised and educated. Different cultures handle (and even perceive) ethical dilemmas differently, and have different ethical touchstones that establish the expectations for ethical behavior. Thus, to prepare information systems students to enter the increasingly global workforce, it is critical to engage these students in ethical decision-making scenarios that will help each student to develop sensitivity toward the diverse ethical perspectives and values of their future colleagues, managers, and information system users from around the world.

This paper describes a subset of the activities of an interdisciplinary research team that aims to promote multicultural information ethics education. Specifically, one activity has been to develop a series of information ethics courses that expose, through readings on sixteen different ethical theories from four continents, both undergraduate and graduate students to a wide range of ethical theories and theorists from across time and around the world, allowing instructors to transcend the traditional Western bias often found in information ethics education. Another activity has been to use case-based education to engage small groups of students in ethical problem solving involving cases as seen from multiple perspectives of stakeholders within the scenarios, and frequently with an explicit international and/or multicultural flavor (Fleischmann, Robbins, and Wallace, 2009; Robbins, Fleischmann, and Wallace,, 2009). Finally, these cases have been embedded within an educational simulation that allows students to collaboratively solve cases through either face-to-face or online education (Robbins and Butler, 2009, 2010; Robbins, Fleischmann, and Wallace, 2009). This paper focuses on describing the educational interventions accomplished to date and providing a preliminary evaluation of their effectiveness through thematic analysis of feedback received from students at the end of the courses, as well as describing the future plans of the research team to continue expanding the educational opportunities for multicultural information ethics education.

The background section introduces the theoretical framework that guides the study. The methods section details the educational approach taken by the research team in developing: undergraduate and graduate information ethics courses, multi-perspective cases for these courses, and an educational simulation used to deliver these cases. The results section summarizes findings from the thematic analysis of feedback received from 101 undergraduate and graduate students. The discussion section illustrates how the finding can be used to extend the theoretical framework introduced in the background section. Finally, the conclusion section summarizes the contributions made by this paper to information ethics education theory and practice.

2. BACKGROUND

Both nationality and culture are linked to variations in ethical decision making. For example, Peppas (2002) finds significant differences in the ethical perspectives of Asians and Americans. Axinn et al. (2004) demonstrate the interconnectedness of culture and values. Recent research demonstrates that the effect of personal values across cultures affects ethical decision making. …

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