FOS is innovative. It uses an emerging open inquiry-based learning created around a collaborative peer enhancement philosophy in an social physical and digital spaces.
Because it is innovative the FOS facilitators have a duty to evaluate it continually and to critically review how well it has met the expectations of those who have taken part in FOS and the aims and objectives set out by the facilitator group.
In addition to supporting engagement and learning, the facilitator group have an additional research role and this highlights the further need for ethical transparency. Because participants in FOS make a commitment to the course, it is important for the facilitator group to be clear about our obligations and commitment to you and others, especially when this involves evidence of your engagement in FOS.
The FOS facilitator group makes a commitment to all participants, therefore, within the context of seeking to contribute to good practice in an emerging learning environment.
Our Ethical Commitment
The facilitators and researchers associated with FOS, wherever we are located globally, have discussed our responsibilities to each other and to those who associate themselves with FO in any capacity. This commitment contributes to understandings of good ethical practice in social spaces. We note our dual role in FOS and agree that our role and commitment as facilitators is where our overriding responsibilities and interests lie. Furthermore, we agree that the nature and quality of our facilitative interventions will not be determined or consciously affected by our research interest and will not contribute to the detriment of our participants’ experience.
FOS is NOT a funded course or project. The facilitators contribute to FOS in a voluntary capacity and, in some cases, do so in the capacity of their substantive roles in educational organisations. The nature of open collaboration in the facilitation of open learning spaces is itself a dimension of our own learning through evidence-informed practice.
We commit to respect the privacy, confidentiality and anonymity of all participants. We will anonymise any data we use in evaluation activities or research publications, while observing that data created and shared in public on-line spaces is often traceable. We have a duty therefore to represent the data (for example, the ideas of participants) as being formative and transitional in nature, not necessarily representing the final views of participants.
We will incorporate data into narratives, fictionalise it, combine it, or use other techniques, if this helps to represent the original ideas and intent of participants as far as can be interpreted, in order to anonymise the data.
We will make reports and publications, derived from the experience of FOS and its data, available on this site or through links from this site within the bounds of copyright.
In this on-line environment it is impossible to reliably obtain informed prior consent from all participants. We will endeavour, however, to obtain informed consent following the course and prior to using data in public by directly contacting participants where their particular actions or communications are referenced in reports and research. In other cases we will post announcements to raise awareness of our research intent using the same channels we have used to promote and the FOS course itself. We endeavour to apply the general principles of informed consent sympathetically.
We advise participants that your actions while engaging with this course are being monitored and may be analysed to inform research and evaluation of the FOS course and its methodology.
We commit to abide by BERA’s general principles (2011), ensuring respect for,
- The Person
- Democratic Values
- The Quality of Educational Research
- Academic Freedom
Important notice to other researchers
As an informal open learning community we collectively request that researchers who analyse FOS and mine data associated with it and its participants do so with respect and also adhere to the general principles as set out by BERA British Education Research Association (2011) and the spirit of good will as set out here. Equally we give this work a Creative Commons licence.
British Education Research Association (2011). Ethical guidelines for educational research. BERA. Available on-line at: http://www.bera.ac.uk/system/files/3/BERA-Ethical-Guidelines-2011.pdf
Jones, C. (2011). Ethical issues in online research, British Educational Research Association on-line resource. Available on-line: http://www.bera.ac.uk/system/files/Ethical%20issues%20in%20online%20research.pdf, Last accessed: 24/01/2014
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The following expresses the commitment of the voluntary facilitator group members, whose names are listed at the end of this article.
FOS is a different space for learning and, as Jones (2011) discusses, environments that straddle traditional and internet based environments create new problems for ensuring good ethical practice. For example, Jones asks, “Is a Twitter stream a document, treatable as text, or is it a discussion? If a Tweet originates in one area but is then re-tweeted out of its original context does it retain the originator’s restrictions on its use and re-use or is it simply public?” (p.3)