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Should A Cyberethics Class Be Required? Plagiarism And Online Learning

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Using Classroom Technologies

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1056.1 - 14.1056.9



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Paper Authors

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Jana Whittington Purdue University, Calumet

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Joy Colwell Purdue University, Calumet

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Should a Cyberethics Class Be Required? Plagiarism and Online Learning

Key words: plagiarism, online learning, cyberethics


While intellectual property is an umbrella legal term, and copyright is a legal term that relates to print and media rights, plagiarism is less of a legal concern and more policy based. Plagiarism often occurs in the traditional or online classroom. According to recent research, the availability of Internet resources has contributed to the growth of plagiarism among learners. Learners may plagiarize because it is the norm, or because they do not know they are plagiarizing, or they do not have the time to read and cite sources. Some researchers have stated that the main form of cheating [among college students] is plagiarism and that as faculty our role is to educate them on the ethics of cheating”. Campbell (2001) stated “Teachers’ own philosophical orientations, conscious or not, to moral and ethical issues will ultimately determine how they interpret their professional obligations and their role as moral agents”. Online learning, social collaboration tools and resources open the classroom to a world of knowledge. Given the recent research, does social responsibility for educators include some aspect of teaching cyberethics in every course? In this paper the authors will explore the overlapping areas of intellectual property, copyright and plagiarism, and suggest some concepts for educators using online learning and collaboration tools.

Background and Definitions

The umbrella term “intellectual property” encompasses the legal concepts of patent, copyright, trademark. Both copyright and patent rights can trace their origins to the US Constitution. The copyright law was written in 1790 to promote the progress of science and the arts, and since has had a number of revisions.1 Generally intellectual property rights protect the products of the mind, including creative works and useful inventions. 2 A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. US patent grants are effective only within the US, US territories, and US possessions.3 Copyrightable work includes, “poems, software and multimedia” and if reproduced without permission from the author, may subject the unauthorized copier to liability for copyright infringement4. An author is usually the owner of the work, but “work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances” is considered work for hire. The employer, or commissioning party, is considered to be the author…” 5 The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing or the ideas expressed.6

Patents and trademarks or services marks are beyond the scope of this paper, other than illustrating the definitions of intellectual property (even though they may be of great interest to faculty and universities engaged in discovery of useful inventions or processes). The focus of this discussion will be the copyright aspect of intellectual property.7

Whittington, J., & Colwell, J. (2009, June), Should A Cyberethics Class Be Required? Plagiarism And Online Learning Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5096

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