CCE Theses and Dissertations

An Examination of Factors Associated with Students' Ethical Decision Making in Post-Secondary E-Learning Programs

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Marlyn Kemper Littman

Committee Member

Amon Seagull

Committee Member

Ling Wang


Technological advances and the increasing popularity of the Internet have contributed to the implementation of e-learning programs in post-secondary educational institutions. Students' enrollment in e-learning programs substantially increased over the past decade. However, ethical issues related to students' conduct in e-learning programs, such as plagiarism, cheating, and falsifying information, are a major concern. Moreover, students' unethical conduct has intensified due to the use of technology.

For this investigation, the author constructed a model based on an analysis of the following factors that impact students' ethical decision making: their familiarity with the university’s code of conduct, their academic experience, and their experience with the use of technology. Participants consisted of356 students enrolled in e-learning programs at two universities, an independent institution and a public institution. The author constructed a proposed theoretical model by using ordinal logistic regressions for determining the significance of the contribution of each of the three independent variables on students' ethical decision making. Outcomes of this investigation resulted in an overall significant model of the three aforementioned factors in predicting the odds of students' ethical decision making. Results show that students' familiarity with the university's code of conduct and their academic experience are significant predictors of the dependent variable, while students' experience with the use of technology appears to have little or no contribution to students' ethical decision making. Additionally, results of the interaction analysis show that the interaction of students' familiarity with the university's code of conduct and their academic experience appears to have a significant contribution to students' ethical decision making. Moreover, a Mann-Whitney U test analysis was performed, demonstrating no differences between undergraduate and graduate students in the scores of their overall ethical decision making. However, the scores of two specific ethical decision making items were found to be significantly different between undergraduate and graduate students.

The benefits of this research are threefold. First, this investigation adds empirical data regarding the factors that contribute to students' ethical decision making. Second, this study points out the significance of students' familiarity with the university's code of conduct as an important contributor to their ethical decision making. Finally, the findings are relevant to researchers and educators alike.

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