Re: Ethics of Information Absorbtion

Gina Miller (
Fri, 4 Jun 1999 14:38:33 -0700

I think it can only be a positive, educating oneself in any way. I also went to college, and lived the lifestyle. Now that I'm older, although I have aquired a couple degree's already, I find it in my best interest to continue learning. Therefore I am taking a computer course that comes from the National Radio Institute in Washington D.C. (I live in Washington State) long distance as it may be, I am still learning. It can only be up to an individual how they chose to the paths for knowledge, but any path, is better than none. I am however a habitual student, not every one feels the need to be, but the day I stop learning (or think know everything) is the day I can assume I'm dead.

Gina "Nanogirl" Miller
Nanotechnology Industries
Alternate E-mail
"Nanotechnology: solutions for the future."

>I use the internet to learn things. I find out about things I don't
>already know, learn details in domains where I have some knowledge, or
>discover new (sometimes contradictory) points of view about things I
>already know. Don't we all?
>I'm finding that one of the best places to get new information of the
>really detailed & accurate kind is to find the online course notes for a
>uni course on a subject (computer science courses are a common one that
>I use), and absorb those. Some courses protect course materials (keep
>them local to uni or require passwords), but many do not.
>Am I behaving un-ethically if I read, understand, and use this
>information? Presumably the course costs money (someone somewhere pays
>for it), but I'm skiving. Even if it is payed for through taxes, it's
>usually taxpayers in a different country (ie: not me).
>Now I'm not getting the course for free, just the notes, which are only
>a piece of a greater whole. Also, they are published on the web, and
>presumably the person who did this was aware of the fact.
>However, I prefer distance education to on-campus stuff, and tend to do
>a course by reading all the reading materials, and doing all the
>assessment. If I didn't have to do the assessment, I wouldn't (although
>I'll do practical stuff, exercises, etc, as I feel I need to for sake of
>understanding). So in any practical sense I am doing the course for
>which I am reading the notes. (maybe I might want to read the text too,
>but then I have been known to do this...)
>There's nothing wrong with reading a text book - if you read a book, you
>are not ripping off every uni which ever listed it as a text for a
>course. So far as I can tell, added value from a uni, for any given
>course, consists of the following:
> (1) Lecture content created by the lecturer
> (2) Tutorials arranged by the uni (providing a tutor and a bunch of
>people studying the same topics)
> (3) Course notes (possibly lecture notes) which are not available as a
>separate publication, but rather only in the context of the course
> (4) Internal organisation of courses (compiling all the stuff you need
>to know, which you otherwise would have to discover through trial and
>error), and providing all the courses to cover an area of knowledge
>thoroughly (more of the above).
> (5) Marking work and giving other feedback on a student's understanding
>of course material.
> (6) Certification of course completion
>(I have missed out some things here - uni labs, computers, other
>equipment? Have I missed anything important in a distance deliverable
>By reading course notes, I'm taking (3) and possibly (4) if it is
>published. If you compare to distance delivery, you can scrub (2), and
>(1) and (3) are collapsed into one entity. So all I'm missing out on is
>marking and feedback, and certification. Even feedback isn't too good
>with distance courses - turnaround on marking can be quite lengthy, so
>marking is only useful often with respect to certification.
>So I'm not missing all that much. Am I bad or good?
>PS: I did all the campus culture stuff some years back, and am in no
>position to engage in such now. It's better through rose coloured
>glasses anyway - I can't drink beer at 10am any more, but I can afford
>heating in winter, which I consider a net gain.