Title: Educational Simulation for Information Ethics: Connecting Education and Practice



Modern global society has become increasingly reliant on information professional to serve key roles in creating, managing, and maintaining the global information infrastructure that is critical to research, education, commerce, and quality of life. As such, information professional need to learn not only technical skills but also how to resolve ethical issues such as outsourcing, intellectual property, and information privacy. Work in the new global economy requires that information professionals are able to consider the range of cultural values and ethical perspectives as represented by leading thinkers such as Aristotle, Bentham, Buddha, Confucius, Gilligan, and Kant. To broaden and deepen the ethical perspectives of information professionals, it is essential to develop and teach courses in information ethics as part of professional graduate programs in library and information science (LIS).


Further, to enable current and future information professionals to appreciate and understand the relevance of ethics in their work, it is necessary to find educationally motivating ways to engage graduate student in LIS programs to consider key ethical issues. This study proposes to accomplish this goal through development and evaluation of an educational simulation for information ethics that serves as the cornerstone for an innovative course focusing on the role of values and ethics in information within a global society. This simulation uses case studies that are based on LIS practice. Thus, the simulation connects LIS education with practice, allowing students to practice ethical decision-making in a safe environment to help prepare them to deal with on-the-job ethical issues.


This study builds on the authors' prior research, including NSF-funded studies of the ethics of computational models and educational simulations, as well as developing and testing a web-based ethical assistant and "ethical" software agents. Further, this study also builds on the authors' prior teaching experiences, including information ethics courses at multiple institutions.


This study seeks to answer three major research questions:

  1. How do graduate students in information ethics courses use educational simulation software to gain understandings of and hands-on experiences with important ethics issues such as intellectual property in a global society?
  2. Does geographical co-location have an impact on use of the simulation in the context of an information ethics course at the graduate level with a diverse range of students?
  3. Do students in a graduate-level information ethics courses benefit most from interaction with peers, or with the software agents developed through this project?


This study provides a free and open-source simulation for information ethics, allowing students both to participate in and learn from cases and to develop and implement their own cases that they can then share with peers. It involves the development of a novel and highly participatory course built around the simulation that can be implemented in a professional LIS programs across the county and the world. This study can thus better prepare information professionals to deal with ethical issues throughout their careers.