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Cyber Ethics

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Cyber Ethics is designed to teach students the proper techniques with which to approach the difficult ethical dilemmas that arise from using the modern Internet. In addition to providing students with the skills to assess future ethical dilemmas for themselves, Cyber Ethics also looks at some of the more pressing concerns related to Internet usage today. Topics covered include privacy, intellectual property, professional codes of ethics, freedom of speech on the Internet, and issues related to ethical hacking.

This course has been officially released, and is eligible for a certificate provided through the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Learning Objectives

Overview and Terminology

  • Defining Common Terms in the Study of Ethics
  • The Theories of Ethics
  • Exploring Cyber Ethics and the Unique Scenarios That Arise from the Use of Technology in Society
  • Studying the Perspectives of Applied Ethics
  • Applying Ethical Practices in Business

Privacy Concepts

  • Introduction to the Concept of Personal and Public Privacy
  • Data Collection and User Consent
  • Privacy Enhancing Tools
  • Privacy Laws
  • Industry Self-Regulation

Intellectual Property

  • Understanding Intellectual Objects and Intellectual Property
  • Applying Ownership Theory to Intellectual Property
  • Applying Copyright Laws to Intellectual Property
  • Protecting Intellectual Objects
  • Discovering Additional Violations of Intellectual Property Rights

Codes of Ethics and Professional Practices

  • Introducing the Ethical Framework of Various Professions
  • Discussing Examples of Professional Codes of Ethics
  • Exploring Ethical Issues in Employer/Employee Relationships
  • Surveying the Ethical Considerations Involved in Whistle–Blowing
  • Understanding the Differences between Responsibility, Liability, and Accountability

Freedom of Speech on the Internet

  • Discussion of Freedom of Speech and Its Abuses
  • Discussing the Ethical Issues Associated with Spam
  • Analyzing and Applying Current Pornography Laws
  • Identifying Occurrences of Hate Speech and Defamation Online
  • Assessing the Effect of Filters on Freedom of Speech Online

Ethical Hacking

  • Exploring Cybercrime Terminology and Types of Cybercrime
  • Discussing Ethical and Unethical Hacking
  • Discussing Civil Disobedience and Online Activism
  • Discussing Cyberstalking and Other Online Concerns Introduced by Cybertechnology

Sequence of Learning Activities

ACT Online courses consist on modules that share a common macro-structure based on a paradigm for technology-based learning called anchored instruction, developed by the cognitive psychologist John Bransford and the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CGTV) during the late 1990s. This macro-structure, called STAR Legacy, grounds the instruction on authentic problem-solving situations (challenges) and then provides activities and resources that learners can self-select in pursuing the challenge.

The STAR Legacy Cycle employed by ACT Online consists of five phases:

  • The Challenge
  • Initial Thoughts
  • Resources
  • Self-Assessment
  • Wrap-Up

The Challenge is presented in the first phase and then Initial Thoughts provides a set of probing questions designed to help the learner organize and refine their thinking about could be involved in solving the challenge. Resources provides the primary learning materials for the module and are presented in such as ways as they can be browsed. Self-Assessment provides a collection of resources that learners can use to confirm their understanding of materials presented in Resources. Finally, in the Wrap-Up, learners are helped to synthesize what they have learned towards solving the challenge. Further, they are presented a related situation and asked to consider how what they have learned might be applied to it.


ACT Online courses support several innovative features that make training on the web more like the web. Courses and individual modules support "live search" capabilities for finding appropriate learning and self-assessment resources. Adaptive annotation features help learners who are having difficulty mastering concepts to focus on resources with the greatest value. Self-assessment resources provide progressive remediation: initially clarifying questions, then challenging misconceptions, and finally providing resources for correcting misconceptions.


ACT Online summative assessments are comprehensive, rather than quizzes punctuating individual lessons. Learners can pre-qualify for all or portions of a course's curriculum. Multiple attempts are given to pass the qualifying examination, with annotations within the training facilitating preparation for re-testing.

Dissemination Timetable

ACT Online courses are vetted through pilot testing and peer review prior to approval by FEMA. "Cyber Ethics" has been approved for public release to U.S. Citizens.


Howard, L., Johnson, J., Pap, G., Pence, K., Juracz, L.,Affordances and Form: Applying Lessons from Informal Learning to Formal Learning on the Web. Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Education. Pecs-Budapest, Hungary, July, 2008.

Imsand, E., Howard, L., Pence, K., and Dasgupta, D., Online Information Security Education through Anchored Instruction. Proceedings of the 12th Annual Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education, Dallas, TX, USA, June, 2008.

Miscellaneous project data

Project Number: DHS Approved: TEI Course Number: AWR-174-W
Domain: Social Sciences
Project Leader: Larry Howard
Primary Institution: Vanderbilt University, University of Memphis
Delivery Readiness: Used in instructional setting
Delivery Platform/Format: CAPE/eLMS, Web
Type of Learning Resource: Adaptive Learning, Assessment, Course
Audience: Any/all
Last revision: 2009/2/18
Pedagogy: Interactive Courseware, Legacy Cycle