Author: British Council | Published on 1 July 2022


Look at each of the questions in turn. Think carefully about how they relate to your own training experiences. Then click on each box to see tips, advice, guidance and further information.

1. Think about an online training session which you have attended. What role did technology play? Did it support the learning, or was it sometimes more important than the learning?

Technology should support online learning rather than dominate it. Technology should be seen as a tool rather than an objective. What is being taught is the most important aspect of the training. However, it can be difficult to focus on the content if trainees don’t know how to use the technology. As a trainer you may sometimes feel that you’re a technician and not a teacher. Be patient – as you and the teachers become more familiar with the technology, you will find more time for the content.

2. What is meant by the phrase ‘legal and ethical use of technology’? How can you use technology in your training to reflect this?

Legal and ethical uses of technology are linked but not identical. Legal standards are based on law e.g. obeying copyright laws by not using someone else’s original material as your own; stalking or bullying someone using technology (cyberbullying); using technology for crime, etc.

Ethical standards are based on principles of right and wrong e.g. respecting people’s privacy online; not using images or videos which are offensive; using polite language (‘netiquette’); not interfering with someone else’s online work; providing resources which use a reasonable amount of data, etc.

As a trainer you should model ethical and legal behaviour. All of us learn more from what others do than what they say.

3. How can you ensure that technology is used legally in your training courses?

In a training situation, the most common illegal activity is ‘breach of copyright’. Copyright laws protect an author’s original work. Every country has its own copyright laws, and most allow the ‘fair use’ of someone else’s copyrighted material for educational purposes. The meaning of ‘fair use’ can change depending on where you are, but a good guide is that it is fair to use 10% of an article, story, poem or piece of music. If you want to use more, you may need to get written permission from the creator. It’s always best to check. 

Some material, especially music and literature, becomes free to use after a certain period has passed, e.g,.50 – 70 years after the creator has died. This period differs from country to country. This is known as ‘Public Domain’. Some material is created using a Creative Commons license which allows you to use and adapt it free of charge. Look out for the logo.

Check the laws of your country for copyright laws and Public Domain use. As a trainer, you can look for materials which are not copyrighted, or you can use websites which offer free images and music on condition you reference them.

“Pirating” software (copying and using programmes without paying for it) is another illegal use of technology which you need to be aware of. Don’t share programmes that you have downloaded – this is the same as stealing from the developer.

4. How can you ensure that technology is used ethically in your training courses?

Using technology ethically in training helps teachers feel secure and gives them a model of what to do in the classroom. There are many ways that you can model ethical behaviour. A few examples are given below: 

  • Address all teachers respectfully, using their names where possible. Encourage them to do the same. Apply “netiquette” (a way of addressing people politely online). For example, typing in capitals in a chat box can be seen as shouting, so avoid this.
  • Respect the teachers’ privacy. Don’t share personal details like email addresses or phone numbers without permission. Don’t post photos of the participants unless they are happy for you to do this. You may need to get their written consent. 
  • Use the course platforms only for the course materials and interaction. Discourage sharing of personal posts, especially of a sexual, racial or violent nature. 
  • When using someone else’s work, it’s important to give them credit. Copying or stealing someone else’s work is illegal and is known as plagiarism. Reference anything you have borrowed from someone else and remind teachers to reference their own work.

5. What challenges do you anticipate in using technology responsibly, legally and ethically in your training? What could you do, and what could you say to participants, to minimise these issues?

Hopefully you will not face too many legal and ethical challenges in your training. However, if you do, it’s important to be prepared, and to know how you will respond. Some common situations and what you could do are given below: 

  • A teacher makes personal comments on others’ posts: Prevention is better than cure! Set out guidelines on what is appropriate at the beginning of the course. If you notice someone making personal comments, send them a private message and ask them not to do it. If they continue to do it, you may need to remove them from the group.
  • An assignment that is obviously plagiarised is submitted: This is a serious breach of copyright and can’t be ignored. Contact the teacher and remind them that this is an offence, but also try to find out why they did this. It might be, for example, that they are worried about getting a poor mark, lack confidence, or think they have poor language skills. You should have procedures in place about what happens in this situation – e.g. can they submit again? 
  • Someone posts offensive material in the group: Have guidelines on what to do if teachers open or post offensive websites or material as it can happen by mistake. Show people how to delete things they did not mean to post. However, this is a serious problem and you are responsible for speaking firmly to them. Get them to empathise about how the material could have been interpreted by other members of the group. 
  • A video, song or picture is not referenced: It’s easy to miss a reference yourself. If you made the mistake, apologise and use it as a way to show how referencing should be done. If it was a teacher, remind them of copyright laws and ask them to fix it.   
  • A teacher offers to share some pirated software with other teachers in the group: This is illegal as well as unethical. Make your views on this clear and advise teachers not to accept.

What changes are you going to make in your training sessions to make them more responsible, legal and ethical?

This is up to you! A fun set of rules from the Computer Ethics Institute could help you

  1. Don’t use a computer to harm other people.
  2. Don’t interfere with other people's computer work.
  3. Don’t look around other people's files.
  4. Don’t use a computer to steal.
  5. Don’t use a computer to tell lies about others.
  6. Don’t use or copy software for which you have not paid.
  7. Don’t use other people's computer resources without permission.
  8. Don’t use other people's ideas without asking.
  9. Think about the social consequences of the programmes you write.
  10. Use a computer in ways that show consideration and respect.

See also