Stakeholder Perspectives on the Ethics of AI in Distance-Based Higher Education




artificial intelligence, ethics, distance-based higher education, students, teachers, institutions, theoretical framework


Increasingly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having an impact on distance-based higher education, where it is revealing multiple ethical issues. However, to date, there has been limited research addressing the perspectives of key stakeholders about these developments. The study presented in this paper sought to address this gap by investigating the perspectives of three key groups of stakeholders in distance-based higher education: students, teachers, and institutions. Empirical data collected in two workshops and a survey helped identify what concerns these stakeholders had about the ethics of AI in distance-based higher education. A theoretical framework for the ethics of AI in education was used to analyse that data and helped identify what was missing. In this exploratory study, there was no attempt to prioritise issues as more, or less, important. Instead, the value of the study reported in this paper derives from (a) the breadth and detail of the issues that have been identified, and (b) their categorisation in a unifying framework. Together these provide a foundation for future research and may also usefully inform future institutional implementation and practice.

Author Biographies

Wayne Holmes, UCL Knowledge Lab, University College London

Wayne Holmes (PhD, University of Oxford) is an Associate Professor at University College London. His research takes a critical studies perspective to the teaching and application of Artificial Intelligence in educational contexts (AI&ED), and their ethical, human, and social justice implications. Wayne is leading the Council of Europe’s project on AI&ED, and he is Senior Researcher in AI&ED for the International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence under the auspices of UNESCO. He has co-written five books/reports on AI&ED, including for UNESCO AI and Education: Guidance for Policy-makers, and numerous research papers, including State of the Art and Practice in AI in Education (Holmes and Tuomi, 2022).

Francisco Iniesto, The Open University, UK

Dr Francisco Iniesto is a Research Associate and Associate Lecturer at the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University, UK. His areas of research and publications are inclusive design, accessible educational technology, and open education. His background is as a computer engineer with extensive experience in IT consulting and software development.

Stamatina Anastopoulou, University of Leicester

Dr Stamatina Anastopoulou is a learning scientist, interested in technology-enhanced learning across different contexts. After a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research fellowship that focused on learning with technologies in science centres and museums, she became a teaching fellow on the Distance Learning provision of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester where she is also the Programme Director of Museum Studies (Flex). She has worked for British and Greek universities for projects of strategic importance as well as for UNESCO and the Joint Research Centre, European Commission where pertinent issues of student experience, teachers support and institutional responsibilities have been challenged. 

Jesus G. Boticario, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia

Full Professor at the UNED’s Artificial Intelligence Department. Head of the aDeNu consolidated research group (since 2001). Author of over 250 research articles. Principal investigator in 35 R&D funded projects (EU, USA, Spain), sometimes as scientific coordinator. Program committee member and chair at high-ranked International Conferences (AIED, UMAP, EDM, ITS), Invited speaker at some of them. Organiser of Workshops in the areas of User Modelling, Intelligent Systems and Accessibility in Education. Guest editor, board member of National and high-ranked International journals. He has held several positions at UNED (as Vice-Principal) on technology-enhanced learning and Artificial Intelligence in education.


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How to Cite

Holmes, W., Iniesto, F., Anastopoulou, S., & Boticario, J. G. (2023). Stakeholder Perspectives on the Ethics of AI in Distance-Based Higher Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 24(2), 96–117.



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