Character Strengths and Ethics in Online Higher Education Faculty

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

As online programs in higher education gain popularity, the ethical considerations of educational practices become an important element to instruction. The unique character strengths of faculty enable them to act as ethical exemplars. Character strengths and ethical practices will be the focus of this interactive presentation. Join us!


Dr. Justina Or is an educator and human services professional. She earned her PhD in Psychology from Grand Canyon University. She also holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Edinburgh, a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Dr. Or started her career as a teacher for children and youth. Later, she managed public developmental disabilities programs to support the inclusion of individuals who have developmental disabilities. She now serves as an assistant professor at a university in Ohio. She primarily teaches online courses of psychology, philosophy, and leadership. She is interested in leveraging positive psychology to improve higher education practices with focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Extended Abstract

Online higher education continues to grow due to its many advantages. However, online education has its drawbacks too. Faculty cannot monitor students online the same way as in a traditional classroom setting. As a result, unethical behaviors are more likely to arise and go unnoticed. For example, some students may pay others to complete their work to meet degree requirements. For the educational community of online education faculty, the ability to handle ethical dilemmas and situations is important.

Imagine witnessing such unethicality. All of us should view this type of action as unacceptable. It is disruptive to learning. It is also unfair to the students who believe in academic integrity. So, what is the solution to tackling unethicality in the online higher education environment? One of the solutions starts with us. We must serve as ethical exemplars when shaping the ethical environment of the online classroom.

How can we serve as ethical exemplars? It sounds like a difficult question, but we may already have the answer. The most important task we have as faculty is to teach and pass on our knowledge to others. Through instructional development and delivery, we have cultivated some unique strengths. These strengths include interpersonal, intellectual, and emotional strengths. We exercise these strengths often when carrying out the most important task of our role, teaching.

Now, how do these strengths play into our service as ethical exemplars in the online higher education classroom? According to the virtue ethics theory proposed by the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, one can live a flourishing life by becoming a virtuous agent that practices virtues. Based on this model, modern psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman developed the Character Strengths model. They found six universal virtues and 24 character strengths that define the virtues. In the Character Strengths model, one can live a flourishing life by becoming a virtuous agent that possesses the character strengths.

Therefore, here is the last piece to our answer. Our answer to tackling unethical practices in online higher education may be to better understand these interpersonal, intellectual, and emotional strengths in relation to online faculty ethics. The answer may be to consciously exercise the unique strengths of online faculty members.  

In summary, this presentation will provide faculty and other university professionals with practical takeaways that will facilitate ethics among faculty members and the online classroom’s ethical environment. Through a combination of sharing, dialogue, and discussion, we hope to highlight the importance of character strengths to ethics in online higher education faculty and the benefits of integrating character strengths into ethics training among faculty members. Come prepared to learn and share!

Level of Participation:

This interactive presentation will take place in a small group setting which allows many opportunities for dialogue and discussion.

Session Goals:

Individuals attending this presentation will be able to discuss several faculty character strengths for developing high ethical standards in the online higher education environment. Participants will learn about key character strengths that are useful for online university teaching. In addition, participants will be able to identify personal character strengths in relation to ethical behaviors in online higher education that fit their own individual instructional design and student population.