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Engaging Undergraduates in Discussions About Ethics in Computing

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Engaging Undergraduates in Discussions about Ethics in Computing
Brian R. von Konsky Jim Ivins Susan J. Gribble
Curtin University of Technology
Department of Computing
Software Engineering Education Research Group
GPO Box U1987, PERTH WA Australia bvk@cs.curtin.edu.au Abstract o
Third-year computing students enrolled in a software engineering subject were introduced to the Australian
Computer Society (ACS) Code of Ethics in the context of a computing professional’s obligation to manage quality, safety and reliability. Following an introductory lecture, case study scenarios were interactively discussed during class. Immediately afterwards, students were surveyed to assess their self-perceived and actual ability to apply the
ACS Code to another similar scenario. Of the 68 students who gave their informed consent to participate in the study, 34% reported being fully comfortable with applying the ACS Code of Ethics, while 63% were somewhat comfortable. In justifying multiple-choice options for dealing with a new case study scenario, 37% provided a good justification for their choice, 48% provided a poor justification, and 15% provided no justification. A further qualitative analysis of the responses suggests the need for formal assessment of ethics in computing education, and highlights the importance of improving the perceived relevance of ethics to students and the need for in-depth treatment of ethical issues. Keywords: Ethics, Teaching and Learning, Engagement
1 Introduction
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals are faced with ethical challenges as society adopts new and increasingly complex tools and technologies. These ethical challenges have the potential to dramatically impact consumers of software products and services, the wider community, and colleagues in the workplace. Recognizing the importance...

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