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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Integrating Ethics into Undergraduate Computer Science Education

In April 2019, Santa Clara University was awarded a grant as one of the winners of the Mozilla Responsible Computer Science Challenge, which promotes innovation and experimentation in the integration of ethics into undergraduate Computer Science curricula. Such integration had long been a part of software engineering and computer science education at SCU; however, the funding allowed us to expand and explore news ways of engaging students and giving them multiple opportunities to practice their ethical analysis skills.

Highlights of that Work:

Course Integrations

Several Computer Science faculty members incorporated new coverage of applied ethics into their coursework, principally in the areas of Data Science and Computer Security. This important work included active student participation in analyzing case studies derived from our “Introduction to Cybersecurity Ethics" module, as well as using the Center’s “Framework for Ethical Decision-Making.” Other examples included a Data Science course that was redesigned to add focus on ethical considerations, in particular on bias in datasets and machine learning algorithms.

Hack for Humanity Event

Since 2014, Santa Clara University has hosted a 24-hour student hackathon called Hack4Humanity. While the focus of the hackathon had always been on ethical tech (as its name implies), this year, the participating teams were asked to actively address the ethical implications of their projects. The Responsible CS project sponsored a “Best Ethical Analysis” prize, and teams that chose to compete were required to submit a brief write-up addressing 4 ethical issues. 12 of the 27 teams that completed the hackathon took on this added challenge. (2020 event shown in photo.)

Student Community Events

In order to provide more opportunities for students to engage with relevant ethical issues outside the classroom, the ethics center organized two community events open to all engineering and computer science students. Over pizza, the students who attended where asked to address two key topics: ethical issues related to Internet-connected toys, and the ethics of open-source AI synthetic text. The students worked in groups, exploring using different ethical approaches, and learning from each other's perspectives.

For more on our ongoing efforts, see “What We Are Doing with #EthicalCS at Santa Clara University.”


Jul 9, 2020


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