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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Integrating Ethics into Undergraduate Computer Science Education

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Work in progress at SCU and elsewhere

Irina Raicu

Irina Raicu is the director of the Internet Ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.  Views are her own.

In 2018, Mozilla announced the “Responsible Computer Science Challenge”: a partnership with the Omidyar Network, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, that would support

"the conceptualization, development, and piloting of curricula that integrate ethics with undergraduate computer science training, educating a new wave of engineers who bring holistic thinking to the design of technology products. The hope is that the Challenge will unearth and spark innovative coursework that will not only be implemented at the participating home institutions, but also be scaled to additional colleges and universities across the country — and beyond."

Santa Clara University was selected as one of the winners of the challenge, and, since last Spring, a growing number of SCU faculty, staff, and students have been involved in the development of resources that will ultimately be shared with any educators interested in embedding ethical analysis and action into their courses. This effort builds on a long history at Santa Clara—a university in which all undergraduate students are required to take at least one ethics course (and about half of the undergraduate engineering students satisfy that requirement by taking a course focused on technology ethics); in which all engineering capstone projects already have to include an ethics section; in which multiple undergraduate courses reflect on the relationship between technology and society; and in which graduate students have long had the opportunity to take courses specifically focused on software engineering ethics (and more recently on data ethics and AI ethics, as well).

We’ve summarized the ongoing efforts in a piece titled “What We Are Doing With #EthicalCS at Santa Clara University”: it details our steering committee, current and upcoming course integrations, student events, faculty consultations, resources already available to computer science/computer engineering faculty, and more. Feedback would be very welcome—especially from software engineering/computer science professionals and educators!

Photo by Patrizia Soliani, cropped, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Jan 17, 2020

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