Background and Context

Course History

CSC 324 / PHI 324 Computer Ethics was created in 1988, and it has been a dynamic, continually evolving course since then, regularly taking account of rapidly advancing and expanding information technology and the resulting social and ethical issues. In addition to a special textbook, which the students themselves helped to develop (see the discussion below), the course makes use of timely magazine and newspaper articles published while the course is being offered. It also takes advantage, using WebCT courseware and a course-related web site, of the continual "flow" of new computer ethics ideas, cases and materials appearing on the Internet.

In 2001, a joint task force of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Society of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (CSIEEE) published curriculum guidelines, entitled Computing Curricula 2001, which established - for the first time in history - a separate "Area" within the Computer Science Body of Knowledge called "Social and Professional Issues". This new "Area" includes ten social and professional "Knowledge Units":

SP1 History of computing
SP2 Social context of computing
SP3 Methods and tools of analysis
SP4 Professional and ethical responsibilities
SP5 Risks and liabilities of computer-based systems
SP6 Intellectual property
SP7 Privacy and civil liberties
SP8 Computer crime
SP9 Economic issues in computing
SP10 Philosophical frameworks

In 2002, the textbook and web-based resources of this course were adjusted and expanded to provide pedagogical materials covering all ten of these "Knowledge Units" recommended by the ACM and the IEEE. See the textbook: T.W. Bynum and S. Rogerson, editors, Computer Ethics and Professional Responsibility, Blackwell, 2004 edition. See also the textbook-related web site for the course:

Computer Ethics & Professional Responsibility

for web-based materials.

Where is the Course Taught?

Southern Connecticut State University

Southern was founded in 1893 as New Haven State Teacher's College. Today, it is a comprehensive university serving over 12,000 students in more than 115 under-graduate and graduate degree programs in both arts and sciences and professional studies. In 2002, the University established its first doctoral program (in Educational Leadership). Southern also offers various non-credit educational programming. The University educates students from many cultures at many stages of their lives. Half of all course credits are earned by full time undergraduate students. Most graduate students attend Southern on a part time basis, and they account for a growing share of all students. Approximately 4,000 graduate students are matriculated in graduate programs, with about 25 percent enrolled full time.

What is the Role of the Course in the Undergraduate Curriculum?

CSC/PHI 324 Computer Ethics is an interdisciplinary course that is offered jointly every semester in the Computer Science Department and the Philosophy Department. Three quarters of the students in the course are undergraduate majors in the BS Program of the Computer Science Department, and the remaining 25 percent are students from the humanities or social sciences. The course simultaneously fulfils at least three needs within the University's undergraduate curriculum:

In the Computer Science Department - The BS Program in Computer Science is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET (AccreditationBoard in Engineering and Technology). One of the requirements for retaining thisaccreditation is that students majoring in Computer Science must study at least theCore Knowledge Units in the "Social and Professional Issues" Area of theComputer Science Body of Knowledge identified by a joint ACM/IEEE CurriculumTaskforce. The Computer Ethics course at Southern more than fulfils thisrequirement, and it thereby helps the Computer Science Department maintain national accreditation for its BS Program. In addition, Computer Science students find the course to be both interesting and important, because it covers social and ethical topics that are very different from the usual mathematical and technical courses in their curriculum.

In the Philosophy Department
- The Philosophy Department is the home of the Research Center on Computing & Society, and the instructor of this Computer Ethics course is the Director of that Research Center, as well as a member of the Philosophy faculty. The web site of the Research Center includes a section devoted to the textbook for the Computer Ethics course

Computer Ethics & Professional Responsibilities

and students in the course who create excellent Computer Ethics materials can publish their work on the Research Center's web site. The Computer Ethics course is one of several in the Department in the area of "Applied Philosophy." Other such courses include Bio-Ethics of the Life Sciences, Business Ethics, Moral Problems in the Law, Philosophy of Education and Philosophy of Science.

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