Copyright © 2006 by Robert N. Barger. Last edited on

Course Description:

The course concentrates on the theory and practice of computer ethics. The aim of the course is to study the basis for ethical decision-making and the methodology for reaching ethical decisions concerning computing matters. Topics studied in the course appear in the outline below. Methodologies used in the course include lectures by the instructor, lectures by visiting lecturers, in-class discussions, in-class writing assignments, individual class presentations, individual case analyses, and examinations. The course is open only to Notre Dame students who have a second major in Computer Applications or a minor in Technology, Business, and Society (TBS).

Course Objectives:

A. The student will be able to describe and distinguish between the various ethical theories which can be used to form the basis of solutions to moral dilemmas in computing.
B. The student will be able to identify and define the components of a structured plan for solving ethical problems and, in the process, will be able to understand the basis for her/his own ethical system.
C. Given a variety of ethical problems, the student will be able to indicate which of them may be unique to computing and what makes each unique.
D. The student will be able to prepare case studies dealing with moral dilemmas related to computing, including appropriate components of the plan described in objective B above.
E. Given several examples of professional codes of ethics related to computing, the student will be able to compare and contrast these examples, discussing their commonalties, differences, and implications.

Classroom & Time:

DeBartolo Hall 242; Tuesday & Thursday, 12:30 - 1:45 p.m.


Robert N. Barger, Ph.D., Assoc. Professor, University of Notre Dame; Professor Emeritus, Eastern Illinois University; E-mail: rbarger@NOSPAMnd.edu Note: When using any of the e-mail addresses in this syllabus, remove the word "NOSPAM" from the address (it is included to prevent spam robots from collecting usable addresses over the Web). Home phone: (574) 289-8939. Note: Dr. Barger is infrequently in the CAPP office and works primarily at home, where he welcomes contact from students by phone or e-mail.

Course requirements, Grade weightings, & Grade scale:

  1. "Class Participation" (30% of grade):
    Included in this factor will be completion of in-class writing assignments and participation in class discussions.

  2. "Ethics Case Analyses" (20% of grade)
    Each student will write three analyses of computer-related ethics cases from among those printed in Chapters 13, 15, and 17.. Use the Ethics Worksheet as a format for completing the case analysis and include the statement of the question (already supplied on the worksheet) followed by your typed answer. If your case contains additional questions, include the answers to them after answering the questions on the Ethics Worksheet. AFTER YOU FINISH THE WORKSHEET, CUT AND PASTE ALL OF IT INTO AN EMAIL TO DR. BARGER. DO NOT INCLUDE IT AS AN ATTACHMENT TO THE EMAIL. The case analyses are to be emailed to Dr. Barger as follows, the first by 7:00 am, Mon, Mar 17, the second by 7:00 am, Mon, Mar 31, and the third by 7:00 am, Mon, Apr 14. Criteria which will be used by Dr. Barger in evaluating these analyses are: correctness of analysis, completeness, quality of argument in answering the worksheet questions, and quality of the grammatical and stylistic composition of the analysis.

  3. "Class Presentation" (10% of grade):
    Each student will make a fifteen minute power-point presentation on a topic which concerns computer ethics. Allow fifteen minutes for presentation and five minutes for answering questions. Send an e-mail to Dr. Barger with your choice for date of presentation (Apr 22, 24, or 29). You may check the calendar here for a list of the dates and presenting orders that have already been chosen. You can view the list of approved topics here: presentation-topics, or request approval for a topic not on the list. Dr. Barger will send you a confirmation of the date and topic. Dr. Barger will assign dates and topics to students who have not made a choice of a date and topic by April 5. Evaluation will be based on the quality of the presentation, the quality of responses to questions from the class arising from the presentation (or, if there are no questions from the class, the quality of the question(s) asked of the class by the speaker), and the observance of the time allotment. Note: A printed copy of the presentation is to be handed to Dr. Barger before the presentation commences (this copy must include at least one question to be asked of the class).

  4. "Examinations" (20% x 2 = 40% of grade):
    The midterm exam and final exam will deal with Computer Ethics topics relating to the material covered in the course.
    Preparation for the Final Exam:
    Class members will each ask ten other Notre Dame students two questions:
    1. Name a computer ETHICS dilemma, problem, or question that is of concern to YOU PERSONALLY.
    2. Name a computer ETHICS dilemma, problem, or question that you consider the most pressing for SOCIETY today.
    Class members will also answer these two questions themselves. Then they will word-process the eleven sets of answers in anonymous form (in the format: the first person's two answers, the second person's two answers,...up through the eleventh person's two answers, without identifying any of the people in the process) and e-mail these answers to Dr. Barger by 4:00 p.m., May 3. During the Final Exam they will be asked questions that call for their reflection on the overall meanings, implications, and conclusions of these sets of answers in the light of what we have studied in this course.

  5. "Excuse Policy for Classes and Exams":
    Students who are absent from a scheduled class will be permitted to make up the in-class assignment, presentation, or exam within a week of the absence only if they take the initiative of communicating to the professor a sufficient reason for the absence (e.g., sickness, job interview, funeral).

  6. "Policy on extra work": Students should understand at the beginning of the course that the above evaluation standards will be strictly applied and that no extra work opportunities will be available.

  7. "Grade scale": A=100-96, A-=95-90, B+=89-87, B=86-84, B-= 83-80, C+=79-77, C=76-74, C-73-70, D=69-60, F=59-0

Tentative Calendar for the Course (subject to change during the semester):

(Links appearing below, are required reading for the class. Links marked with an asterisk (*) indicate that a printout of the reading will be passed out in class. New or changed material will be marked with the symbol).

  1. Tues, Jan 15:
    1. Review of syllabus: overview of topics to be covered; explanation of assignments and grading procedure

  2. Thurs, Jan 17:
    1. Viewing of videotape on Computer Ethics
    2. For future class meetings, read the chapter indicated for that date.

  3. Tues, Jan 22:
    1. Chapter 1 - Introduction

  4. Thurs, Jan 24:
    1. Chapter 2 - The computer as a humanizing agent

  5. Tues, Jan 29:
    1. Chapter 3 - Philosophical belief systems - 3.1 through 3.3

  6. Thurs, Jan 31:
    1. Chapter 3 - Philosophical Belief Systems - 3.4 through 3.5

  7. Tues, Feb 5:
    1. Visit by Father Edward "Monk" Malloy, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame

  8. Thurs, Feb 7:
    1. Chapter 3 - Philosophical Belief Systems - 3.6 through 3.9
    2. John Paul II from FIDES ET RATIO

  9. Tues, Feb 12:
    1. Chapter 4 - A philosophic inventory

  10. Thurs, Feb 14:
    1. Chapter 5 - The possibility of a unified ethical theory

  11. Tues, Feb 19:
    1. Visit by Mike Kraus, Controller of Cooper Standard Co., Bremen, IN.

  12. Thurs Feb 21:
    1. Visit by John Bollman, Vice President of Whirlpool Corporation

  13. Tues Feb 26:
    1. Chapter 6 - The ethical decision making process

  14. Thurs, Feb 28:
    1. Review of ethics case analysis and class presentation assignments
    2. Group solution of False Images in Broadcasts case

  15. Tues, Mar 11:
    1. Mid-semester exam

  16. Thurs, Mar 13:
    1. Chapter 7 - Psychology and computer ethics

  17. Tues, Mar 18:
    1. Chapter 8 - The computing field as a profession

  18. Thurs, Mar 20:
    1. Chapter 9 - Computer-related codes of ethics 9.1 - 9.2
    2. ACM Code of Ethics and Professinal Conduct
    3. Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice

  19. Tues, Mar 25:
    1. Chapter 9 - Computer-related codes of ethics 9.3 - 9.5
    2. Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics
    3. Ben Fairweather's Commentary on the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics

  20. Thurs, Mar 27:
    1. Chapter 10 - Computer Ethics and International Development
    2. ETHICS IN INTERNET by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications

  21. Tues, Apr 1:
    1. Visit by Gordon Wishon, Assoc. Vice President and C.I.O. of the University of Notre Dame

  22. Thurs, Apr 3:
    1. Chapter 11 - Roboethics

  23. Tues, Apr 8:
    1. Chapter 12 - Theft/Piracy concerns

  24. Thurs, Apr 10:
    1. Chapter 14 - Privacy concerns

  25. Tues, Apr 15:
    1. Chapter 16 - Power concerns

  26. Thurs, Apr 17:
    1. Chapter 19 - Parasitic computing case

  27. Tues, Apr 22:

  28. Thurs, Apr 24:

  29. Tues, Apr 29:

  30. Final Exam, Thursday, May 8, 10:30-12:30, DeBartolo 242
    No variations will be granted for the final exam date or time.

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