Developing an Engaging Online Engineering Ethics Course for Future Engineers

Developing an Engaging Online Engineering Ethics Course for Future Engineers

Julie M. Little (Taylor University, USA) and Patricia S. Fox (Indiana University-Purdue University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3634-5.ch011

Abstract

This chapter describes the process of developing both an engaging and motivating online ethics course for future engineers; and includes major concepts in engineering ethics beginning with why engineering students should study ethics at all. Next the various levels of ethics are examined, which include personal, organizational, and global ethics, and how each level then applies to the profession of engineering. Ethical behavior, ethical dilemmas and whistle-blowing are also defined and discussed. Ethical decision-making models, which are used to solve ethical dilemmas, are explained and examples are presented to engage students in the process. The significance of how engineers are held to higher standard and must adhere to both their professional code of ethics along with their organization's code of ethics is also emphasized. Understanding the role of ethical leadership and how it impacts an organization follows. Finally, engaging online methods for teaching ethics to engineering students will be explored throughout.
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What Is Ethics?

Of course, answering the question of ‘what is ethics’ becomes one of the most important concepts to address first in any ethics course (online or face-to-face) so that students fully embrace the material at hand and build self-efficacy within the topic. This becomes especially critical in an online environment where students seek to understand the importance of the material they study without the guidance of faculty present. Providing clear, easy to understand modules or pages (depending on the learning management system used and faculty preference) of the defined terms and concepts with examples has proven to be helpful to further engage students in the material.

Ethics, of course, has been defined by many, often in the context of social situations or interactions with others, and in relation to business. A common definition includes the distinction between right and wrong actions; and how we behave toward other people as well as how they behave toward us (Ghillyer, 2014). These definitions offer several thoughts toward ethics as a concept with regard to not only how we conduct ourselves within a business environment, but also in our daily lives, toward others as a behavior. But not only do we consider ourselves as isolated entities within these situations; we also often look at what others may be doing in reaction to the same situation, reflect back on how we were raised (influences), seek counsel with a religion or simply look to society for answers on what is the ethical or ‘right’ answer (Ghillyer, 2014). Relating ethics to students both personally and in their professional lives is helpful in their grasp of the concept.

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