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UGS Funds Development of Computer Science Ethics Course

Ethics hasn’t always played a large role in undergraduate college coursework. In some disciplines, especially in the technical fields, students might not encounter ethical issues until they enroll in graduate courses. The School of Undergraduate Studies (UGS) is working, and providing money, to help change that. A new course teaching ethics in computer science was developed with the assistance of the Ethics & Leadership Flag Course Development Awards. “Ethical Foundations of Computer Science” (CS109) is a one hour course taught by professors Sarah Abraham and Alison Norman in the College of Natural Sciences. The Center for Skills & Experience Flags (CSEF) awarded six $5,000 development awards for new or converted courses in the College of Natural Sciences to fulfill the Ethics & Leadership Flag requirement.

As a degree requirement for every undergraduate at UT, the Flags are designed to ensure that, regardless of major, undergraduates receive a broad education that prepares them for success in a changing workforce. The CSEF in the School of Undergraduate Studies provides resources and support to develop and teach flagged courses across the curriculum. The Ethics & Leadership Flag requires that at least one-third of the course grade is based on work in practical ethics, i.e. the study of what is involved in making real-life ethical choices. Each course that carries the Ethics & Leadership Flag teaches students to identify ethical issues and to apply ethical reasoning to real-world situations.

“The genius of our Flag program is that faculty can develop ethics learning in the context of their individual disciplines,” said Dean Brent Iverson. “Ethics taught this way is much more real to students, fostering stronger connections that will have a lifelong, real-world impact.”

In addition to the new computer science course, funds were awarded for new undergraduate ethics courses developed in biology, statistics, and data sciences.

“Ethical Foundations of Computer Science” was recently featured in The New York Times, KXAN, and The Daily Texan.

a student writes code on a laptop