Teaching Computer Ethics Online

Written by Michael E. Cotterell on 2019-08-18.

In Summer 2019, I piloted my first online class, CSCI 3030E Computing, Ethics, and Technology (Online). Prior to that semester, I had taught numerous sections of the face-to-face implementation of the course during both regular and summer semesters. I proposed the online version as part of my application to the 2018-2019 UGA Online Learning Fellows (OLF). Over the course of two semester leading up to the pilot offering, I developed the course using some of my existing materials as well as some key insights learned through my participation in OLF. Overall, the development of the online offering was an excellent learning experience that I hope repeat in the future for other courses.

Structure & Scheduling

After working out the learning outcomes and related assignments, the aspect of course design that I spent most of my time was scheduling. I had prior experience teaching the face-to-face implementations in both a standard 15 week semester as well as a condensed 4 week summer short session. For the online offering, I decided to use an 8 week summer session.

The course was broken up into weekly modules. For each module, students were responsible for the following:

Readings and Quizzes
Throughout the semester, readings were posted to eLC. Sometimes these were chapters from the textbook. Other times these were links to articles, interviews, videos, etc. Textbook slides were provided, however, they were not intended as a substitute for the textbook itself. Readings for a given modile were made available when the module become available on a Saturday morning.
There was an online reading quiz associated with each reading. The time limit for each quiz was one hour per attempt; students were allowed two attempts. Each reading quiz was due on a Wednesday night.
Recitation Videos
For each module, students were required to post two recitation videos in response to a set of prepared recitation topics. In each recitation the student stated and defended an ethical thesis within the context of the topic. Students were permitted to take these videos with your phone, laptop, home computer, etc. Instructions of how to upload videos was provided. Each submitted video was required to be a legitimate, unmanufactured continuous shot. These recitation videos were due Monday and Thursday nights.
After the deadline for a particular recitation video, students were required to respond to the recitations of two other students according to a provided rubric. In order to help simplify this process and maintain uniform coverage, a spreadsheet was provided that explicitly assigned each student to two others. These recitation responses were due Tuesday and Friday nights.
Defense Summary
Instead of providing individual grades in the grade book for each recitation video and response, we graded a defense summary that eah student prepared according to a provided rubric. In the defense summary, students compiled information about the work that they did for the module and provided honest commentary regarding how they did or did not fulfill any requirements. Each defense summary was due on a Sunday night.

One module was covered each week. From a student’s perspective, this is what a typical week looked like:


Post a recitation video in the class discussion board following the Recitation Video Rubric.


Respond to two recitations in the class discussion board following the Recitation Response Rubric.


Submit last reading quiz attempt for this week's reading set.


Post a recitation video in the class discussion board following the Recitation Video Rubric.


Respond to two recitations in the class discussion board following the Recitation Response Rubric.


New module becomes available on eLC.


Submit a weekly defense summary in the assignment dropbox following the Weekly Defense Rubric.

Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in more implementation details.


Here are some of the positive anonymous student comments that I received in the course evaluation:

Dr. Cotterell is notorious for his well−organized classes and teachings, and it has been a pleasure to be in his class. The class had the right pace and the instructions for all the assignments were clear.

Anonymous Student in CSCI 3030E Summer 2019 Course Evaluation

Honestly this course was interesting and helpful. The two recitations a week were a little tiresome after a bit, but I'm not sure of an alternate way to do these and they really did help me learn the material by having to make the video instead of just write something out quickly and not really gain anything. [...]

Anonymous Student in CSCI 3030E Summer 2019 Course Evaluation

I really liked how the course was organized and how each assignment for the week was due on the same day every week (such as video 1 due monday night, responses due tuesday night, etc.) so it was very easy to stay on top of assignments and get them finished. [...]