Oregon State University

CS 391: Social and Ethical Issues in Computer Science

Oregon State University, College of Engineering


About this Course


Official: In-depth exploration of the social, psychological, political, and ethical issues surrounding the computer industry and the evolving information society. (Bacc Core Course, 3 credits). Prerequisites CS 101 or computer literacy. This syllabus is for the online section and some on-campus sections.

This course fulfills the synthesis requirement for Science, Technology, and Society (STS)

For people working in the advanced field of Computer Science, technological progress seems painfully slow. And yet, there are many who argue that the forces of technology are already too strong and changing the face of the earth too fast for society to cope. Given this polarity of thinking, your education demands a pause to confront the social, legal, and ethical issues presented to us by the problems and advances in the field, if we are to be socially responsible producers and consumers of technologies.

Philosophy of Teaching

I prefer to mentor, demonstrate, and share methods rather than mandate the memorizing of information. This approach, along with ample opportunity to explore and practice methods allows creative students to put themselves in a professional mode right away—if they're up for it—and use the freedom to study in a direction that interests them.

Technical challenges are opportunities to find solutions, through exploration, systematic troubleshooting, and group interaction. In group interactions, students have the opportunity to teach others; a highly successful way to learn. I like to engage students by bringing them to the podium to share their own methods. When teaching/learning online, this work happens in the discussion forums; again modeling the way professionals often solve problems.

Course content is presented in a variety of formats to aid a diverse student population. Links to multimedia-rich online tutorials aids the auditory and visual learners. Well-organized and well-designed course materials aid the visual learners and the learners who need only to read to understand new concepts and procedures.

Student Evaluation of Teaching

During the last week of the course you will be asked to evaluate the teaching of this course. Login to the MyOSU Student Online Services area to participate. Instructions are located on the Ecampus website.

Your Feedback is greatly appreciated!

more_horizLogistics and Communications


By the time you finish this course and leave the university, you will want to have practiced professional level ways to communicate, collaborate, create, and think critically. Learn more about The 10+ Most Important Job Skills Every Company Will Be Looking For In 2020.

Remember that when you communicate online, you cannot provide eye contact and body language to help explain yourself, so your message may be misunderstood. Sometimes the thread of a message is lost, making readers rely on memory (which is often faulty). And if you need the reader to act on your request, good manners will help you be successful.

Emotional & Cultural Intelligence

The following is adapted from Dr. Susan Shaw, Oregon State University

Some of the topics we'll cover in this class will evoke negative feelings. So that the sharing of those feelings is met with support and not more negativity, our behavior towards each other will remain civil. We will use our best manners when questioning ideas so that all students (as well as the instructor and teaching assistants) feel safe and not alienated or bullied. This is the way of the world...without manners, the world descends into chaos.

If you feel you are being harassed or bullied in this course, please report it to the instructor immediately. Describe the situation and provide links to the locations of the harassment so the instructor can address it.

Any students who do not follow the guidelines above will be dealt with in the following ways:

  1. A private message from the instructor asking for a behavior change.
  2. Reporting to the Student Conduct office
    (OSU Bullying Policy)
  3. Reporting to the Equal Opportunity office
    (OSU Student Conduct Reporting)

assessmentOutcomes and Materials

Measurable Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze relationships among science, technology, and society using critical perspectives or examples from historical, political, or economic disciplines.
  2. Analyze the role of science and technology in shaping diverse fields of study over time.
  3. Explain the roles and responsibilities of a computer professional.
  4. Articulate in writing a critical perspective on issues involving science, technology, and society using evidence as support.

Read more about OSU's Learning Goals


No printed textbook purchase is required. Readings will be articles and videos available online. Add each of these websites to separate TABS in your browser:

Canvas, textbook, and library in separate browser tabs
  1. Canvas
  2. Online textbook
  3. OSU Valley Library

Software requirements are based on your existing computer.

  1. Home Internet Options
  2. Chrome browser for Mac, Windows, or Chromebook users.
  3. OSU Google account for backing up all files.
  4. DUO 2-factor authentication access.
  5. VPN Set up for secure off-campus connections.
  6. Access Canvas using this URL: canvas.oregonstate.edu.

Learn about this textbook.

  1. Click the person_pin Instructor button, which launches the Canvas Inbox.
  2. Click the Chat with a librariain at Answerland. button to launch a chat session with a librarian. This service is available 24/7.
  3. Click the homeHome button to read the Introduction and Logistics.
  4. Click the info Syllabus button and read it thoroughly.
  5. Click the library_booksChapter buttons to work on each week/module's requirements.
  6. This week's objectives lists the major lessons of the chapter and allow you to jump down to them.
  7. Red messages are...important; read them. ;-)
  8. + Orange headlines can be opened to reveal blue numbered lessons and closed to shorten the content for scrolling and printing.

view_moduleChapters & Assignments

OSU's definitions and guidelines for quarter credits imply that 90 hours of your time will be needed to attend lectures (or read the required materials), understand the key concepts and laws, participate in discussions, and complete research writing for this 3-credit course (that's 9 hours per week). The 8-week Summer Session will require more time per week because more than two assignments will be due in a week.

Explore Topics files and Examine A Case Discussions

⬆ Shiftrefresh Shift-Refresh this page to see the most up-to-date instructions.

Explore Topics writing assignments (rather than quizzes) will be written in Google Slides templates and submitted to Canvas. They will automatically be checked for plagiarism in the Canvas/TurnItIn area. Scoring will be provided via Canvas Rubric where feedback and examples are available for most criteria.

Examine a Case Discussions will allow groups to research and discuss actual cases to analyze the results.

Click on the assignment names below to read descriptions, scoring criteria, examples, and detailed instructions. All chapters are subject to change so watch the Canvas Announcements for updates.

  1. Prepare to Succeed (22 points) 1.1 Explore Canvas. 1.3 Explore Topics: course logistics and requirements. 1.9 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 1.10 Examine a Case Discussion. Need help? Scoring Criteria.
  2. The Ethical Framework (24 points) 2.1 Explore Topics Introduction. 2.2 Set up a news feed. 2.3 Set up the Template and Reading List 2.4 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 2.5 Performing Ethics = Rational Examination. 2.6 Ethical framework for computer science. 2.7 Examine a Case Discussion: Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Need help? Scoring Criteria.
  3. Software & Data Development (23 points) 3.1 Explore Topics Introduction: data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, big data, software development methodologies, data acquisition and retention, online advertising, laws, and organizations. 3.2 Set up the Template and Reading List. 3.3 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 3.4 Examine a Case Discussion: software failures. Need help? Scoring Criteria
  4. Rights, Privacy, and Cybersecurity (25 points) 4.1 Explore Topics Introduction: rights, electronic privacy, cybersecurity, laws, and organizations. 4.5 Set up the Template and Reading List. 4.6 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 4.7 Examine a Case Discussion: security failure. Need help? Scoring Criteria
  5. The Hardware Lifecycle (26 points | 24 points Honors) 5.1 Explore Topics Introduction: design models, raw materials, e-waste, workforce, safety, and prosperity, and laws. 5.5 Set up the Template and Reading List. 5.6 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 5.7 Examine a Case Collaboration and Discussion: disruptive hardware technologies. Need help? Scoring Criteria
  6. Infrastructure, Access, and Justice (23 points) 6.1 Explore Topics Introduction: infrastructure, digital divide, mobile justice, and net neutrality. 6.5 Set up the Template and Reading List. 6.6 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 6.7 Examine a Case Discussion: access and justice. Need help? Scoring Criteria
  7. Looking at Technology through a Cultural Lens (23 points | 24 Honors) 7.1 Explore Topics Introduction: discrimination, inclusive design, leaky pipeline, bias in AI, and hiring laws. 7.5 Set up the Template and Reading List. 7.6 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 7.7 Examine a Case Discussion: company diversity. Need help? Scoring Criteria
  8. Dilemmas in the Workplace: A look ahead* (26 points) 8.1 Explore Topics Introduction: Association for Computing Machinery, whistleblowing, role-play your future job. 8.4 Set up the Template and Reading List. 8.5 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 8.6 Extra Credit: Examine a Case Discussion: expert talks. Need help? Scoring Criteria * CS major portfolio project
  9. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (23 points) 9.1 Explore Topics Introduction: the fourth industrial revolution, robot economy, crowdsourced and blockchain economies, and what we'll need to succeed. 9.5 Set up the Template and Reading List. 9.6 Edit, download, and submit the Explore Topics file. 9.7 Examine a Case Discussion: eradicating poverty. Need help? Scoring Criteria
  10. Honors/Extra Credit (15 points Honors) See Chapter 10.