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CSE 300 Social, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Computer Science
Course Syllabus

Fall Term, 2021

Course Information

This course will introduce students to the professional responsibilities expected of a computing professional and provide the knowledge and tools to make informed judgments in computing practice based on legal and ethical principles. The course also addresses local and global impacts of computing solutions on individuals, organizations, and society.

An ethical foundation for decision-making in computing and data science in developed. Specific topics of importance to computing and data are addressed in the context of that ethical foundation and case studies examine the consequences of ethical successes and failures.

Course Objectives:

Course Information:1 credit hour

Wednesday 3:00-3:50pm

Wells Hall B119

Class will not normally meet. See the discussion below under Teaching Modality.

Instructor:Charles B. Owen

Office: 3134 Engineering Building

Phone: 353-6488

Office Hours: See the course D2L site.

Teaching Assistants:Sanaz Hasanzadeh Fard

Office Hours: See the course D2L site.

Julia Zheng

Office Hours: See the course D2L site.

Website:Course is presented on D2L.

All course information will be posted on the course D2L site.

Teaching Modality:This is a hybrid course. The bulk of the course content is provided in an asynchronous online format. No specific times are specified and you work on your own schedule. We will not normally meet at the scheduled class time.

During the semester it is the plan to meet several times at the regular class time in Wells B119 for discussions. We may limit the number of students each time to avoid large numbers in a room and if you are not able to attend at those times an alternative activity will be made available.

The design of CSE300 included bringing in speakers who would speak to the class about ethics, professionalism, and related topics. The current COVID-19 situation has made the type of activity problematic, but we are retaining the hybrid class structure should the situation significantly improve.

Course Staff:See the course D2L for teaching assistants, learning assistants, and all course help office hours. This course is an online course. A TA or learning assistant will be available during specified lab times and/or via Zoom for student help.

Textbooks:No textbook is required.

Kritik:This term, we will be using Kritik, a peer-to-peer learning and evaluation platform. It is an engaging and gamified web platform that helps you develop your critical thinking skills according to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Each Kritik activity has 3 unique stages:
Stage 1: Create → Follow the instructions, read the provided rubric and create a submission
Stage 2: Evaluate → Anonymously score your peers based on a rubric, and give a provide written comments
Stage 3: Feedback → Provide peer evaluators anonymous feedback on how motivational/critical their comments were

When you participate in Kritik activities, you will receive 3 scores: Creation score, Evaluation score and Participation score. Together, these will add up to 50% of your final course mark. To understand what these scores mean and exactly how they are calculated, please read the section How Scoring Works in Kritik’s help center.

An email invitation will be sent to your school email account that contains the link to register for a Kritik account and enroll in the course. You MUST use your university email to sign up in order to access the course. If you did not receive any email yet, please contact Kritik using the live chat button on their website.

How to get help: If you have any questions about Kritik, please use the live chat in the app. A human agent will respond promptly in a few minutes during business hours. You can also visit Kritik’s help center which should address any questions you have about the platform.

Important Dates: See the online calendar on the class web site home page for all important dates. The course schedule is subject to change with appropriate notice.

Final Exam: Friday, 12/17/2021

Classes start: Wednesday, 9/1/2021

Last date to drop a course with full refund: Monday, 9/27/2021

Last date to drop with no grade reported: Wednesday, 10/20/2021

Computing: Students will need Microsoft Word to prepare course essays.

An Internet connection is required to complete online assignments and access the course website (DSL, LAN, or cable connection desirable).

Contingency Plans:In the case of connectivity issues, please contact either of the instructors.

Privacy: Electronic conversation via email, bulletin boards, or any of the Interact! features, is different from verbal communication because it retains the identity of the participant. In this course, all participants will have access to a list of names and e-mail addresses of other course participants. Participants in the course will be able to send bulk e-mail to all other participants.


Exams: There will be a written exam in this course. The exam takes place Friday, 12/17/2021 in Wells Hall B119

Assignment Quizzes:There will be multiple assignment quizzes throughout the semester. Most modules will have at least two. You will be allowed 3 tries for each quiz. Many quizzes may require you to do some research beyond the material presented in the course.

Essays:There will be three essay assignments over the course of the semester. Essays will be submitted and graded using the Kritik system. There will also a a calibration exercise using Kritik designed to improve the accuracy of its assessment system.

The essays are the single-most important element of this course. Failure to participate in the essays in the following ways will result in a penalty grade of -100% for the essay or calibration exercise:

  • Failing to submit a reasonable effort
  • Failing to participate in the reviewing process

In addition, incidents of academic dishonest on an essay will result in a penalty grade of -100%.


Ethics is a topic that benefits greatly from discussion. Participation in the D2L discussions boards will be required. For each discussion specifically indicated in the modules, you are required to create one thread and contribute to at least two other threads. These are minimum requirements. It is hoped that the discussion boards will lead to a lively interaction in the course.

Grading: The course grade is based on these grading categories:

  • Quizzes: 35%
  • Essays: 40%
  • Participation: 10%
  • Final Exam: 15%

Final grades will be based on this scale:

  • 90%+: 4.0
  • 85%: 3.5
  • 80%: 3.0
  • 75%: 2.5
  • 70%: 2.0
  • 65%: 1.5
  • 60%: 1.0
  • <60%: 0.0

If a student wishes to question any grade, he or she must contact the TA first to discuss the issue. The grading page has a link to the appropriate contact for grading questions. If the problem cannot be resolved after consultation with the TAs, the TAs will forward a summary of the problem to the instructor (with an e-mail copy to the student).

Course Topics (subject to change)

  • Ethical Foundations
  • Privacy
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Intellectual Property
  • Security
  • Data and Machine Learning
  • Environmental Responsibilities
  • Bias
  • Quality and Risk
  • Professional Ethics and Responsibilities
  • Impact of Data and Computing

Additional Information

Academic Honesty:The Spartan Code of Honor states, "As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do." In addition, Article 2.III.B.2 of the Student Rights and Responsibilites (SRR) states that "The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards." The (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site:

Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work you completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Also, you are not authorized to use the Web site to complete any course work in this course. Students who violate MSU academic integrity rules may receive a penalty grade, including a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also the Academic Integrity webpage.)

That’s the university policy.  My specific policies are as follows: You may discuss individual assignments with other students, but the assignment must be entirely your own work.  Plagiarism just makes me mad! All work turned in must be your own.  If you borrow or adapt software from a textbook or from source code that is obviously public, you must treat this as a quotation or paraphrase, acknowledging the source in the heading or the program module. All incidents of academic dishonesty will be reported to the University System.

You may discuss assignments in general terms with your classmates, the course staff, or the instructor, but you are not permitted to receive solutions from others or to read or copy part or all of another person’s solution to a problem.

Disabilities:Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Requests for accommodations by persons with disabilities may be made by contacting the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities at 517-884-RCPD or on the web at Once your eligibility for an accommodation has been determined, you will be issued a Verified Individual Services Accommodation ("VISA") form. Please arrange for this form to sent to the instructor at the start of the term and/or two weeks prior to the accommodation date (test, project, etc.). Requests received after this date may not be honored.

Commercialization: Commercialization of lecture notes and university-provided course materials is not permitted in this course.

Religious Holidays:You may make up course work missed to observe a major religious holiday only if you make arrangements in advance with the instructor.

Required Activities:To make up course work missed to participate in a required activity for another course or a university-sanctioned event, you must provide the instructor with adequate advanced notice and a written authorization from the faculty member of the other course or from a university administrator.

Disruptive Behavior:Article 2.3.5 of the Academic Freedom Report (AFR) for students at Michigan State University states that "The student's behavior in the classroom shall be conducive to the teaching and learning process for all concerned." Article 2.3.10 of the AFR states that "The student has a right to scholarly relationships with faculty based on mutual trust and civility." General Student Regulation 5.02 states that "no student shall . . . interfere with the functions and services of the University (for example, but not limited to, classes . . .) such that the function or service is obstructed or disrupted. Students whose conduct adversely affects the learning environment in this classroom may be subject to disciplinary action through the Student Faculty Judiciary process.