Information technology education - should the curricula include a course on ethics?
In the midst of the information age, every academic institute at every corner of the globe is opting to offer at least one course in information technology, soft or hard. More and more students are flocking to join these courses in the hope of sharing in the fortunes of many who are already in the business of designing, developing, programming and inventing and earning millions a year. Universities across the world are competing to offer better and more up-to-date curricula in order to attract the best and the brightest among students. From data mining to intelligent agents to nanotechnology, students are being equipped with the knowledge of every powerful tool that is available in the market. However, do they possess the understanding of the power at their disposal and the consequences of misusing these tools? Are they simultaneously being equipped with ethical values on how to use these tools? This paper looks at the gap that exists in university curricula worldwide in teaching IT students on ethical values. As a basis, the paper also taps into a recent study by the authors that shows how education can bridge the gap between ethics and professionalism. The paper ends by proposing the contents of a course on ethics for IT students that have been tried and tested, and can be incorporated into university curricula in order to increase student awareness of ethical issues in the IT field.
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