Sunday, February 13, 2005

2005 Syllabus: Information Ethics-- Sample Syllabus for a Quarter in the Grad MS(LIS) and the MSIS (Information Systems) Programs

Hi Everybody,
Today I'm posting a sample syllabus for making my information ethics course a part of the formal curriculum of IST. At Drexel, we can offer a course as a trial for two terms. Then it has to be brought before the university to be considered as a formal course.
Note that this is a course for a quarter--10 weeks of classes and then a week for exams. You may also be interested in the assignments--blogging and an electronic portfolio. I usually teach this course asynchronously online, so I find that individual blogs, blogrings, and electronic portfolios encourage adult students to integrate their knowledge and skills with technology and their previous subject content and experience backgrounds in a very fulfilling way. We have a diverse group of students, usually from mid-twenties to mid-fifties, most with substantial career experience. Blogging and electronic portfolios can be done very simply or can encourage students to utilize their special talents with online content. Everybody learns from everybody else. For an information ethics course this is ideal because it gives us all a chance to explore the issues and to allow experience the world of cyberspace and how professionals can utlize the web for professional expression and collaboration.
Syllabus: Information Ethics
Dr. Marti Smith
Drexel University
College of Information Science and Technology
(For more syllabi see
Syllabus Sample
College of Information Science and Technology
Drexel University
Information Ethics
Martha M. Smith, Ph. D.

Contact Information:
Office Address: Rush Building, #208
College of Information Science and Technology
3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-2875
215-895-1532; FAX 215-895-2494
Alternative email addresses:

Course Description:
Presents the philosophical foundations of applied ethics and technology with primary focus on (1.) the uses and abuses of information, (2.) human moral agency in relation to new information and communication technologies (ICTs), and (3.) the meaning of social responsibility in the global information society, including the concepts of global information justice and human rights.

Specifically this course will consider ethical dilemmas, decision-making strategies, and public policy issues around the broad themes of Access, Ownership, Privacy, Security, and Community including headline topics such as intellectual property rights vs. intellectual freedom; the USA Patriot Act vs. civil liberties; the uses of genetic information for health care vs. for discrimination in insurance. The course will build understanding of major and alternative ethical traditions to inform personal moral agency, professional conduct, and civic participation.

Overview of Weekly Topics
Week 1: Introduction to information ethics in relation to other areas of applied ethics, including computer ethics, cyberethics, engineering ethics, media ethics, and related areas, and current challenges;

Week 2: Philosophy of information and philosophy of technology as applied in contemporary life;

Weeks 3 and 4: Various models of decision making in professional practice and civic participation;

Weeks 5 and 6: The application of information ethics to professional practice and participation in public policy, including the relationship between ethics and law;

Weeks 7 to 10: Current ethical dilemmas under the broad categories of:
** Access,
** Ownership,
** Privacy,
** Security, and
** Community such as intellectual property rights, copyright, and copyleft; the USA Patriot Act and civil rights; the digital divide and information democracy; and global information justice.

Assignments and Grading:
The major assignment for this course will be the building of an electronic portfolio containing assignments such as weekly blog entries, resource pathfinders, and an information ethics case study problem for analysis.

Weekly blog postings (Weeks 2-9) will be due on Mondays by noon of each week. Weekly postings should be between 200-300 words and should reflect the readings with engagement with the assignment question or topic. You may use charts, tables, and hotlinks in your text and may attach small audio and video files.

Grades will be based upon the following:
(60%) Term Project: The Completed Electronic Portfolio
(40%) 8 Weekly Blog Postings and Interaction with Others—Weeks 2-9

Grading Scale
A= 90-100
B= 80-89
C= Below 79

Special Needs and Accommodations: If you have a disability and need special help, you must identify yourself to the Drexel Disability Office in time for your needs to be reviewed and appropriate plans made for help.

Required readings will change each term:
Current Required Text:
Herman Tavani. (2004) Ethics and technology: Ethical issues in an age of information and communication technology. John Wiley. See

Examples of Optional Readings and Resources: The reading books below may be valuable in your professional library. Other readings and resource lists will be given throughout the term.

Richard Holeton (ed.) (1997). Composing cyberspace: Identity, community, and knowledge in the electronic age. WCB/McGraw Hill. Also see companion website at

Richard A. Spinello and Harman T. Tavani (eds.) (2001), Readings in cyberethics. Jones and Bartlett. Also see web resources at

Albert Teich (ed.), Technology and the Future. Wadsworth. Most recent edition. Also see companion website, Albert Teich’s Technology and the Future Toolkit, at

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