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A Professional Practices Course in Computer Science and Engineering

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.87.1 - 26.87.17



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Paper Authors


Bill D Carroll P.E. University of Texas, Arlington

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Bill Carroll is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). He has been a UTA faculty member since 1981 and has held faculty positions at Auburn University and visiting appointments at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Washington. He has held engineering positions at Texas Instruments and General Dynamics. Carroll received B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a licensed professional engineer in Texas and Alabama.

Carroll has co-authored two textbooks, a tutorial book, and numerous papers and technical reports. He has received an American Society for Engineering Education Outstanding Young Faculty Award, two National Aeronautics and Space Administration Technology Innovation Awards, and three IEEE Computer Society Service Awards. He is an IEEE Computer Society Golden Core Member and a recipient of the IEEE Third Millennium Medal.

Carroll served as Dean of the College of Engineering at UTA from January 1, 2000 to August 31, 2011. During his service as dean, the College of Engineering experienced an enrollment growth of more than fifty percent, an increase of research expenditures from under $10M per year to more than $40M per year, and a growth of the faculty of about sixty percent. Over the same period, capital projects totaling more than $180M were started and completed.

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Bob P. Weems University of Texas, Arlington

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Bob Weems is an associate professor in the Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering at UTA, commencing his career in 1985 after completing a PhD in
CS at Northwestern University. His present interests are in algorithms, data
structures, online computation, and preference-based matching. He served
as the department's associate chair from 2001-2010. He is involved with the evolution of the department's undergraduate programs in Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Software Engineering.

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Bahram Khalili University of Texas, Arlington

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At the present (since Jan. 2003) holding a faculty position as Senior lecturer and graduate advisor within the Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). Responsibilities include teaching, graduate advising, and graduate admission. Areas of interest include: Software Engineering, Operating Systems, and Distributed Systems. Prior to joining UTA in January of 2003, I was a professional with 18+ years of experience in a variety of Information Technology roles. Highlights include:
- Fidelity Investments (1991-2002): Senior Development Manager , Dallas, TX (2000- 2002); Senior Technical Consultant; Dublin, Ireland (1999 - 2000);Technical Advisor; Dallas, TX ( 1991 - 1998).
- Mobil Oil (1989-1991): Software Consultant; Dallas, TX
- IFR Systems (1984-1989): Software Engineer; Wichita, KS

Received MS (1991) and PhD (1996) from SMU in Dallas, TX; and BS from University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Canada (1984). All degrees are in Computer Science.

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A Professional Practices Course for Computer Science and EngineeringThe coverage of ethics and professionalism in engineering and computer science programs hasbecome standard since ABET incorporated these and other “soft skills” as student outcomes inEAC and CAC accreditation criteria. Many programs have chosen to incorporate these topics invarious courses across the curriculum while others have developed standalone courses. OurComputer Science and Engineering Department offers ABET accredited programs in computerengineering, computer science, and software engineering. Initially, the department chose to coverethics, contemporary issues, life-long learning, and communications in the two-semester seniordesign course sequence. About five years ago, the department observed that this approach wasnot as effective as needed and decided to introduce a new standalone course covering these andother topics. This paper covers details of the course and discusses lessons learned.The course is titled Professional Practices and is currently offered as a senior-level course.Students typically take the course prior to or simultaneously with the first course in a two-semester senior design course sequence. The course is structured as five modules – professionalethics, contemporary issues, entrepreneurship, communications, and career planning. Studentsstudy various topics related to the ethical and social impact of computing technology and theresponsibilities that engineers and computer scientists have in shaping this technology and itsapplications. More specifically, they explore contemporary issues such as privacy, freedom ofspeech, intellectual property, crime, safety, human needs, innovation, entrepreneurship, andcareer planning. Students enhance their written and oral communications skills by completingassignments on these and other topics. Guest speakers from industry are scheduled throughoutthe course in order to give relevance to the topics being covered.Students are graded on the basis of oral and written reports relating to one or more of the moduletopics and examinations on the lecture notes and text materials. Specifics and frequency ofassignments and examinations have varied over the history of the course based on class size andinstructor preference. Currently, the following assignments are being given.  Professional Ethics – Students work in teams of three to analyze and report on various ethics scenarios. A short oral report and a one-page written report are required.  Life-long Learning – Students must attend a seminar or workshop and submit a one-page written report on what they learned.  Elevator speech – Students deliver a three-minute personal commercial or sales pitch.  Term essay – Students write a 500-word essay on a contemporary issue related to computing technology or a 500-word proposal for funding of a start-up company.Current textbooks for the course are A Gift of Fire, 4th Edition, Sara Baase, Pearson PrenticeHall, 2013 and Professional Practices in Computer Science, Vols 1, 2, and 3, Pearson LearningSolutions, 2010.In summary, the paper covers the details of a Professional Practices course for students incomputer engineering, computer science, and software engineering. The five year evolution ofthe course, including lessons learned and future plans, are covered. The results of a studentlearning assessment exercise are also presented.

Carroll, B. D., & Weems, B. P., & Khalili, B. (2015, June), A Professional Practices Course in Computer Science and Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23428

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015