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The Development of Ethical Reasoning: A Comparison of Online versus Hybrid Delivery Modes of Ethics Instruction

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Emerging Computing and Information Technologies I

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Justin L. Hess Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Justin L. Hess received his PhD from Purdue University's School of Engineering Education along with his Master's of Science and Bachelor of Science from Purdue's School of Civil Engineering. Justin is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in the STEM Education Research Institute at IUPUI. Justin's research interests include developing pedagogical strategies to improve STEM students' ethical reasoning skills; exploring the role of empathy within design, innovation and sustainability; synthesizing the influence of societal and individual worldviews on decision-making; assessing STEM students' learning in the spaces of design, ethics, and sustainability; and exploring the impact of pre-engineering curriculum on students' abilities and career trajectories.

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Lorraine G. Kisselburgh Purdue University

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Lorraine Kisselburgh (Ph.D., Purdue University) examines organizing and communicative practices in sociotechnical contexts, particularly collaboration in engineering design teams, spatial and material influences on organizing, and gendered practices in technological settings. She has backgrounds in communication, human performance, and computer science, and over twenty years experience designing and supporting learning environments in academic settings. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (an Ethics in Science and Engineering project to develop frameworks for developing ethical reasoning in engineers, and a Cyberlearning project to develop collaborative design environments for engineers), and by corporate foundations, the Department of Homeland Security, the College of Engineering, and the Purdue Research Foundation. She has been recognized as the inaugural Butler Faculty Scholar, a Faculty Fellow in the CERIAS institute, a Service Learning Faculty Fellow, Diversity Faculty Fellow, and recipient of the Violet Haas Award (for efforts on behalf of women), all at Purdue University. This year she is a visiting research scientist in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, visiting faculty in the Center for Entrepreneurship, and a visiting Fellow in the Center for Education and Research in Information Security at Purdue University.

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Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Zoltowski’s academic and research interests broadly include the professional formation of engineers and diversity and inclusion in engineering, with specific interests in human-centered design, engineering ethics, leadership, service-learning, assistive-technology, and accessibility.

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Andrew O. Brightman Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Andrew O. Brightman is an Associate Professor of Engineering Practice in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University where he serves as Assistant Head for Academic Affairs. His research background is in cellular biochemistry, tissue engineering, and engineering ethics. He and his multidisciplinary team are committed to developing effective pedagogy and tools for enhancing ethical reasoning skills for innovative engineering design and socially responsible engineering practice.

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There is a concerted effort to improve online learning opportunities in higher education, including in the domain of engineering ethics. The benefits of online learning include ease in sharing course content, flexibility in the timing of participation, and increased variation in delivery modes for course material. However, the effect of online and hybrid participation on developing ethical reasoning in students is largely unknown, and interactive cases and dialogic learning are central to the pedagogy in ethics courses. An opportunity to fill this knowledge gap occurred while testing a new pedagogy for enhancing ethical reasoning among engineering graduate students, implemented in a graduate-level course over three offerings in Spring 2014, Summer 2014, and Spring 2015. Of the 29 students enrolled, 11 participated on-campus in a weekly class discussion-based lecture, and 18 completed the majority of course activities online. This multi-phase study presents results from a comparative analysis of the differences in ethical reasoning development and perception of course activities across these groups. Both groups of students showed substantial gains in their ethical reasoning development. Furthermore, changes in ethical reasoning were not significantly different when students participated in the on-line only versus an on-line/in-class or “hybrid” format. Nonetheless, analysis from post-course surveys indicated that the hybrid group perceived course activities more favorably than did their on-line only peers. In sum, these results indicate that on-line ethics interventions can be designed to be as impactful in developing ethical reasoning as formats that include an in-class component, although students may be more satisfied with ethics education when they have the opportunity for face-to-face, in-class interaction with peers and instructors.

Hess, J. L., & Kisselburgh, L. G., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Brightman, A. O. (2016, June), The Development of Ethical Reasoning: A Comparison of Online versus Hybrid Delivery Modes of Ethics Instruction Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26125

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