CMSC 304: Ethical and Social Issues in Information Technology
Last revised 1/28/13
Dr. Marie desJardins
Office hours: Wednesdays 2:00-3:00, Thursdays 11:30-12:30
Office hours: Mondays 1:00-2:20, ITE 452 (CWIT Office)
The course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00-11:15 in ITE 239.
The course schedule is subject
A survey course that reviews social issues and the ethical impact of information technology throughout the world. The course examines the policy issues that relate to the use of information technology, such as persona, privacy, rights of access, security, transborder information flow and confidentiality.
Notes on Pilot Section: This offering of CMSC 304 is
a pilot course for a redesign of the class. The new version
will focus more broadly on social, legal, and ethical issues
surrounding computing, its applications, and its effect on society.
Topics will include the history of computing, intellectual
property and ownership, security and privacy, free speech
and censorship, environmental impact and green computing,
accessibility, work issues including automation and working
conditions, entrepreneurship, and artificial intelligence
and autonomous systems.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
- Define ethical reasoning as it relates to computer science, and apply ethical principles to the profession of computer science.
- Understand key legal concepts related to computing
and its use, including patent protection, digital
copyright, cybersecurity, and software licensing.
- Understand the ACM Code of Ethics and the Software
Engineering Code of Ethics and how these documents relate
to theoretical ethical principles and professional and social responsibilities.
- Be able to identify and differentiate between ethical, social, and
legal issues, and recognize their importance for CS professionals.
- Analyze cases and issues using ethical principles, professional standards,
legal standards, economic consequences, and social effects.
- Given an issue or problem of ethical, social, legal, and/or economic
relevance to the computing profession, analyze the relevant
information, formulate an opinion,
defend this opinion clearly in a written document or oral presentation,
and understand and explain opposing
Additional Course Information
- CMSC 202 and permission of the course instructor.
Preference will be given to CS majors and minors.
Sara Baase, A Gift of Fire (4/e),
Prentice Hall, 2008 (ISBN: 0132492679).
As you will learn, I am a strong believer in two-way communication. I
expect all students to participate in classroom discussions, both by asking
questions and by expressing opinions. In return, I will make myself available
to answer questions, listen to concerns, and talk to any student about topics
related to the class (or not). I welcome your feedback throughout the semester
about how the course is going.
In addition to regular office hours, I maintain a semi-open-door policy:
you should feel to stop by to ask questions, or just say hello, whenever my
door is open (which it generally will be unless I am out of the office, in
a meeting, or deep in thought). If the door is partially ajar, feel free to
interrupt if you have a pressing concern. If the door is closed, please
do not knock unless it is a genuine emergency. (Also, I'm not that
great at remembering names, so please don't be offended if I ask you several
times to re-introduce yourself!) I will also make a concerted effort to answer
e-mail within 24 hours (or on Monday for email sent over the weekend).
Coursework and Grading
There will be assigned reading for each class from the course
textbook, as well as additional articles and excerpts.
Students will be expected to contribute to an online class reading journal
in which students reflect on (and discuss) the assigned reading, class
discussions, and course topics.
Class participation in discussions and lectures is expected
and will be a significant part of the grade. Your grade in
this area will be based on attendance, attentiveness, preparedness,
contributions to the in-class discussions, and assigned
exercises and activities (some of which may have a written
component to be completed after the class). Many of the
in-class activities will be conducted in small groups or
teams. Team grades will be factored into each student's
overall grade, with an adjustment for students who show
exceptional leadership/contribution or who fail to make a
sustained contribution to the group activities.
There will be three written analysis papers (both individual
and group-based), a midterm, a final research paper,
and an oral presentation.
For extra credit, students may attend entrepreneurship
events, lectures on relevant topics, or other preapproved
events, and write a 1-2 page essay about their impressions
and what they learned. Extra credit assignments should be
polished and well written. Each assignment is worth
extra credit equal to 1% of the overall class grade;
up to two such assignments may be submitted (for a total
of 3% extra credit).
Course grades will be based on the following weighting.
|Class participation, attendance, and in-class exercises
|Online reading journal
|Final research paper
||(up to 3%)
In general, for written assignments, the approximate
distribution of how your grade will be allocated is:
All written assignments must be typed or very legibly handwritten, and
must be proofread with reasonable attention to spelling, clarity, and
grammar. It is disrespectful to the instructor to submit an
illegible or poorly prepared assignment. Illegible assignments and
assignments with large numbers of typographical and grammatical errors
will be returned without a grade; to receive a grade, the assignment
must be resubmitted in legible form by the next class period. Only one
such resubmission will be permitted per student per semester.
- 80% for content (well thought out and well reasoned
discussion and analysis).
- 10% for readability: correct grammar and spelling,
readable formatting or handwriting.
- 10% for elegance: well expressed thoughts in a
well structured essay.
Although this is not a writing class, success in any
discipline requires the ability to effectively communicate one's
thoughts. If you have difficulty writing, whether because English
is not your first language, or because you haven't taken many writing
classes in your undergraduate program, I highly suggest that you
take advantage of UMBC's writing center, in the main library. (Phone:
410-455-3126. URL: http://www.umbc.edu/lrc/writing center.htm. Hours:
Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.;
Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.) This is a free tutoring service that will
help you prepare essays and papers for any course.
Work is expected to be turned in on time. In general,
assignments are due at the beginning of class
on the due date. If you miss class, you must arrange
for your homework to be turned in during or before class.
Late work will be assessed a penalty as follows:
Most assignments must be submitted in hardcopy, and late work is
considered submitted when I receive
it, which means that if you cannot hand it to me
personally, you should email me the assignment as a placeholder,
and then give me a hardcopy at the next opportunity. Please
try to print your assignments early, since students sometimes
have trouble with the library printers, and "The printer wasn't
working" is not an acceptable excuse. At a minimum, for
such an assignment to receive full credit, you must email it to
me before the deadline and then provide a hardcopy as soon as
possible. I reserve the right to assign a late penalty in these
cases, particularly if this issue comes up repeatedly for a
- 0-24 hours late: 25% penalty
- 24-48 hours late: 50% penalty
- 48-72 hours late: 75% penalty
- More than 72 hours late: No credit
In an effort to encourage good time management, I will generally
grant one one-week extension per student, over the course of the
semester, if requested in advance and with a clear explanation
(other projects due, work-related travel, outside commitments).
Last-minute requests for extensions will generally be denied,
since the purpose of the extensions is to plan ahead for "crunch
Other than the case of an approved extension,
the late penalty will apply unless there are extraordinary
an extended illness or death in the family (these cases must
be documented and cleared with the instructor).
This course adheres to the Provost's statement on academic integrity:
"By enrolling in
this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active
participant in UMBC's scholarly community in which everyone's academic
work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty.
Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit
these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are
wrong. Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action
that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal.
To read the full Student Academic Conduct Policy, consult the
UMBC Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, or the UMBC Policies
section of the UMBC Directory."
Cheating in any form will not be tolerated. In particular, all
submitted work must be your own work.
You may discuss the projects and readings with anyone.
In particular, students are encouraged to work in small groups
(up to 5 students working together) to discuss the assignments.
However, unless an assignment is explicitly a group-based
assignment, the work you submit must be completed by yourself,
independently of the other students in the group. That is, when
you write the actual answers, you should be writing in your own words,
not just copying down a group answer word for word.
Furthermore, if you work in a study group, you
must indicate this on your submission.
If you do not include such a statement, the
course staff will assume you worked entirely independently. Any indication
of collaboration with other students in this case will be considered a
violation of the academic honesty policy.
Written answers, including your contributions to the
online reading journal, your research paper
and all drafts, all individual written assignments, and the midterm exam, must be your
own work. If you wish to quote a source (including the course
textbook or other assigned readings), you must do so explicitly at the
point of the quotation, with proper citation. Plagiarism of any source,
including another student's work, is not acceptable.
The same policy applies to group work: all group answers must
be the work of the group, and no material should be taken from
any other source (including other students or groups in the class)
without proper quoting and citations.
Providing another student with answers, or helping them to cheat,
is an equally serious violation of the principles of academic
honesty. A student who commits such an offense is subject to the
same penalties as the student who cheated.
Any violation of the academic honesty policy will result in a minimum
penalty of a zero grade for that assignment. In addition, in
order to pass the course, the student will be required to recomplete
the assignment honestly. Consequences for more serious infractions
of this policy, or for second offenses, may include, but are not
limited to, receiving a failing grade in the course or being
suspended or expelled from the university.