The artifacts created by engineers can have an impact on individuals and the economic, social, cultural, and physical environment. Engineers Without Borders advocates for changing how engineering is practiced and taught to prepare responsible, purposeful, inclusive, and regenerative engineers [1].  Ethics has become a key learning outcome value by engineering accreditation bodies, but ethics education can be implemented in many different ways.

Based on our experience on education engineering, we advocate for an educational approach not only based on the introduction of stand-alone ethics courses but also on pouring values throughout the curriculum in any courses related to creating technologies, what is called embedded ethics [2].

We describe here two examples that follow a microscale embedded ethics approach and active learning tasks to engage students in the exploration of biases and ethical issues concerning user interface design and data visualizations, respectively.

Workshop “The message of web sites”, discovering hidden gender biases

This hands-on workshop is aimed at analyzing existing websites using a reverse design thinking approach to identify potential biases. The workshop is included as one activity of a User Interface course in the Computer Science and Engineering bachelor.

Following the “do not proselytize” principle, teachers refrain from explaining the final objective of the exercise to avoid influencing the students and the obtained results. They are asked to work in groups on three existing websites and identify the potential user personas designers had in mind when they created the interfaces. Students work in groups and share their personas in a common online or physical blackboard. Finally each group presents the conclusions to the classroom and a debate on gender biases and its consequences is started.

After more than seven editions, the same biases have been identified. We have run this workshop as part of a series of seminars about the role of technologies for equality. In this case, the participants were mainly researchers and practitioners from different disciplines with extensive experience in gender equality. Comparing the results obtained by the experts and the User Interface students, they both identified the same biases, mainly gender-based. Age, gender, and expertise did not imply any relevant differences in the outcomes.

In all the cases, the workshop was appreciated as a very active and even fun way to explore gender diversity. 

 Microethics active learning activities in data integration and visualization

In a course on Data Integration and Visualization (DIV), we build on the definition of creativity as imagination with the responsibility to offer a workshop where students ideate highly creative visualizations and, at the same time, integrate ethical values.

In this case three activities are proposedto explore and apply ethics in data integration and visualizations:

1. Students works in groups to ideate a multisensorial visualization using the assumption reversal creativity technique. In this case the assumption reversal is that the visualization cannot be seen. In this way, they are forced to find out other sensorial ways to convey the information, ending up with solutions that could serve more diverse audiences

2. Students are asked to apply value-based design [3] in a final group project. they have to state the values that will be promoted in their visualization, and then, they have to describe how their final prototype has been designed to meet such values. 

3. Each elaborates an essay on an existing unethical AI-based tool.

These approach helps to move the focus from macro-ethics to micro-ethics  [4]. Whilst macro-ethics focus on big challenges that make it easier to perceive that the final responsibility lies on big corporations and governments, micro-ethics directly rely upon the daily work of computer scientists and engineers and, hence, it is difficult to get rid of the personal responsibility. 

 References cited in the text

[1] Truslove, J., Chance, S., Cresswell-Maynard, K., Crichton, E., Direito, I., & Mitchell, J. (2022). Global responsibility of engineering – The extent to which global responsibility is embedded into engineering practice: an exploratory study. London: Engineers Without Borders UK.

[2] Grosz, B. J., Grant, D. G., Vredenburgh, K., Behrends, J., Hu, L., Simmons, A., & Waldo, J. (2019). Embedded EthiCS: integrating ethics across CS education. Communications of the ACM, 62(8), 54-61.

[3] Kroes, P., & van de Poel, I. (2015). Design for values and the definition, specification, and operationalization of values. Handbook of ethics, values, and technological design: sources, theory, values and application domains, 151-178.

[4] Bezuidenhout, L., & Ratti, E. (2021). What does it mean to embed ethics in data science? An integrative approach based on microethics and virtues. Ai & Society, 36(3), 939-953.


  • Onorati, T., & Díaz, P. (2021, September). Integrating Gender Inclusion in Web Design Courses through Design Workshops. In Proceedings of the XXI International Conference on Human Computer Interaction(pp. 1-8).
  • Díaz, P., Onorati, T. and Aedo, I. Using active learning and critical thinking to identify and apply ethical values in engineering education. Accepted for publication at EDUCON 2024.
Authors: Paloma Díaz, Teresa Onorati, Ignacio Aedo
Computer Science Department
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
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