Professional Ethics

This brick is concerned with Professional Ethics in the fields of software engineering and ICT.

Creators writing

This educational unit contains:

  • 4 activities to mix and match according to the load that most suits your class
  • The computing learning objective is to understand testing for certification and accreditation of critical systems
  • The ethical learning objective is to gain understanding of how every line of code has an ethical implication
  • The transversal learning objectives are
    • to learn how to work in teams
    • to be able to present analysis of a technical issue

Foundational knowledge of software engineering, programming and testing.

  • Suitable for teaching in Software Engineering courses
  • Disciplines: Engineering, Law

Suggested teaching approaches

The delivery mechanism/teaching approach is based upon problem based learning O’Grady, Michael J. (2012).

The planned load is 3-9 hours of direct contact time with the students, and 3-9 hours of homework for students to prepare in their own time.

We suggest 4 potential cumulative paths:

  1. Activity 1 – Testing the hidden switch code and analyse the Volkswagen emissions case study (3 hours in class, 3 hours outside class)
  2. Activity 2 – Design of a fault tolerant sensor system using redundancy, and analyse the Boeing 737 Max case study (3 hours in class, 3 hours outside class)
  3. Activity 3 – Comparison of the case studies – inclusive of Activity 1 and 2 (6 hours in class, 6 hours outside class)
  4. Activity 4 – Review of Professional Ethics for Software Engineeers – inclusive of Activity 1, 2 and 3 (9 hours in class, 9 hours outside class)

Suggested assessment approaches

The delivery mechanism/teaching approach is based upon problem based learning O’Grady, Michael J. (2012). The evaluation is 75% technical – the coding, design and testing, and 25% ethical – the analysis and/or definition of Professional Ethics.




The real reason Boeing’s new plane crashed twice – Vox, April 2019

Boeing 737 MAX Crashes Immediately After Takeoff | Here’s What Really Happened to Flight 610 – The Flight Channel, December 2019

Volkswagen emissions scandal: A timeline – CNN Business, June 2016

Volkswagen’s diesel scandal, explained – The Verge, Sept 2015

Further reading

Further reading


Ethical issues (general)

Ethical issues (Professional Ethics)

Ethical issues (Safety and Security)

Computing issues (Software Engineering)

Problem Domain (Transport)

Code of Ethics
Other resources
  • Boeing 787s must be turned off and on every 51 days to prevent ‘misleading data’ being shown to pilots. US air safety bods call it ‘potentially catastrophic’ if reboot directive not implemented.. By Gareth Corfield, The Register, 2 Apr 2020. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Safety, Transport, Aerospace
  • Ethiopian Report on 737 Max Crash Blames Boeing.. By Simon Marks and Abdi Latif Dahir, New York Times, March 9, 2020. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Safety, Transport, Aerospace
  • How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer.. By Gregory Travis, IEEE Spectrum, 18 April 2019. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Safety, Transport, Aerospace
  • Volkswagen emissions scandal: mass lawsuit opens in Germany. By Jasper Jolly, The Guardian, 30 Sep, 2019. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Safety, Transport, Vehicular, Automobile
  • Boeing’s problem was not engineering. It was a loss of corporate empathy.. By Gregory Travis, May 2019. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Safety, Transport, Aerospace
  • Why We Need to Address Ethical Issues In Software Engineering. By Daniel Alcanja, Simple Programmer, October 9, 2019. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Software Engineering
  • Post Office IT system that ruined lives ‘still faulty’, MPs told.. By Brian Wheeler, BBC News, 10 March 2020. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Software Engineering, Law
  • Q&A: What led to Boeing’s 737 MAX crisis. By Dominic Gates, Seattle Times, Nov. 18, 2020 (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Safety, Transport, Aerospace
  • Flight in ‘serious incident’ after every ‘Miss’ on board assigned child’s weight. By PA, Irish Times, April 2021. (Web archive). KEYWORDs: Professionalism, Safety, Transport, Aerospace

Evaluate your Teaching

Don’t forget to evaluate your teaching! Did the students meet the learning objectives? You can ask the class to fill a questionnaire to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The idea is that you can always improve your lectures and the resources based on the students’ feedback.

Let us know how we did

Do you think the resources can be ameliorated? Let us know how we can do better via email or leave a comment!

Professional Ethics

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