Got MOOC?

By John Deever

There’s global interest in a Massive Open Online Course in business ethics.

When the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics opened enrollment to its first online course in business ethics late in 2012, all 500 spots were quickly filled. Thirst for a prestigious Santa Clara course on ethical dilemmas in the corporate world popped up from every corner of the globe.

On Feb. 25, Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson began teaching professionals, students, and others from around the world via a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course.

From Alaska to New Zealand, Siberia to Chile, enrollees from every continent but Antarctica log on via their Internet connections to participate in the program of study.

“The challenges of business ethics are global,” says Miriam Schulman, assistant director of the Markkula Center. “Multinational companies must deal with cultures that have different attitudes toward gifts and bribes. They may operate in areas where legal workplace protections do not exist. Imagine the richness of an online conversation about these issues with people from the United States, Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.”

Other issues the course covers include pressure from management to falsify reports, white lies on employee résumés, and bullying rivals to get ahead.

The nature of the MOOC is changing what higher education can accomplish. “It’s clear that this phenomenon is making everyone in education stop and think about how we teach and how technology might affect the process,” Schulman says.

For SCU’s inaugural MOOC, Hanson partnered with the open online platform Canvas Network. Future massive online courses, including one on social entrepreneurship, are in the works. The courses can extend the reach of universities to those who might not be able to attend “because they are poor, disabled, or far from a center of higher learning,” Schulman notes.

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