Agora: web-based ethics education
The number of Dutch engineering students studying ethics is increasing: students from a wide variety of engineering fields such as information technology, chemistry, biomedical technology, etc., all receive a basic training in ethics. Personal feedback and discussion is highly desirable when learning ethics, but can be difficult to provide when class sizes are large. The computer program Agora, named after the marketplace where Socrates said philosophical thinking should take place, was developed to address this issue. The designers of the program were not satisfied with existing electronic models, like the one by Harris et al. in Engineering Ethics; Concepts and Cases, which tend to conceive ethical theories as sets of principles and rules that can be applied to cases and offer little space for critical reflection and personal judgment. Agora, by contrast, helps provide a deeper understanding of ethical theories and encourages students to engage in ethical reflection.