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Course Syllabus Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Professional Engineering


1. Introduction

 Do you want to stay in tune with the expectations society, your clients and your profession have from the way you do engineering? This course updates your knowledge of the codes of conduct that apply to your profession.

 Engineering has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life. Therefore, engineers must perform under standards of professional behaviour that requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct. The services provided by engineers require – amongst others – honesty and impartiality. They must also be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare. This course will examine the professional rules of conduct for engineers, their obligations to society, to their clients, and to the profession. We will explore the KIVI Code of Ethics as an expression of those professional rules. More specifically, we will discuss cases of whistle blowing, conflicts of interest, and duties of engineers to communicate with the wider community.

 The aim of this course is to promote reflection on one’s own working practice. This course therefore takes a context-sensitive approach that is typical of the work in the Ethics/Philosophy Section of Delft University of Technology. Through the assignments in this course, we invite professionals to analyse their own cases and examples, and apply the course materials to those cases.  Teachers will provide feedback on graded assignments.

For engineering professionals in the Netherlands
This course is also part of a range of online courses for engineers who want to meet the formal education requirements needed to both obtain and maintain the Chartered Engineer qualification licensed by KIVI. This course can be taken either as part of Initial Professional Development (IPD) or of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) stages; this course corresponds to competency E1 (‘Comply with the rules of professional conduct’) determined by KIVI.
 If you successfully complete this full course you will earn a Professional Education Certificate and you are eligible to receive 8 CPD-points. 
See: for all details about the Chartered Engineering Program initiated by KIVI.


 2. Learning Objectives

 By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the professional rules of conduct for engineers and how to apply them.
  • Appreciate the KIVI Codes of Ethics as an expression of the professional rules of conduct. 
  • Understand the conditions under which whistle blowing is warranted.
  • Recognize conflicts of interest and develop strategies for handling these.
  • Understand the importance of communication with all stakeholders.
  • Develop appropriate channels and strategies for communication.

3. Content

Learning unit 0 : Getting started
This unit is an introduction to the course 

  • 0.1 Welcome to dealing with ethical dilemmas
  • 0.2 If you are new to online learning
  • 0.3. Introduce yourself and ask questions
  • Pre-survey

Learning unit 1: The professional Responsibility of Engineers
This learning unit will examine the place of professional ethics in engineering and practical codes of conduct as an expression of these professional ethics.

  • 1.1 What are your professional responsabilities? 
  • 1.2  Codes of Conduct
  • 1.3  Limitations and challenges
  • 1.4  The KIVI code of ethics 
  • 1.5 Interview: Companies and values
  • 1.6  Share your own experiences
  • 1.7 Closing: Applying the KIVI Code of Ethics in practice

Learning unit 2: Whistle blowing
This learning unit discusses whistle blowing, with a focus on determining when it is warranted and how it should be handled.

  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Interview Whistle blowing
  • 2.3 Assignment: Whistle blowing case study
  • 2.4  When is whistle blowing morally required?
  • 2.5 Examples of whistle blowing policies

Learning unit 3: Conflicts of interest
This learning unit defines conflicts of interests, examines common causes and provides examples from engineering practice. It also provides strategies for dealing with conflicts.

  • 3.1  Conflicts of interest
  • 3.2 Assignment: Conflict of interest case study
  • 3.3  Strategies for dealing with conflicts of interest
  • 3.4 Quiz
  • 3.5 Share your own experiences.

Learning unit 4: Communication
This learning unit discusses duties of engineers to communicate with stakeholders and with society in general. Again examples are provided of effective means of communication.

  • 4.1  Types of communication
  • 4.2  Assignment: Assessing communication models
  • 4.3 Overcoming stalemates (nuclear energy)
  • 4.4  Share your own experiences
  • 4.5 Bonus assignment: Help develop the KIVI code of ethics
  • 4.6. Share your thoughts.