Curriculum  |    |  May 12, 2021

Teaching Responsible Computing Playbook

Curriculum produced by the Mozilla Foundation. Edited by Kathy Pham and Atri Rudra. A collaboration across an inaugural group of 31 collaborators and authors across institutions and disciplines. Each topic area is portrayed with a lens on Responsible Computing.


  • Access to Technology — Atri Rudra. How to include responsible computing material into a computing course that talks about access to technology.
  • Accreditation and Ethics — Matthew Hertz, Atri Rudra. How can teaching ethics and responsibility in computing curricula help with accreditation?
  • Broadening Participation and Responsible Computing — Augustin Chaintreau, Udayan Das, Sorelle Friedler. How does broadening participation in the student body affect responsible computing?
  • Choosing Computing Courses — Atri Rudra. How to choose which computing courses to target for integration.
  • Conversations about Responsible Computing and Employment Choices — Margo Boenig-Liptsin, Cathryn Carson. How to help students think about navigating employment with responsible computing, especially when the two could be at odds.
  • Difficult Conversations — Seny Kamara. How to have difficult conversations on sensitive topics when covering responsible computing in computing courses.
  • Discussing Justice and Equity — Margo Boenig-Liptsin, Vance Ricks. Lessons on discussing justice and equity in computing classes and beyond.
  • Effective Talking Points Across Audiences – Subbu Vincent. What are some common talking points, how to anticipate them, address them and use them to engage both faculty and students.
  • Hiring, Promotion, and Tenure — Ellen Zegura. Discusses teaching responsible computing in the context of hiring, promotion and tenure of full-time faculty on both teaching-intensive and research-intensive tracks.
  • Learning Outcomes and Assessments — Margo Boenig-Lipstin. How to design student learning outcomes and assess students’ understanding of responsible computing.
  • Making Lessons Stick — Helena Mentis, Vance Ricks. How to incorporate responsible computing thinking throughout the students’ entire learning experience at the institutions.
  • Managing Resistance – Oliver Bonham-Carter. How to handle student and faculty resistance to incorporating responsible computing in the curricula.
  • Service Learning — Oliver Bonham-Carter, Antonio Delgado, George Gabb, Joshua Young. Combining community service with experiential learning through responsible computing in courses.
  • Structured Ways of Thinking about Computing and Society — Margo Boenig-Liptsin. Incorporating structured ways from humanistic studies to help students understand computing and society.
  • Student Team Dynamics — Margo Boenig-Liptsin, Xin Liu. How to create high functioning students teams for class projects and creating course material for responsible computing.
  • Talking About Unanticipated Consequences — Vance Ricks. How talking about unanticipated consequences can enrich discussions on responsible computing.
  • Working Across Disciplines — Maggie Little, Alicia Patterson, Vance Ricks. How to bring perspectives, concepts, and tools from different disciplines into conversation with responsible computing efforts.
  • Working Across Institutions — Stacy Doore, Sorelle Friedler. Benefits and challenges of working across institutions to incorporate responsible thinking in computing courses.

The ultimate goal of Teaching Responsible Computing is to educate a new wave of students who bring holistic thinking to the design of technology products. To do this, it is critical for departments to work together across computing, humanistic studies, and more, and collaborate across institutions. This Playbook offers the lessons learned from the process of adapting and enhancing curricula to include responsible computing in a broad set of institutions and help others get started doing the same in their curricula. 

The original impetus for the playbook came from the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, where colleges and universities conceptualized, developed, and piloted undergraduate computing curricula that integrate ethics and responsibility. The Challenge unearthed and sparked innovative coursework that will not only be implemented at the participating home institutions, but also be scaled to additional colleges and universities across the country — and beyond. We are thrilled that the growing list of contributors has expanded beyond the original Responsible Computer Science Challenge cohort, and the aim is for the playbook to continue to grow. 

A few points to consider as you read through the Playbook:
  • We define responsible computing loosely as designing computing artifacts that need to take society into consideration. Not doing so can lead to harm in society, even if the harm was unintended.
  • This is called the “Teaching Responsible Computing Playbook,” and we believe it takes a collaboration of many disciplines to make this possible.
  • The Playbook is meant to be a starting point. You will likely make modifications to make the ideas work in your institution. The Playbook is also a living document and we encourage you to submit updates to the playbook..
  • Incorporating responsible computing into curricula can be challenging. Each step to move the needle helps. It is important to help students enter the workforce having considered these topics and conversations. 
  • We especially welcome contributions from non-US based educators. As it currently stands, the Playbook is written by US-based participants. 
  • We acknowledge that the Responsible Computer Science Challenge cohort is a small subset of educators and researchers working on incorporating responsible computing into undergraduate curricula. If you have worked in this area, please consider contributing your examples as well.