Part 5 of 6 in series "Recommended online courses"

Markets may not be (fully) moral until actors in the markets behave in a responsible way. Therefore four courses on business ethics in the fourth post in our series on ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCs):

  1. Unethical Decision Making in Organizations; A Seminar on the Dark Side of the Force
  2. Managing Responsibly: Practicing Sustainability, Responsibility an Ethics
  3. Business Ethics for the Real World
  4. Creating an Ethical Corporate Culture

Previous posts in this series listed foundational courses in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), courses on Economics Growth, (In)equality and Well-being, and courses on (American) Capitalism, (Chinese) Marxism and Globalisation.

1. Unethical Decision Making in Organizations

Whenever we hear about ethical scandals, we tend to believe that unethical or illegal behavior in organizations is driven by character deficiencies of individual actors. Put differently, we simply assume that bad things are done by bad people,” say the teachers of this course. They do not agree, however, as “numerous corporate scandals have demonstrated that even people with a high level of integrity can break the rules if they are put into a strong context.”

No Moral Heroes in an Immoral Environment is how it was put in a blog post that was published on the Moral Markets website some months ago. Perhaps though that is too pessimistic and it is possible to learn to be a bit more of a moral hero. The course ‘Unethical decision making in organizations: A seminar on the dark side of the force‘, based at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), certainly makes that assumption.

According to the course description it “will teach you how strong organizational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions.” But fortunately “you will also learn how to protect yourself and your organization against such forces lurking in the dark.” With this particular focus it distinguishes itself from the other business ethics courses introduced in this post.

The course, hosted on the Coursera platform, takes a multidisciplinary approach:

It draws from various disciplines such as management, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and literature, in order to learn what these disciplines contribute to a better understanding of unethical behavior. The course also analyzes some of the most prominent organizational scandals of the recent decades through the lenses of these disciplines.

The course’s appealing promotion video can be found on top of this post. The target groups of this course are “interested layperson as well as experts who work on related topics, be it as researchers or practitioners (e.g. compliance managers in corporations).”

2. Managing Responsibly: Practicing Sustainability, Responsibility and Ethics

This course ‘Managing Responsibly’, by the University of Manchester (UK) on the Coursera platform claims to teach you “an integrative approach to sustainability, responsibility and ethics, which allows you as a manager to deal competently with such challenges.” The course schedule is as follows:

  • context of the trend towards responsible management practices (week 1);
  • basics of each set of issues, sustainability (week 2), responsibility (week 3), and ethics (week 4);
  • work on your own responsible management issue/task and explore responsible management practices in an area of professional interest (week 5);
  • what managing responsibly means in practice, including opportunities and challenges, with a focus on transformative change (week 6).

One appealing feature of this course is that it “will form multicultural teams to learn about problems you bring forward“, and it “also facilitates the formation of peer networks that allow you to continue this learning experience after finishing the MOOC.” The course description unfortunately does not explain how it will do so, other than that it offers – like all Coursera courses – discussion fora for students to use during the course.

Who is the target group of this course?While this course is primarily designed for executives who want to work on particular responsible management issues and create responsible management practices, also advanced business students will find it helpful.

3. Business Ethics for the Real World

The course ‘Business Ethics for the Real World’ is taught by professor Kirk O. Hanson from Santa Clara University and Stanford Graduate School of Business (USA). I have not been able to find a promotion video for the course, but on YouTube one can find numerous videos in which he talks about business ethics, one of which is displayed above. Contents of this course:

“This course provides an understanding of the nature of ethics, the role ethics plays in business, and the most commonly encountered ethical dilemmas in a business career. It provides practical advice on how to identify ethical dilemmas when they arise, how to get enough information to assess one’s responsibilities, how to analyze a complex ethical choice, and how to marshal one’s own resources and courage to act ethically.”

The previous two Courses (on the Coursera platform) require a larger time investment than this course (on the Canvas Network), which should take you about 8 hours only. It consists of four 2-hour modules

  1. Introduction to Business Ethics
  2. Roles and Ethics
  3. Dilemmas and Decisions
  4. Ethical Decision Models

Students who complete this course successfully will be able to:

  • Define ethics and various levels of ethics (business, organizational, personal, system)
  • Describe values and their influence on ethics
  • Explain the importance of roles and responsibilities on ethics
  • Discuss ethical dilemmas and unavoidable ethical dilemmas
  • Analyze various approaches in making ethical decisions
  • Define the ethical decision model
  • Apply ethical decision model to various case studies

Who is this course for?While the course includes some ethical theory, it is designed to be approachable by those who have no prior knowledge of business ethics, whether they are students, new employees, seasoned managers, or individuals who want a general understanding of business ethics.

4. Creating an Ethical Corporate Culture

The course ‘Creating an Ethical Corporate Culture’ is by the same professor as the previous course and designed as its follow-up course, although it can also be taken separately. The course description:

“This course is designed to provide executives, managers, and supervisors the knowledge and tools to create and sustain an ethical culture in their company, department, or work group. Management theorists and ethics experts have increasingly concluded that this responsibility, to create and sustain the ethical organizational culture, is a fundamental task of every level of management. Course participants will learn that managers select from four basic strategies to create an ethical organization and culture, and make use of ten basic tools to shape that culture and keep it strong. The course also addresses unavoidable challenges to an ethical culture.”

These are the four modules of this course:

  1. What is Corporate Culture? What is and Ethical Culture?
  2. Strategies for Managing Ethics in the Organization
  3. Tools for Managing the Ethical Corporate Culture
  4. The Special Role of CEOs and Boards of Directors

Series "Recommended online courses":

The morality of markets is a complex topic. Do you feel like you have enough knowledge to make a sensible contribution to the debate? If not, this series of blog posts introduces some ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ (MOOCs) that you can take from anywhere in the world.

Articles in this series:
  1. Five Foundational Online Courses in PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS and ECONOMICS that Help You Reflect on the Morality of Markets
  2. Five Online Courses on (American) CAPITALISM, Chinese MARXISM and GLOBALIZATION to Deepen Your Knowledge
  3. Four Online Courses on ECONOMIC GROWTH, (IN)EQUALITY and WELL-BEING to Deepen Your Knowledge
  4. Four Online Courses in BUSINESS ETHICS to Work on Better Markets at the Personal / Organizational Level
  5. Five Online Courses on DOING BUSINESS DIFFERENTLY
  6. Five Online Economics Course on HOW MARKETS WORK