Part 4 of 9 in series "Online courses per topic"

Markets may not be (fully) moral until actors in the markets behave in a responsible way. Therefore five courses on business ethics in this 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
  5. Global Impact: Business Ethics

Last update

This post was last updated with a new course in December 2019.

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, namely (1) Introduction to Business Ethics, (2) Roles and Ethics, (3) Dilemmas and Decisions and (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

5. Global Impact: Business Ethics

The course ‘Global Impact: Business Ethics‘ is offered by the University of Illinois (USA) on the Coursera platform. Here is what the course is about:

“Business ethics and corporate responsibility are inherent in global commerce. Commerce is about markets, and markets entail exchanges between people and groups of people. So commerce is about human relationships, and indeed, it could not be otherwise. One of the important challenges in global business is working out the extent of these obligations in the interrelationships between businesses and the particular local cultures in which that business operates. The ethical issues arising from these engagements, the kinds of values-based considerations out of which an organization negotiates with local concerns, and how an organization can be both an enabler of economic value-added while respecting cultural differences will be topics of this course.”

And this is what you will learn according to the course organizers:

  • “Become morally sensitive to ethical dilemmas in global commerce;
  • Identify ethical issues in global business;
  • Master stakeholder analysis;
  • Address issues from more than one point of view;
  • Use a well-reasoned process by which to arrive at ethically-defensible decisions;
  • Evaluate good and weak arguments;
  • Defend your conclusion”

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Series "Online courses per topic":

Do you feel like you have enough knowledge to contribute to debates in the area of the ethics of markets, economics and business? If not, this series of blog posts introduces ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ (MOOCs) that you can take from anywhere in the world.


Articles in this series:
  1. PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS and ECONOMICS – Six Foundational Online Courses
  2. ECONOMIC GROWTH, INEQUALITY, JUSTICE and WELL-BEING – Six Online Courses
  3. BUSINESS ETHICS – Five Online Courses
  4. ALTERNATIVE BUSINESS MODELS – Five Online Courses
  5. HOW MARKETS WORK – Five Online Economics Courses
  6. FINANCE, MONEY and BANKING – Six Online Courses
  7. THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF CAPITALISM – Six Online Courses
  8. MARX, MARXISM & COMMUNISM – Six Online Courses
  9. GLOBALIZATION & FREE TRADE – Six Online Courses