The University of Lyon: launch of the second session of the ethics MOOC

Written by Cécile Rondeau

After its successful launch in 2018 involving over 3,000 participants, mostly PhD students, the University of Lyon is launching its second Massive Open Online Course, to be held on 23 April 2019. Registration is now open.

Ethics and integrity currently benefit from increased attention particularly due to French government orientations and the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) dynamics of the European Commission. Consequently, since May 2016, all French PhD students must take a course on scientific integrity and research ethics. By training emerging researchers, the aim is to spread a sense of ethical responsibility at all levels of research institutions. In order to meet this challenge, the University of Lyon chose last year to develop a comprehensive MOOC about ethics.

A positive outlook for the first session

Half of the 3000 participants successfully completed the MOOC. The University of Lyon met here its first objective: reaching the largest possible audience with this web-based course. Primarily designed for PhD students, the MOOC is open to any researchers and the general public who would like to gain a better understanding of the ethical issues currently facing research. For this first session, 60% of the MOOC followers were from France, this was made possible because the course content is subtitled both in English and French.

The second challenge was to address the subject of ethics through a digital interface. Since there is no « common voice » in research ethics this challenge mainly concerned the stimulation of reflective processes through such digital platform. This stimulation of reflection is key as discussions and argumentation may not go as deep as direct classroom training interactions. The MOOC therefore offers PhD students training videos, a quiz but also concrete practical cases to be solved, to overcome this challenge. Moreover, a specific team leads an online forum on the MOOC platform throughout the course to facilitate debate on these questions. The aim is thus not to make the classroom-training sessions disappear, but rather to encourage the students who follow the MOOC to extend their learning on the topic by attending classes or conferences in person.

An efficient way to promote RRI

Following an introductory week, the MOOC runs for five weeks in order to provide all emerging researchers with the means to reflect on their practices, responsibilities and that of their institutions. The impact of science on society, conflict of interest, social responsibility, differences between integrity and ethics, these are among the addressed throughout the MOOC by 33 researchers, teachers and experts from different disciplines.

Ethical questioning should not just be a matter for dedicated ethics committees. All researchers and actors of science and innovation should engage in ethical reflection at the time they conceive and implement a project. This condition is essential in order to align research with society’s values and needs!

The University of Lyon encourages every PhD student or those interested in research or this subject to register NOW for the second session!

The MOOC « Research Ethics » has been conceived and developed by the Université de Lyon’s Research Ethics Platform.

For more information contact:

The Research Ethics Platform or send an e-mail to Florence Belaën.

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