Education for Ethical Decision-Making

Free, engaging online videos help people make powerful moral and ethical choices

In a wide variety of situations—in business, in politics, in sports, in media, and in our personal lives—we often make poor ethical decisions and those choices often carry significant negative consequences for us and for society. It is critical that we learn how to make proper ethical choices amid the many pressures that exist in the modern world.

Ethics Unwrapped, at The University of Texas at Austin, is a unique innovative program that provides free online educational videos and supporting educational resources focused on ethical decision-making and behavior. Many of the videos are based on research from the emerging field of behavioral ethics which draws from behavioral psychology, neuroscience, and other research fields to enable people to understand why they make the ethical and unethical choices that they do – and gives them the tools to make better decisions in order to be their best selves.

Today’s students learn best through watching captivating images on a screen. Ethics Unwrapped leverages this mode of communication by creating engaging videos to improve students’ ethical awareness and support ethical decision-making and action. The videos are free, and are easily accessed on the Ethics Unwrapped website (ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu) or on YouTube by anyone interested in learning about or teaching ethics. Based upon the latest academic research, the videos are content-driven with scripts written and narrated by academic experts. Lively student interviews and animations illustrate the cutting-edge content and supplement it with real life examples that speak to students and harness the power of storytelling. The videos have Spanish subtitles and are augmented by a variety of free educational resources, including case studies, suggested discussion questions, and lists of additional readings and teaching resources. Most importantly, the videos are an effective teaching tool. Assessment on the UT Austin campus shows that 92% of students find Ethics Unwrapped videos helpful to learning and applying ethics concepts.

Launched in 2012 and led by Professor Robert Prentice and documentary filmmaker Cara Biasucci, the program’s website traffic and video views have more than doubled year over year. Used on more than 130 college and university campuses around the world, Ethics Unwrapped videos now average 4,000 views a week.

Offering 48 videos with teaching resources at no cost, Ethics Unwrapped needs funding to maintain and expand its programming.

Current projects include:

  • Concepts Unwrapped: The “Concepts Unwrapped” video series largely deals with the concepts of behavioral ethics, highlighting the cognitive biases, social and organizational pressures, and situational factors that can make it difficult for even good people to do the right thing.
  • Giving Voice to Values: The “Giving Voice to Values” video series teaches values-driven leadership skills so viewers know how to act on their values effectively when they know the right thing to do.
  • Cases Unwrapped: The “Cases Unwrapped” video series features prominent figures who have had to suffer the consequences of their poor ethical decisions. Students can learn from their mistakes.
  • Ethics Glossary: Currently in development, the video glossary defines and explains approximately 50 ethics terms and will be a useful primer for students and teachers alike. This series begins production in September 2015 and will be completed and integrated into the website within a year.
  • Expanding Video Series: Ethics Unwrapped is currently planning a multi-part documentary – a video case study – on the ethics of healthcare. The video case will be grounded in scientific, research-based content, explore the interaction of business and health care delivery, and feature compelling first-person narratives. Also in the planning stages is a video series on Sports Leadership and Ethics. As the program advances, the team will realize a long list of topical video case studies, augment existing series to respond to new ethics research, and expand its list of academic contributors and teaching resources.

Bio

Ethics unwrapped is led by Faculty Director Robert Prentice and Program Director Cara Biasucci. Launched in late 2012, Ethics Unwrapped has received seven awards for academic and filmmaking excellence. The videos have been used by more than 130 colleges and universities around the world and in dozens of companies and organizations which have incorporated them into their ethics and compliance training programs.

Ethics Unwrapped has a global audience – viewers in more than 170 countries have explored the website – and traffic to the site has more than doubled year over year. The program averaged 4,000 video views a week in the 2014-15 academic year, and is now listed on more than 40 ethics resource sites. Ethics Unwrapped has been presented to more than 30 professional and academic audiences since 2012.

In 2014, the Teagle Foundation awarded Ethics Unwrapped $150,000 to measure the efficacy of the videos as a teaching tool and to produce additional foundational ethics videos. The grant also supported the integration of Ethics Unwrapped into core courses at UT Austin in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Fine Arts. Assessment results from 2014-15 show that 92% of students found Ethics Unwrapped videos helpful to learning ethics concepts. Surveys also reveal a significant shift (40%) in student confidence levels when identifying, explaining, and applying ethics concepts after watching Ethics Unwrapped videos.

Professor Prentice, Chair of the Business, Government & Society Department at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, has taught business law and business ethics at McCombs since 1980. His publications are primarily in the areas of behavioral ethics, accounting ethics, financial regulation, and securities law. He has published around 70 articles and several textbooks and has won several major teaching awards at the college, university, and system levels.

Professor Prentice loves teaching undergraduate students and wishes to help them (and everyone else) learn how to best make ethical decisions so that they can live up to their own ethical standards. He believes students must be aware of the cognitive biases, social and organizational pressures, and situational factors that can make it difficult for people to always be their best selves. Recent research in behavioral ethics has led Professor Prentice to believe that a psychological approach to teaching ethics will be more effective than the traditional philosophical approach, though both have great value. This belief, coupled with a desire to send students into the world with practical skills in ethics, led Professor Prentice to hire Cara Biasucci and begin Ethics Unwrapped.

Cara Biasucci, the main creative force behind Ethics Unwrapped, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with more than 15 years experience as a writer, producer, director, and editor. Her films have been broadcast on public television around the world, and her former clients include television networks, museums, non-profit organizations, and Fortune 500 companies. She graduated magna cum laude in Philosophy with a concentration in ethics, and taught media production at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before joining Professor Prentice at McCombs. Cara works with a team of freelance artists, and collaborates with faculty at UT Austin and beyond, to create the videos and teaching resources for Ethics Unwrapped.

For more information, visit ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu

Awards

Silver CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Award, 2014

35th Annual Silver Telly Award, 2014

35th Annual Bronze Telly Award, 2014

Silver CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) Award, 2013

34th Annual Silver Telly Award, 2013