Teaching Guide: Scenario Two

The role playing scenario is designed to be used in a range of course types, including smaller courses (around 30-40 students) to larger courses (around 100 students). At least two hours of class time is recommended for the activity, but it can be compressed into one class period, especially if students are provided with the scenario and assigned roles prior to class time.

Phase One

Time estimate: 30-45 minutes

  • The scenario is introduced to the students; ideally before the students meet for class.
  • During Phase One, students are broken into groups based on stakeholder type (for example, all of the Directors of the Admissions Office are placed together in one group)
    • Although randomly assigning students to most of the roles is likely fine, it is highly recommended to ask for volunteers who are willing to take on the Director of the Admissions Office role because that role may have more responsibility than the others. It is recommended that person in that role serve as chair of the committee during Phase Two and help to moderate the committee’s discussion.
  • There are nine stakeholder roles, listed in the order of their importance for the activity. At a minimum, Roles 1-5 should be included (i.e., groups should have at least five members). It is recommended to divide the class up as close to evenly as possible (for example, if there are 35 students, then 5 groups of 7 stakeholders would be recommended).
  • Each student must prepare to represent their role during the committee process when they will interact with the other roles (Phase Two); thus the purpose of Phase One is to have the students learn from each other about the nuances of their particular role.
  • The goal of Phase One is not to resolve what the university should do; rather, the students should start to generate for and against arguments consistent with the role that they are representing.

Phase Two 

Time estimate: 30-45 minutes

  • Students are broken into groups with one representative from each type of stakeholder; if there are not enough students per stakeholder type, there should be at least one Director of the Admissions Office per group.
  • The goal of Phase Two is for the group to decide whether:
    • Yes, the admissions office should proceed with the use of CollegeAdmit. The committee must describe the circumstances under which the app’s use would be appropriate.


    • No, the admissions office should not proceed with the use of CollegeAdmit at all or until the certain conditions are met. If the latter, the committee must describe what those conditions are.

In either case, the committee should describe the main reasons that contributed to the formulation of its recommendation.

  • An important note: each stakeholder group does not necessarily have to arrive at a consensus; disagreement is okay but a majority opinion should emerge. If there is a minority/dissenting view within a group, the group should explain the reasons for the disagreement.

Phase Three

Time permitting

  • Each group can present its recommendation to the rest of the class on whether/how to proceed with the admissions app.
  • In their presentations to the class during Phase Three, the groups may include answers to the following questions:
    • Which stakeholder considerations most significantly factored into the group’s recommendation?
    • What role did CS knowledge/expertise play in the group’s recommendation?
    • Which ethical considerations did the group think were the most important to take into account?
    • Where there any specific ethical concepts, principles, or theories that significantly factored into the group’s decision-making process?


The students may need guidance when assigned a role with which they are unfamiliar. Assigning the scenario and role prior to class time would be helpful in this regard as well as the components of Phase One of the activity.

The students might request data on some of the issues that they confront (for example, how reliable is computing technology when used for behavioral prediction). Some of the solutions for this issue include: (1) providing the students with additional time to perform research during or outside of class and/or (2) assigning additional readings that the instructor thinks are important (for example, the latest developments in machine learning).

During Phase Two, it is important to encourage each group member to speak. One strategy for accomplishing this goal is to require that each student in the group has to say something before allowing a group member to speak a second time.  Also, a group moderator can be helpful; it is recommended that the student in the Director of the Admissions Office role serve in this capacity.


Ideally, ethical considerations should emerge organically from the student conversations, especially during Phase Two because of the presence of the different stakeholder views. However, the role playing scenario can be supplemented with additional ethics content as an instructor prefers; for example:

Potential Ethical Concerns

As the instructor, if you would like to provide the students with more guidance in terms of the ethical issues embedded in the scenario and topics to discuss within their groups, here are some options:

  1. Bias in facial recognition/AI
  2. Bias in speech recognition
  3. Accessibility; for example, applicants would need to record high quality videos and not all high school students have the computing devices for this task
  4. Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the admissions process
  5. Privacy; for example, the use of the applicants’ videos as data to train AI algorithms
  6. The Black Box problem; in this case, the lack of transparency about how AI algorithms work
  7. Replacing human judgment (e.g., Admission Readers) with automation
  8. Potential job loss at the Admissions Office
  9. Implications for the educational system; for instance, if one university adopts the product and changes admissions practice, what may occur at other academic institutions

Ethical Theory

If an instructor would prefers to add components of ethical theory to the role playing activity, this could be done by assigning one or more readings on theory while distributing the scenario to students.  Then, students could be asked to frame/structure at least some of their arguments using the assigned theory as a foundation (for example, from the perspective of this ethical theory, one would argue that using the AI admissions app is ethical/unethical based on the following reasons).

Many different types of ethical theories could be assigned including Kantian Ethics, Utilitarianism, and Ethics of Care. If the ethical theory option is incorporated, it opens other grading possibilities including:

  • Has the student accurately described the assigned ethical theory?
  • How thoroughly has the student applied the ethical theory from the perspective of their assigned stakeholder role?

Ethical Impact Statement

Somewhat akin to an environmental impact statement required by federal agencies for activities that “significantly affect the quality of the human environment”, the instructor could consider a requirement that each student, group (Phase One), or committee (Phase Two) produce an “ethical impact statement.”  In other words, the students would need to formally articulate how the admissions app would impact the interests and well-being of the university, its students, and other stakeholders.

If this activity is done at the individual student level, then each student could describe, from the perspective of the assigned stakeholder role, the ethical impact of the admissions app.

If this activity is done at the group or committee level, then the students could describe, from each of the assigned stakeholder perspectives, the ethical impact of the admissions app.


There are several potential grading options related to the role playing activity; for example:

  • After Phase One, each student could write up and submit the arguments for and against the admissions app from the perspective of the assigned role.
  • After Phase Two, each student could write up and submit an argument on whether the university should adopt the admissions app and the reasons why or why not from the perspective of the assigned role.
  • Alternatively, instead of making it an individual assignment, item #2 could be submitted as a group assignment.
  • The “ethical impact statement” (mentioned above) could be crafted into an assignment after Phase One and/or Phase Two; depending on when it is assigned during the activity, it could be an individual or group assignment.