Institutional Messaging

Rather than look only in what happens in courses labeled “ethics,” NEP uses a suite of tools from digital humanities (automated and manual corpus analysis), psychology (self-report surveys) and design thinking (user interviews and focus groups) to build an evidence-based description of an institution’s ethical culture.

Evidence of the institution’s ethical culture includes institutional messaging, requirement or availability of ethics courses, and clarity of ethics intent in expectations for all segments of campus. Higher education websites speak to internal and external audiences. The stories told implicitly through language, emphasis, and images on the IHE website often contradict what is explicitly claimed in mission, vision, and values statements. Analysis of institutional messaging through the lens of ethics education reveals the school’s intent to fold ethics into its institutional values and how well the school’s actions match that intent. NEP research shows that institutional modeling is an essential aspect of ethics education.

Useful Tools

Ethics Course ID Tool: A resource for identifying ethics-related courses in a catalog

NEP Webscraper: An automated way of collecting webpage information

Instructor-Student Alignment Surveys: A pair of parallel surveys providing insight into the methods and goals underlying ethics instruction

Student Interview Protocol: A method for better understanding on-campus perspectives from students

Example Investigation: DEI Messaging

IHE websites declare their commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion through text and images. Identify tag phrases and search for the number of occurrences throughout the study sample pages. Look for students who might be non-binary, look for a mix of race or ethnicity, look for international focus. Look for students with disabilities. Search for curricular and co-curricular evidence that DEI is the priority claimed. Courses that include gender, ethnicity, diversity, disability in the title or description provide evidence of alignment. Look for co-curricular clubs, events, and residence halls that address specific types of diversity.

Consider accessibility of the website for students with disabilities. Is there audio description and alt-text for images that will not be visible to visitors with visual impairments? Is there closed captioning for any video or verbal description that will not be audible to visitors with hearing impairments? Are students with disabilities represented in campus images aside from student accessibility offices?