Lecture 1: Course Introduction

Lecture Overview

This week serves as an introduction to the expectations for JUS/SOC 316: the undergraduate criminology course of the University of Maine at Augusta. In this welcoming lecture I’ll lay out what you need to know to get started and succeed in the course. I hope a good start will help you end well.

Before you start to review this lecture, read Chapter 1 of Frank Hagan’s Introduction to Criminology 8th edition text, a book which you should be able to purchase at the University of Maine At Augusta bookstore (umabookstore.com).

Our lecture subjects this week are:

Welcome and Course Logistics

Hello, and welcome to Justice Studies/Sociology 316: undergraduate Criminology at the University of Maine at Augusta. My name is James Cook, I’m an Assistant Professor of Social Science, and I’ll be your instructor during the length of this course. As in any university course worth its salt, you’ll find yourself trying to absorb an encyclopedic volume of information — but as psychologists have recognized for decades, people are able to digest and work with only a small number of “chunks” of information at any one time (somewhere between 3 and 9, depending on the task). I hope to help make the huge amount of information about crime more palatable by breaking it into a manageable number of chunks and by talking about how those chunks fit together into a meaningful whole.

Before you can begin to tackle the course’s content, you need to know how to figure out how the process of this course works. While the course syllabus lists all of my expectations for the course in some detail, I think that before you begin the course there are just 4 pieces of information you absolutely must have. So before you pick up your textbook, why not learn those 4 pieces of information? They’re in this orientation video:

Does that sound like a good start? Let’s flesh out the meat on those bones a little bit.

The lecture format we’ll use for this online course will involve multiple forms of media, including images, audio, video and text. All forms of information contained should be reviewed by you. If there’s an audio clip I include in a lecture, listen to it. If there’s a video, be sure to watch it.

Every lecture assumes that you’ve done the readings first. So if you haven’t already, read the course syllabus, and read Chapter 1 of the Hagan text. Then come back to this lecture. I promise that everything below will make much more sense if you follow that order.

Why is Course Information in Two Places?
As I mention in the video, you can find information on this course in two places: the course Blackboard page (available through bb.courses.maine.edu), and a public web page featuring a lectures as pages in a blog. Why on earth do I do this?

I split the information in this course into two locations for two reasons. First, I believe that information should be free. Of course, you should pay something for official course credit and getting your work graded and a degree, because a lot of people put a lot of resources into making a course like this available. In my opinion, though, the information contained in a course should be open to everybody, especially because I work for a publicly-funded state university. The Blackboard system used by UMA is massively locked-down, so I make lectures available on a public website. Second, there are some things that should be done in secret. According to federal law, some information about registered students must be kept private, and I believe that the work students hand in shouldn’t be floating around the internet willy-nilly either. Blackboard excels at providing a secure location for turning in work, posting grades and sending out e-mails to students, so I use our course Blackboard page for that, too.

Although course information is located in two places, you’ll notice that there will always be links placed so you can jump from one to the other. If having two websites confuses or worries you, please send me an e-mail (to james.m.cook@maine.edu) and let me know your thoughts.

Turning in Activities
To turn in the activities that are due, log in to our course Blackboard page, click on the “Activities” link on the left, then click on the name of the work you’d like to turn in. If you need to attach documents (Microsoft Word files are best, .rtf files are second-best, .pdf files are acceptable), please use the “Attach file” option that appears halfway down the paper-turn-in page.

Proctored Exams

There will be three exams in this class, to be scheduled by you to take some time during the Monday-to-Friday periods of September 26-30, October 24-28, and December 12-16. Each exam covers separate material; the exams are not cumulative. Exams incorporate multiple-choice, definition, skill-based and short answer questions. The exams are closed-book, which means that you may not bring any material in to the exam other than a pen. Each exam will count for 25% of your final grade. See “Extra Credit” above to find out how to earn a few more points on each of the first two exams.

Very Important: Although this is an online course, these exams are completed using pen and paper and will be proctored, requiring you to travel to a UMA campus, ITV site, University College center or another location near you to take the exams. There are dozens of these sites peppered across the state of Maine, so if you live in Maine there should be a location convenient to you.  If you live outside the state of Maine, you will be responsible for finding and paying the fee for a professional exam proctor near you.

Because I’m asking you to travel a short distance to a proctor to take the exams, I’m also flexible on the timing of your exam: you will be able to schedule a block of 3 hours for each exam at a time that works best for you within a 5-day period — but you need to take action to make the exam scheduling work.Here’s what to do:

  • All students, please go to the website http://www.learn2.maine.edu/exam during the first two weeks of the semester and choose a location at which to take your exams. You MUST sign up for an exam site during the first two weeks of the semester to ensure that appropriate exam materials will be delivered to your proctor site in a timely fashion.
  • If and only if you are living outside the state of Maine, you must also find a professional exam proctor for your exams during the first two weeks of the semester. There are many of these across the country at public universities and public libraries; if you have trouble finding a proctor where you live please let me know during the first two weeks of the semester by e-mail (james.m.cook@maine.edu) and I’ll be glad to lend you a hand. After you’ve found a proctor, visit the website https://sites.google.com/a/maine.edu/testing-location-registration/home/university-college-out-of-state-testing and fill out the web form you find there so that the folks at UMA can get a copy of my exam to your proctor.
  • All students, it is also your responsibility to contact the location you’ve chosen, before each exam, to arrange a specific day and time during each allotted exam week that is practical for both you and the site staff. If you need help contacting a proctoring site within Maine, see this list of phone numbers: http://learn.maine.edu/outreach-centers/centers-and-community-course-sites/.  If you’re having trouble making contact with your proctor, please let me know by e-mail (james.m.cook@maine.edu) and I’ll be glad to help — but please remember that scheduling and taking the exam with a proctor is your primary responsibility to arrange.

Please Be In Touch!
One of the frustrations of an online course is that I don’t get to see your face and shake your hand. Please get in touch with me should you have any questions about the course that aren’t answered in the syllabus or a lecture. One of the best ways to do that is in office hours. I hold office hours at the University College at Rockland once a week (Thursdays 8-9 AM and 11:45 am – 2:15 PM), and would love to meet you in person. Please feel free to drop by without an appointment — that’s what office hours are for! If you can’t make it to these places in person, you can call me by phone (621-3190) or write me an e-mail (james.m.cook@maine.edu). I also maintain two hours once a week (Mondays 8-10 am) exclusively for phone consultations at 621-3190.

Library Access
Online access to the library of the University of Maine at Augusta is required for the criminology course in order for you to find and read journal articles and conduct reviews of the academic literature. Use of electronic indexes and databases available through the University of Maine system will be particularly important. You will need a university library card account — if you do not already have one, visit this website as soon as possible to apply for one. For technical help of any kind while using the UMA Library website and library services, contact Off-Campus Library Services through this website, by phone at 1-800-339-7323 in Maine, by phone at 1-888-266-4950 outside of Maine, or by e-mail at ocls@maine.edu.

Academic Integrity: Setting Boundaries for Academic Crime in this Class

When we think of crime, we tend to think of the violations of legal boundaries set by nations. But other organizations set other boundaries and consequences for violating those boundaries that are comparable to criminal punishment in many ways. At the University of Maine at Augusta, we have a Student Conduct Code, of which the Student Academic Integrity Code is a part. This code applies for all classes in the university, and sets standards for quasi-criminal academic conduct complete with a judicial process and punitive sanctions.

In this course, I recognize that 19 out of 20 students won’t be violating academic integrity, and this means that any discussion of academic integrity might be seen as preaching to the choir. I honor you for choosing to make your work your own; the following message is for your occasional fellow student who thinks about violating academic integrity by cheating, by plagiarizing, or by having another person complete work for them. Academic dishonor is not acceptable in this class, and I will pursue formal sanctions if I uncover it:

Author’s Podcast to Accompany Chapter 1

Frank Hagan, the author of your textbook, has graciously agreed to provide short audio podcasts to accompany each chapter of his book. While the chapters themselves contain the most information, these podcasts provide another way for you to absorb the general scope of each chapter. Listening to these podcasts in the car, before sleep or at other times when you have a few minutes to spare should help you gain a better command over the material.

Click here to listen to (or right click to download) Frank Hagan’s podcast for Chapter 1.

Pose Your Reading Questions Here

By now, you should have completed your reading for the week — our Hagan textbook’s Chapter 1. Do you have any questions about the material that I might address? Ask those questions right here.

Here’s how: in this course, we’ll be using “padlets” like the one you see below to enhance discussion right in the middle of lectures like this one. To participate, double-click on the padlet area below, then add text. Click elsewhere on the padlet to save your posting to it. Give it a try! If you’d like, experiment adding audio, video, pictures, links to web pages and even embedded word processing files! I’ll come back to answer your questions in this very same padlet area.

A reminder: since this is a public web page, any use of your name will be seen by others. If you have privacy concerns, please feel free to use a pseudonym.

What is Criminology? What is Crime? Who Decides?

This week we begin our study of criminology. Criminology is not the same as criminal justice studies or penology or legal scholarship. What, then, is criminology? The question that follows — what is crime? — is even more complicated than the first, as the following lecture shows:

Looking Ahead: Activities #1 and #2

Over the first week, I don’t want to overwhelm you with assignments to turn in. Nevertheless there are two assignments that will be due by the end of the second week of class. If you want to get ahead, it isn’t too early for you to complete these course activities that are due by September 10:

For you to succeed in this course, it is absolutely essential that you read and understand the course syllabus and UMA’s Student Academic Integrity Code. Last week I asked you to read the course syllabus and the code; this week I’m asking you to take these two steps:

If you have any questions about the syllabus or academic integrity questions, ask me!
After you’ve asked any questions you might have, post a message in the Blackboard “Activities” section listed “Activity #1″ declaring, “I have read and understand the course syllabus for SOC/JUS 316; I agree to abide by its terms. I have read and understand the Student Academic Integrity Code; I agree to abide by its terms.” Note: if for some reason you feel you cannot make this affirmation, please contact me as soon as possible so we can talk about it; agreeing to abide by the syllabus and academic integrity is a necessary condition for taking this course.
Activity 1 is due by September 10.

Over the course of the semester, we will be considering a number of different issues related to the issue of crime. To help illustrate these issues, I’m asking you to complete a brief survey regarding the subject of crime. Because the subject of crime is sensitive, your privacy is protected in two ways. First, while you are required to send in a survey response to me in order to receive a complete activity grade, you are not required to answer any questions — you could, if you want, simply submit a blank survey with no answers on it. Second, while our course website will let me know whether you have submitted a survey response or not, I will not be able to find out which students sent in which survey answers — in that regard, your responses are anonymous. To receive credit for Activity 2:

  • Log in to Blackboard and visit “Activity #2: Initial Course Survey” in the “Activities” section of our course’s Blackboard page.
  • Submit the survey contained in “Activity #2,” with or without completed responses. Activity 2 is due by September 10.

Any Lecture Questions? Post a Comment Here

Do you have any more questions following the completion of this lecture? If so, please post a comment in the comment area you’ll find below and I’ll be glad to respond. Remember that this is a public web page, so if you are concerned with issues of privacy, please feel free to use a pseudonym.

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