Kenneth W. Mentor, J.D., Ph.D.
Course Outlines and Online Content
Whether distance or campus based, all of my courses include web content. All course outlines are posted online. This format allows the inclusion of hyperlinked text that can be used to redirect students to sites that provide information about various assignments. Many of my course outlines are published on this site. You are welcome to contact me for more information.
A few courses are no longer published, primarily because they were hosted in learning environments I no longer use. This issue is tied to my continued suggestion that we are inappropriately "hiding" learning opportunities. Courses created for WebCT or Blackboard are lost when the institution, or educator, moves away from these tools. I am now using Moodle, an open source course management system that is far superior to other options. All current and future courses are available at the cjcampus site, and you are welcome visit.
Some of the older sites may be less effective as learning environments. My skills as an online educator have developed over the last 10 years and that evolution may be obvious when looking through this list of courses. As with any form of scholarship, the progression of knowledge is never complete. My inclination is to making the learning process as transparent as possible. In that spirit, here are a few course outlines, warts and all.
Nature of Crime
“The Nature of Crime” was last offered during the Fall 2004 Semester. This was a graduate level criminology theory course. Although campus-based, much of our coursework was completed online. The course was structured to include online reserves and a web-based discussion forum. Students in the Fall 2004 classes were the first participants in the "The Online Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice." These students did a great job with a project that was confusing at first. The site structure, and all content, was created by this first group if students.
Law and Social Control
CJ 521, “Law and Social Control,” was last offered during the Fall 2004 Semester. Although this was a campus-based course, much of our work was completed online. The course was structured to include online reserves and an online discussion forum. Students in the Fall 2004 classes were the first participants in the "The Online Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice." These students did a great job and worked through many details, and answered many question, so that this process can be easier for others. We owe these students a debt of gratitude for going through the initial "growing pains."
These courses were taught in the summer of 2004. I scaled down some of the assignments that had been previously used so that students could focus more on the readings. I still prefer the online journals and essays, but these courses are very demanding on instructor and students since they last just five weeks and include campus and distance students. The distance students are familiar with the mechanics while the campus students may be new to distance courses. Given the frantic pace, and the expectation that 15 weeks of work will be compressed into 5 weeks, these course outlines were designed in an effort to minimize technology related problems.
This course was campus-based and cross listed for graduate and undergraduate students. The web-based course outline was used for the delivery of various assignments.
This course was actually two courses. Campus-based and distance students shared the same learning environment. It was interesting for these students to work together and students responded positively to the opportunity to get to know a group of students who they had not met prior to this course.
This course was last taught in the summer of 2003. This was a five week graduate level summer course so the pace was quite intense. The entire course was publicly available and all course discussions and assignments were submitted in public spaces that were accessible without passwords. This experience was very rewarding and has resulted in numerous presentations on the subject of "open access learning environments."
The Civil Liberties course provided an opportunity to experiment with new technology that has not often been used for teaching and learning, in spite of the obvious potential. I began to use a new discussion tool that provides many advantages over the discussion area built into WebCT. I have used this tool in subsequent courses and have seen many students begin to openly exhibit, and model, critical thinking skills. The online forum also creates a place where students can interact with one another, as friends as well as colleagues. This is very important for our distance students. As we know, the university experience included much more than classroom learning. Our distance students use these discussion forums to share thoughts and ideas in ways that lead to a sense of community. An analogy would be that we sometimes express concern about the development of social skills in a home-schooled 10-year-old. Why don’t we have similar concerns about our distance students?
I also experimented with the use of weblogs, also known as “blogs,” in the civil liberties course. These blogs were used to develop a semester long journal of thoughts about civil liberties. These student journals were available for review by all class participants. In fact, since they are posted in public areas of the internet, these journals can be reviewed by anyone who finds the content as they browse the internet. Although I see the potential for creating a learning environment that includes participation from many people, even those who are not enrolled in the class, we have not had any participation from outside the group of enrolled students. Since this was a civil liberties course, with discussion of privacy, free speech, and related issues, the public forum seemed especially appropriate.
C.J. 511, “The Nature of Crime,” was taught during Fall 2003, both as a traditional and distance course. Building on ideas from the Madison Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, I included a range of learning opportunities into this class. Essay exams were posted to the web site with responses due the next week. Students were encouraged to use the forum to share ideas about the exam. The forum was also used as the primary means of communicating with me. I was happy to respond to personal e-mails, but asked students with class related questions to post their questions to the forum. In addition to wanting to answer each question just once, I wanted students to see that others had the same questions and were confused about the same things. Students were encouraged to help each other with questions and I stressed the idea that I was not to be seen as the ultimate authority. Students responded very positively to this model. At times they initiated discussions that included dozens of posts, none of them from me. I do not mean to suggest that my goal was to avoid work, I made more posts to the forum than any other participant. However, if my goal is to create a self-directed learning environment it would be counterproductive for me to dominate discussion or to assume a hierarchical position that takes power from the learners.
I also used blogging software in this class and the students used their weblogs to document the progression of learning throughout the semester. Students have mixed reaction to the blogs and I plan to modify this tool as I prepare for next semester.
I taught CJ 521, “Law and Social Control” for the second time during 2003. This can be a difficult course to teach due to problems finding a textbook that covers the material in a way that helps students develop more than a shallow understanding of legal theory. As a result, a traditional textbook was not used. All readings for the course were posted online, in a password protected area, and students could open the files for printing or online reading. Although this was a campus-based course, much of our work was completed online. The course was structured to include online reserves, a discussion forum, online delivery of essays, and an area for the posting of online journals.
I taught this class for several
summers and consistently received very high course evaluation scores.
In fact, one summer this course received a perfect score with every
student rating this course as high as possible in every category. I
course as an elective for our distance MCJ students during the regular
semester. In the summer version of this course we spend much of our
time watching videos
understand the various issues raised in the readings. A distance format
made this difficult. As technology (and bandwidth) improves we will eventually be able to stream
video over the internet for distance courses. This will undoubtedly lead to many teaching innovations.
April 2006 - Kenneth Mentor (e-mail: ken at kenmentor.com)