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Forensic science is under the popular-culture microscope, thanks to programs such as Law and Order, CSI, and NCIS playing on millions of television screens across the world. But long after the glow of Hollywood’s lights have dimmed and actors have returned to their trailers, an assistant professor in SHSU’s Department of Forensic Science is bringing the reality of forensic science to life in the online platform.

Dr. Jasmine DrakeAssistant Professor Jasmine Drake, Ph.D., a Louisiana native who came to SHSU by way of the Drug Enforcement Administration as a forensic chemist, developed and teaches an online Ethics and Professional Practice course to be used for the Minor in Forensic Science program. She says the concept and capabilities of online learning allow for instructors to impact a larger number of students in a global economy.

“Although an online platform may not be appropriate for particular courses in forensic science, such as those requiring the learning of lab-based concepts, there are many fundamental courses across various forensic science disciplines which can be effectively taught online,” she says. “One thing I enjoy the most about teaching online courses is that it gives me the opportunity to interact with and impact a larger group of students. Many of the students enrolled in my online course are non-traditional students who would not otherwise be able to attend the same courses in a traditional classroom setting.”

Additionally, the Department of Forensic Science offers an online “Introduction to Forensic Science” course, where instructors with experience as practitioners use their experience in the field, along with the technological capabilities of online learning, to deliver a stimulating and flexible learning environment for students.

Drake says when it came to developing the course, she utilized several technological applications with assistance from the CJ Online Instructional Design Team, including lecture materials, video content, web-based links, and audio recordings.

“I believe it is my responsibility as an online instructor to effectively deliver course materials and learning objectives in a fashion that would mirror the face-to-face instruction found in a traditional classroom setting,” she says. “One challenge to online teaching is achieving a sense of community, but I was able to address this challenge by integrating discussion topics and forums to increase the sharing of ideas and communication between individual students.”

​The minor in Forensic Science caters to criminal justice majors who have a general interest in forensics and intend to apply for graduate programs in forensic science or pursue investigative or forensic career paths.

Drake says students interested in pursuing online learning must take the time to understand their courses and plan their time appropriately to succeed.

“I think that technology is rapidly changing the face of education, and I would advise any students interested in pursuing an online education to be sure to keep an open line of communication with their professor to ensure they understand the learning objectives and specific rubrics for course assessment,” she says. “They should also pay very close attention to the course schedule and timelines for mastering concepts, since it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to manage their time in an online course, which is self-paced.”

For more information about SHSU’s Department of Forensic Science  or the Minor in Forensic Science, visit www.forensics.shsu.edu.

After nearly 40 years as an educator, Teri Lesesne, professor of library science, has been privy to a multitude of changes in the classroom, but she views the incorporation of online learning to be among the most profound and beneficial inclusions to date.

“At Sam Houston State University, we’ve really changed how we deliver instruction to non-traditional students, meaning students who are unavailable to attended class on campus or between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” she says. “Part of our jobs as educators is to find other ways to reach our students, and the online format requires us to think of how our course will thrive in a virtual environment.”

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Dr. Teri Lesesne, professor of library science

Lesesne has been with the College of Education for nearly 25 years, and has spent the past four years teaching Literature for Children and Literature for Young Adults courses as part of the online Master of Library Science program.

Given the structure of the curriculum, Lesesne is able to view the arch of her students’ online learning evolution, teaching them one of their first online courses in Literature for Children and nearing the completion of their degree in
the Literature for Young Adults course.

“The development of some students can be profound between the courses I teach, and other times, it can be consistent; it really depends on the student’s approach to online learning,” she says. “It can be fun to see how far students have come in terms of their communication with peers or timeliness of their responses.”

Lesesne says the first priority of her online courses—as in her face-to-face courses—is to establish camaraderie and communication among her students. She says the process of forming relationships with her online students is organic and at their convenience.

“Building a community is a priority; to show we are in the course together, talking about our experiences and sharing what we’ve encountered and the challenges we could potentially face in the field of library science,” she says. “Building relationships is the way to understand that we are no longer speaking about regional problems, necessarily, because we have students from across the nation and at times, other parts of the world.”

Lesesne also encourages students to learn about her through her blog posts, Facebook and Twitter profiles, and other social media outlets.

One challenge Lesesne and her colleagues in the Department of Library Science faced in teaching the program online was the absence of physical media, particularly not placing books in their students’ hands. As a substitute, Lesesne has utilized technological applications such as screencasts and podcasts to explain assignments and provide demonstration.

Lesesne says she forms a special bond with her online students, one based in real-world circumstances.

“I come to know my students well, including their study habits and execution of assignments, and I know they need just as much feedback and support as students in my face-to-face courses,” she says. “The benefit of the online format is students can work when they have time, and I can get back to them quickly. Students can be in touch with me any time; online students, I find, are much more comfortable sending me an email at 2 a.m.”

A Sam Houston State University finance professor invested long-term in teaching online, and says the return on his investment has been worth its weight in gold.

Balasundram Maniam, a professor in the College of Business Administration, was at the forefront of online learning for the college when he began teaching online courses in the Fall 2009 semester.

“To prepare for teaching online, I read a lot about what was developing in the field of education, and I saw how technology was changing things; what was available and what could be done in courses,” he says. “I had my reservations, but I soon went from a skeptic to a believer; I’m preaching online learning now.”

Bala-1

In November, Maniam was recognized as a Regents’ Professor by the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System for his “lengthy record of consistently superior student evaluations,” and “commitment to innovation in teaching, as evidenced by his groundbreaking development of online courses in finance.”

Maniam, better known to his students as “Bala,” began teaching FINC 5310, Introduction to Institutions, Investments, and Managerial Finance, as his first online course and has continued to update the materials, presentation, and supplements of the course often through the years.

He says updating the methodology and approach of the course to keep it fresh served as a representation for teaching online in general, as the key to keeping the course relevant to students is adapting to both their personal and professional needs.

“It takes a lot of time and energy to both design and execute a course properly, and making yourself availability to students 24-hours a day, seven days a week, is part of that process,” he says. “But the students see your dedication to their learning experience, and they return your effort through quality responses and questions about assignments.”

Maniam was so confident in the resources and approach of his online course that in the Fall 2013 semester, he invited students enrolled in his face-to-face FINC 5310 course to utilize the resources of his FINC 5310 online course in addition to classroom discussions. He says students gave resounding positive feedback after accessing online course content such as streaming video lectures, notes, and supplemental readings.

“Certain aspects of face-to-face learning only give so much to students, and communication is key to their success,” he says. “Online students have the ability to pause, rewind, and review online lectures, communicate directly with me via email, and control the speed of their learning on their terms.”

-Professor Balasundram Maniam

Looking back, Maniam says the process of learning to teach online, one that he initially met with reluctance, made him a better professor.

“I saw that educators were getting more and more online, and I didn’t want to be on the sidelines; I wanted to jump on the bandwagon, keep up with the technology, and be comfortable moving forward in the future,” he says. “Teaching courses online has made me a better professor, and I really appreciate what online can do; 10 to 15 years ago I wouldn’t have thought so, but the advantages of online learning are undeniable.”