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Online Courses
Home Online Course Registration Course Updates Fieldwork Forensic Science
I am now offering all of my classes through Outschool.com.  At present, I have the following courses listed on Outschool:
Forensic Science - 12 weeks
Forensic Science: Fingerprints.  1 hour long session.
Forensic Science: Blood and Shoe Evidence.  1 hour long session.
Forensic Science: Handwriting.  1 hour long session.
Unsolved Crimes: The Zodiac.  Currently 1 hour long session, but it will be changed to 3 sessions, each one hour.
Star Wars: Analysis on Many Levels.  3 hone hour sessions.
I will be adding several other classes soon.
We are also offering a one on one class format at the rate of $150 for the term through this website.  All Outschool classes will have up to 10 students each.  Any course from the list below can be selected for this, and the meetings will be one on one with Thom Jones.
To register for a course, hover your cursor over the “Online Courses” tab above and click on “Registration” or click the “Register” button below.
2017 Spring Courses: Available for one on one registration
Course Descriptions
History in Context:  This course examines important themes in history.  It is not a simple chronological breakdown of events.  I created this course with two observations in mind.  First, the saying “History is context” is a key to understanding why certain events and people are important to study.  Second, I was an observer of a strangely passionate argument about whether History (as in the study of history) is objective or subjective, which ended in a couple of grad students storming out of the class.  Different people approach history in different ways, and I feel that it is important to share the idea that we can trace ideas, philosophies, and movements over long spans of time.  Students will read a variety of materials and engage in discussions about their ideas.  
Unsolved Crimes:  Update--In my work on the Zodiac case, I have uncovered new clues that have never been discussed previously.  The first place I shared this information was with my current homeschool session of this course.  This course is a homeschool version of one of my most popular college courses.  We will look at iconic unsolved crimes and apply modern techniques to our analysis of each case.  Each week, we will read about one of the cases, do our own research, and then discuss various hypotheses.  The cases covered will include Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, The Black Dahlia, The Zodiac, the Lindbergh Kidnapping, and others.  While some of these cases have a high level of violence, I tone it down, even in my college classes.  I am more interested in solving the forensic puzzle.
Introduction to Forensic Science:  This course covers a full range of forensic science topics at the high school level, with the option of increasing the level of the project and written responses to the introductory college level.  Each category of evidence will be examined with an analysis of how the evidence is collected, handled, and transported, the history of techniques used to find and analyze it, the science behind each type of test, and a discussion of the overall utility of the evidence and future directions of forensic science.  We will cover chain of custody, the roles of various individuals in the investigation process, cutting edge research, and hands on activities which demonstrate the correct collection and handling of evidence.
Students will receive chapters from the Forensic Science course manual that I have prepared for college students at SUNY Empire State College, as well as links to online resources, such as FBI databases and university/government agency research pages.  There is an additional $15 materials fee that covers the cost of items that the student will need for hands on activities.  For students in the same family, only one set of materials will be required.
We will have weekly discussion sessions, along with responses to questions about the reading.  Students will also complete a project and discuss their work in our online sessions.  Students can also post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
Introduction to Forensic Science (Tweens 9-12):  This course covers a full range of forensic science topics at the middle school level.  Each category of evidence will be examined with an analysis of how the evidence is collected, handled, and tested.  We will discuss cutting edge research and hands on activities which demonstrate the correct collection and handling of evidence.
Students will receive the middle school forensic science manual that I have prepared, as well as instructions for home-based experiments and activities.  There is an additional $15 materials fee that covers the cost of items that the student will need for hands on activities.  For students in the same family, only one set of materials will be required.
We will have weekly discussion sessions.  Students will also complete a project and discuss their work in our online sessions.  Students and parents can also post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
Introduction to Forensic Science II:  This class is a continuation of the first course, with different areas of evidence to be examined.  We will look at forensic anthropology/archaeology, as well as a variety of “forensic environmental science” issues.  We will have new, complex crime scenes as well, including one that is based on a 17th century archaeological excavation site.
Introduction to Law:  This course introduces students to the world of lawyers, judges, and courts.  We will examine the ways that the law works, the types of law (criminal vs. civil), the sources of law (statute, case law), the levels of court, jurisdiction, trial issues (claims and counterclaims, pretrial hearings, objections, sidebars, precedent, jury selection, questioning witnesses, evidence hearings, summary judgment), decisions and concurring/dissenting opinions, negotiations, contracts, arbitration, and common legal terminology.  
This is the type of class that I wish I had had before going to law school, but it is also useful for anyone who is interested in legal and political issues.  
Students will receive chapters from an introductory manual that I have created for college students interested in pursuing law as a career.  There will be a variety of projects to choose from, with options including a visit to a trial in the student’s local area.  
We will have one hour weekly chat sessions and students can post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
Atmospheric & Climate Science:  This course introduces students to the field of environmental science.  We will discuss atmospheric composition and dynamics, the difference between weather and climate, climate change, the greenhouse effect, the role of particulate matter in the atmosphere, precipitation, energy balances, temperature and precipitation data, weather and forecasting, and severe weather.
Students will receive course materials from the instructor as well as links to online resources.  Students will also conduct a meta-analysis of weather forecasts to evaluate the effectiveness of current model-based forecasting and share their thoughts and observations on it during one of our discussions.  Students will also select one severe weather event and prepare a project on it.
Students will engage in discussions of the weekly topics and provide their thoughts on various topics in a format of their choice.  Students will also conduct a meta-analysis of weather forecasts to evaluate the effectiveness of current model-based forecasting and share their thoughts and observations on it during one of our discussions.  Students will also select one severe weather event and prepare a project on it.
We will have one hour weekly chat sessions and students can post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
High Art and Pop Culture:  This course was one of the most enjoyable college courses to teach.  I designed it as an alternative approach to the standard Humanities class that tells students what art they should appreciate.  We talk about the process of creating art, the skills and intangible talents that make a great artist, and then about the things we see every day. What music do we like?  Why do we like certain movies and not others.  How does sci fi provide wonderful social commentary even though it may be about completely fabricated worlds?  Students have regularly said that this class really made them think and that’s my main goal here.
International and Comparative Law:  This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of legal systems throughout the world, as well as international law.  We will study the ways in which international law is fundamentally different from that which we normally think of as law. We will look at international disputes, European Community law and its relation to the laws of member states, treaty law, and the relationship of international agreements to domestic law and what our constitution says about that.
Students will receive course materials from the instructor as well as links to online resources.  Students will also choose at least one treaty and one country’s legal system and do a project on each and share their thoughts and observations on it during one of our discussions.
Students will engage in discussions of the weekly topics and provide their thoughts on various topics in a format of their choice.  
We will have one hour weekly chat sessions and students can post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
Advanced Forensic Science:  The next start date for this course has not yet been set, but it can be started as an individual course at any time.  This course is a follow-up to the Introduction to Forensic Science course.  It is intended to delve more deeply into a variety of topics within forensic science, as well as to introduce topics not covered in the first class.  This course will move almost entirely into the realm of the forensic science laboratory and only minimally cover evidence collection.
Students will receive course materials from the instructor as well as links to online resources.  
Students will engage in discussions of the weekly topics, provide their thoughts on various topics in a format of their choice, and prepare a project on one of the selected topics of the course.  Students will work on the design of a forensic science research project with the option of conducting research after the course ends and uploading data into a project database.  
We will have one hour weekly chat sessions and students can post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
Criminal Law:  The next start date for this course has not yet been set, but it can be started as an individual course at any time.  This course is designed to introduce students to American criminal law.  We will cover criminal procedure, the trial process, opening and closing arguments, constitutional elements of criminal law, administrative laws/regulations, Miranda rights, search and seizure, confessions, evidence, burden of proof, and important historical cases.  
Students will receive course materials from the instructor as well as links to online resources.  
Students will engage in discussions of the weekly topics, provide their thoughts on various topics in a format of their choice, and prepare a project on one of the selected topics of the course.  One option will be to watch a trial in a local court and discuss observations.
We will have one hour weekly chat sessions and students can post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
Constitutional Law:  The next start date for this course has not yet been set, but it can be started as an individual course at any time.  This course is designed to introduce students to the constitution and the legal intricacies of this document in our legal system.  We will discuss many of the amendments and their meanings and interpretation.  We will cover the key cases, original intent, and the views of legal scholars on important issues.  We will also discuss the way in which constitutional issues often seem to trump other issues in many cases.  We will also discuss the balancing of federal and state powers/interests.
Students will receive course materials from the instructor as well as links to online resources.  
Students will engage in discussions of the weekly topics, provide their thoughts on various topics in a format of their choice, and prepare a project on one of the selected topics of the course.  One option will be to watch a trial in an appellate court and discuss observations.
We will have one hour weekly chat sessions and students can post comments to the chat room at any time to foster discussions.
NEW COURSES:
Social Justice:  This class will examine issues of social justice.  We will examine social justice in the context of our legal, political, educational, and economic systems, as well as in society at large, using a combination of academic writings on specific areas, current events, and historic speeches/writings of well known civil and human rights leaders.  However, we will not only focus on academic treatments of social justice; we will examine real world efforts to effect change and the mechanisms by which this occurs. We will also look at the ways that terms and concepts are thrown around incorrectly or ineffectively in discourse and the ways in which social media is changing social justice efforts.  One example of a term we will examine is “privilege,” which has subtly different meanings depending on the person using it.  The examination of this terms leads to a discussion of ways that those seeking social justice can actually cause more damage by their lack of understanding.  I use this as a “case study” because it is something that I have dealt with from my time at the University of Michigan Law School.  Whether your son or daughter wants to know “what in the world has Bernie Sanders been talking about” or wishes to dive deeper into crucial issues of social justice, this should be a rewarding class.  The chatroom will be an important part of our ongoing discussions in this course, so that students can share their thoughts between our weekly video calls.
Current Events:  The title of this class pretty much tells it all.  We will examine current events, whether they are political, economic, scientific, or anything else--local, national, or international.  Recently, we have seen stories on Brexit, Aleppo, European elections, another earthquake in Aceh, a Supreme Court vacancy, Castro’s death, an eyebrow-raising call to Taiwan, DAPL, droughts, Zika, lethal pollution levels in India, a meeting between Trump and Gore, and so much more.  Each of these things is important for many reasons, and we will discuss the historical contexts and future impacts of each.  We will utilize a variety of news sites and as yet to be determined background readings (can’t be determined because we don’t yet know what events will happen during the term).  I will give students guidance on finding information on a specific current event to prepare for our weekly discussions, and I will encourage students to suggest events that they find interesting.  The chatroom will be an important part of continuing discussion between weekly video calls.
U.S. Government:  This class will cover the structure of the U.S. Government (three branches), the Constitution, federal agencies and their roles, the relationship between state and federal government, the history of our government, and the role of citizens in government.  It has become apparent while discussing current issues following the election that many people aren’t fully aware of the roles and power of each part of our government.  This class will aim to bring clarity into that murky world.