The pizza bomber: Professor creates online MOOC case study


The tragic “Pizza Bomber” case occurred in 2003. Since that dramatic case, students at Gannon University have been able to learn it and the different investigative techniques involved with solving it.

This is because of Dr. Jerry Clark, Ph. D., an assistant professor of criminal justice. He was the lead investigator for the FBI during this case. Since then, he has retired and began teaching criminal justice courses at Gannon. Now his unique topic is being taught as a MOOC, or massicve open online course, which is free online.

“This is a great opportunity for students to learn all about a fantastic case,” Clark said. “I mean one of the most bizarre cases in FBI history and having that tied to concepts and learn by a case study example.”

Gannon students are considered lucky to be learning firsthand about this case. Now people around the world are able to learn about it from Clark.

Jacob Tutak, a junior criminal justice major, has had Clark for three classes so far in his academic career.

“My favorite part of Clark’s classes are his enthusiasm and experience,” Tutak said. “No matter what he is teaching, he has a way to apply it to the work he did in the field.

“Dr. Clark also has an obvious passion for the field of criminal justice and that becomes apparent in the classroom setting.”

Last Monday, Clark started his fourth massive online (MOOC) class. The first time the online class ran, over 1,000 people signed up. Since then, each class has been running with 500 to about 1,000 people.

Since there are so many participants, Clark has student facilitators help him. He trains them to answer questions and encourage discussions. These students have the option of receiving one course credit or using this opportunity as a resume builder.

Cristina Espotito, a junior criminal justice major with a minor in psychology, explained that she got involved with the MOOC because of her involvement with Alpha Phi Sigma, Gannon’s criminal justice honors society.

“As a student facilitator, it is our job to encourage student discussion and participation in the course,” Espotito said. “We also make comments on what the students have posted and answer questions they have.

“With hundreds of students it is impossible for Dr. Clark to read and reply to every remark left by the students.”

MOOCs are becoming increasingly more popular. Clark said that this is a great six week class that involves videos and assessments.

Currently, the class is not for credit. In the future it is possible that this online MOOC will be a substitute for the CRJ 310 class for Gannon students.

Clark said creating this MOOC was a total team effort. It took more than one person to put together this online class. With help from Sean Morphy, Dr. Tinuka Boulder, Nick Artman and Tex Brieger, as well as support from Linda Fleming, dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, it was made possible.

Next Clark is releasing a book titled “A History of Heists, Bank Robbery in America.” It can be bought on Amazon in July. This book will also be used in his Criminal Law and Procedure class.



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