Out of the ordinary and online

Students may recognize the course Sex, Beer and Chocolate from previous semesters’ schedules, but the public health class now has to compete with My Music Doesn’t Suck! and other online courses this fall and spring.

According to OASIS, there are 511 distance learning classes offered at USF’s Tampa campus during the spring semester and 800 at all USF campuses combined.

Florida’s college Web classes even graced the front page of the New York Times on Nov. 5, with a story noting the University of Florida’s increasing use of online education.

Yet, the article merely noted the “dozens of popular courses in psychology, statistics, biology and other fields” – while USF online classes have covered everything from helpful hacking to George Harrison.

Adjunct music professor Patrick Hernly will teach the new course My Music Doesn’t Suck! in the spring. Hernly said the class stands out because it focuses on world music in the age of digital programs like ProTools.

“The idea is to hit the popular music around the world and look at how … they’ve developed on somewhat of parallel paths because of things like colonial history and then more recently, technological media,” Hernley said.

The curriculum covers such artists as Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley, Zimbabwean Afropop singer Thomas Mapfumo and Indian instrumental composer A.R. Rahman, who gained celebrity in the U.S. for scoring the 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Students listen to audio files through an iTunes playlist bundled within the textbook “Popular World Music,” and use Blackboard discussion groups to compare geographic genres.

“I’m hoping to make the discussions focus less on nuts-and-bolts facts … and the discussions would then hopefully focus more on listening to music,” Hernly said.

The class currently has 180 open seats, but Hernly said that if it gets accepted as a satisfaction for general education requirements, anticipated student enrollment could range anywhere from 500 to 1,000 students.

At the fall semester’s start, students also had the opportunity to take The Beatles: History and Legacy, a five-week music class devoted to the Fab Four.

Each week, the class responded to three required readings in “Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America,” learned how U.S. musicians like Buddy Holly and Muddy Waters inspired the band and listened to audio recordings throughout their decade-long career.

Maurice Terrell, the course’s instructor and a full-time professor at Seminole State College, said since the course only awards one credit hour, students merely seemed interested in learning about the Liverpool quartet.

“The feel I got from students – and the feedback from the class I got from students – was they were just there to enjoy the course,” Terrell said.

Students whose only impressions of hacking come from computer-chair rebel movies like “Hackers” or headlines about illegal website breaches might be surprised by another fall semester online offering – Ethical Hacking.

Adjunct information technologies professor Jeremy Rasmussen said the course teaches ways to get through computer security for good causes, like a professional penetration tester paid to fix system flaws.

“It’s probably a more computer science-oriented class than people might think, and most people don’t really know what hacking is,” Rasmussen said.

The class meets Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. through the online academic program Elluminate, where Rasmussen posts PowerPoint slides, offers a chat window and displays real-time demonstrations from his computer’s desktop.

Using John Erickson’s book, “Hacking: The Art of Exploiting,” students learn to exploit computer weaknesses. Rasmussen said he also assigns hands-on hacking projects, but if students don’t stay careful about what computer locations they access, the results can be destructive or illegal.

“I remind everybody at the beginning of the semester that the best way to learn this stuff is on your own system using virtual machines because you don’t want to go try (it) on systems that don’t belong to you,” Rasmussen said.

Hernly said the overall advantage in offering online courses is that it brings together students from different locations. He said he has taught students serving in Afghanistan and Iraq or living in other states like California.

“It’s good for a kid from Tampa in a music class to interact with somebody who’s in the music industry in Los Angeles, and it’s good for someone who’s in a far away country – maybe immersed in the music of that culture – to be able to interact,” Hernly said.