The Ardent Sociologist

Introduction to the sociological perspective

We begin with an introduction to the sociological perspective.



Fulbright Representative on IUP Campus

Dear Students,

I am writing to spread the word about an excellent merit scholarship opportunity that may be of interest to you – The Fulbright Scholarship Program. For those of you who may have never heard of this opportunity before, the Fulbright Scholarship Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide. It is a very prestigious merit based scholarship open to undergraduate and graduate students alike.

On April 25th, 2018 IUP will host a representative from Fulbright who will discuss the scholarship awards for undergraduate and graduate students and be available to answer questions regarding applications and eligibility requirement.


In an effort to promote this program and a merit scholarship culture at IUP more generally, I ask you to consider attending. If there are questions regarding the Fulbright Student program, please contact Dr. Christian Vaccaro via email <> or call 724-357-2730.

Information about the event:

Who: Representative from the Fulbright Scholarship

What: Fulbright Scholarship Information Session

Where: Humanities and Social Science Building Room 113

When: 4:15-5:15 Fulbright Scholarship Program Session for Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Why: Encourage Eligible Students to Apply to these Prestigious Awards




Christian Vaccaro

List of 50 Organizational Theories for Leaders

Organizational Theory spans multiple disciplines so it is not quite possible to master all of these domains in a single lifetime – yet leaders should know that each has made contributions that will be important to administration of organizations. I have given a great deal of thought about what theoretical perspectives leaders should be knowledgeable of and able to employ in the context of their position. Below is a list of ten theories in each of 5 domains that a leader should be aware of if they are to understand the individual (micro-level), interpersonal (micro/mezzo-level), organizational (mezzo-level), institutional (macro-level), and societal (macro/structural level) forces that impact their organization.  My list is neither comprehensive, nor is a reflection of an opinion broader than my own.  Each theory, rule, or perspective below impacts how a leader views a problem, puzzle, or dynamic within their organization and what course of action they would take.

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Psychological Theory

  1. Behavioralism
  2. Psychological Development
  3. Attachment Theory
  4. Conformity
  5. Schemas
  6. Gestalt
  7. Theory of Mind
  8. Cognitive Bias
  9. Social Cognition
  10. Abnormal Psychology

Social Psychological Theory

  1. Status Expectations States
  2. Social Exchange Theory
  3. Role-Identity Theory
  4. Social Identity Theory
  5. Impression Management
  6. Socio-Emotional Theories
  7. Social Control Theory
  8. Labeling Theory
  9. Strain Theory
  10. Differential Association

Sociological Theory

  1. Functionalism
  2. Structuration
  3. Institutional Theory
  4. Field Theory
  5. Conflict Theory
  6. Symbolic Interaction
  7. Social Constructionism
  8. Network Analysis
  9. Socialization
  10. Public Sociology

Organizational Theory

  1. Weber’s Bureaucracy
  2. Scientific Management
  3. Hawthorne Study
  4. Contingency Theory
  5. Agency Theory
  6. Network Theory
  7. Sensemaking
  8. Resource Dependency Theory
  9. Post Positivism
  10. Chaos Theory

Economic Theory

  1. Behavioral Economics
  2. Utilitiarian Theory
  3. Game Theory
  4. Invisible Hand
  5. Moral Hazard
  6. Tragedy of Commons
  7. Chicago School
  8. Marxism
  9. Keynesian
  10. Externalization


Merit Scholarship Information Page

IUP-wave-artmark-300pxMerit Scholarship Advisor: Dr. Christian Vaccaro

Office: McElhaney 102B


Phone: 724-357-2730

Schedule Appointments:


Popular Merit Scholarship Websites 


Fulbright Scholarship Program


Boren Scholarship Program


Goldwater Scholarship Program


Mitchell Scholarship Program


Gates Cambridge Scholarship Program


Other Merit Scholarship Information


Internal IUP Scholarships

External IUP Scholarship


Information Session: apply for distinguished national and international fellowships #IUP

Meeting informaiton flyer

Superlative Sophomores and Juniors,
If you are on track to graduate with distinction, this may be of interest to you.

I suspect the last thing you are thinking about right now (as we get ready to enter into the final weeks of the fall semester) is your post-graduate reality.

But the truth is, your aren’t that far away from graduation – especially for those of you who are Juniors!

Many of you should seriously consider applying for any of a number of distinguished national and international fellowships. These include, but are not limited to: Fulbright, Fulbright ETA, Truman, Rhodes, Goldwater, National Science Foundation, Pinkerton, Udall, and Marshall.

You would begin working with professors and scholarship advisers in the spring of your junior year (so for those of you who are Juniors, spring 2018). But curious sophomores should also take note of the informational session below.

IUP will be hosting an informational session about these opportunities on Wednesday, November 15th, at 6:30pm in the Great Hall. Please see the flyer and video attached for more information.

Please direct all inquiries to Dr. Christian Vaccaro (

I hope to see you there.

Dr. V

Take an Online Sociology Course this Winter with Dr. Vaccaro at #IUP

Hi all,

I am teaching two very cool online courses this winter at IUP that I want to share with you.

First is Sociology of Mass Media – SOC 421.

If you have a curiosity for social media, television, radio, and print media – or are planning a career in these fields – consider enrolling. It would be an interesting elective considering your major/minor.

For more information on registering visit:

I have heard from many students that they loved this course and I think you will too.


The second course is Juvenile Delinquency SOC 333.  It is offered this winter session at IUP.

It would make a great elective if you are interested in education, law, corrections, policing, psychology, child development, social work or any career that will require you to interact with children.

Students really love the online discussions and the video content I provide in this course.


As always, please feel free to contact me to let me know if you have any questions or need help with enrolling – such as a request for an override at


Dr. V


The Aftermath of Suzie Rushing’s Death

Even though Carter Gallo was only 10 years old at the time, he could sense the changes taking place in the neighborhood following the discovery of Suzie Rushing’s body at a nearby park. The autopsy was inconclusive – she had died from a combination of abdominal injuries (potentially from falling or being thrown down the steep ravine where she was found) and hypothermia – police deemed the death suspicious.  Although her body was found still clothed, police felt that there were signs of struggle that pointed to an attempted rape in addition to murder. The investigation into the details of her death was ongoing – and there were few leads of evidence to follow and no arrest had been made.

Parents in the neighborhood were left with reeling with confusion and worries about the safety of their children. In the months leading to Suzie’s abduction the streets were continually filled with children playing under little-to-no supervision. Now, in general, the parks and streets surrounding the neighborhood remained empty. Parents escorted children to their playmates homes rather than risk their abduction along the block. The neighborhood children received new rules to follow about the trustworthiness of neighbors. And for the first time in Carter Gallo’s memory, the police began to incorporate the neighborhood in their patrols.

1991 was a very interesting time for cultural anxieties of the country – which permeated discussion especially among the neighborhood children about the mysterious death of Suzie Rushing. One salient anxiety of the time was the perceived infiltration and ascendancy of satanic rituals taking place in suburban parks and wooded hollows across the country – which included associated kidnappings, sexual assaults, and murder. Suzie’s death fit the cultural trope of a satanic ritual killing and the neighborhood children took that an ran with it. As the story began to take shape in discussion among the playmates of Carter Gallo, Suzie was mysteriously kidnapped from her neighborhood by a group of Satan Worshipers, assaulted and underwent an attempted rape, was ritualistically sacrificed, and her body tossed in a remote area of a nearby local park . This group of unknown and mysterious – even creature like  – people were said to have practiced their rituals in the woods adjacent to Carter Gallo’s home.

Carter, Jared, and Raymond regularly traversed into this wooded valley, which stretched a span of 7×2 acres and served as the rainwater drainage and gravity fed sewage interceptor between theirs and another neighborhood. These were the same woods that Carter’s mother played in as a child. She used to talk about how she broke her arm in three places after falling from a Tarzan swing still located on the other side of the valley. Carter, Jared, and Raymond spent their summers building cabins, bluffs, forts, dams, and hideaways in this hidden and quite liberating part of the neighborhood.

The boys first became aware of the threat of “Devil Worshipers” in the woods from Karen, who warned them that if they were not cautious, the fate of Suzie could also befall them. With the boys attention piqued, Karen led them through a tour of the wooded area to identify where the Devil Worshipers practiced. As she walked with them she pointed out various important signs of Satanic activity including landmarks in the wooded area like “Devil’s Hill” and “The Devil’s Shed.” She explained that the Devil Worshipers typically held a procession in the woods around dusk and would use that time to identify and prey upon any child that saw their preparation. She instructed to the boys to take cover and hide if we saw anyone walking in the woods because they could potentially be Devil Worshipers, lest they become their next victim.  Hiding in the woods from others would become a strange and exhilarating practice for the boys for a good time following Suzie’s disappearance and death. To a great extent, Karen wasn’t creating a ruse for her own amusement, she believed what she was saying.

The adults in the neighborhood had been reckoning with a more serious revelation regarding Suzie’s suspected murder. The lead suspect for police was Clifford Jeffery, a 36-year-old man who lived with his mother in the house next door to Suzie and Jenny Rushing. The Rushing’s parents had reported to police that they noticed that Clifford had taken an interest in Suzie prior to her disappearance.  It was typical for Suzie to make rounds with almost all of the neighbors, but she received the most attention from the elderly ones who enjoyed her company and had the time and patience for a visit with a child with an intellectual disability.  It was, post-hoc to Suzie’s parents, that Clifford would invite Suzie to sit with him on his front porch to visit. Clifford fit a description from two separate bystanders who are thought to have  last seen Suzie with an accompanying male at both a payphone and at the park. Yet despite multiple times questioned, the police could not find a grounds for arrest. Clifford still remained a person of interest.

Adults in the neighborhood by consensus felt that they knew Clifford had murdered Suzie. When Carter’s mother talked to her neighbor’s older daughter who was the same age as Clifford, and attended high-school with him, she warned her to “keep your son away from him, he is a very strange person.”

Later in the summer of 1992 the neighborhood would have additional information to suspect Clifford. He would attack a 59-year-old neighbor who had mobility problems that summer. The woman recalled of the attack that “He came into my dining room, grabbed me from behind by the neck, got me in a headlock, and I fell to the floor. He picked up a glass and threatened to kill me with it.” He would then strike her with a fish scaler covered in electrical tape. By the time the attack had ended the woman was left unconscious and with a broken arm. In December of 1992, Clifford would attack another elderly woman who, at 62 and in a wheelchair with a broken leg, also had mobility issues. She would recall to prosecutors that Clifford’s attack would begin when “He pushed me into the tub, reached for my throat and tried to block off my air.” He would be prosecuted for both of these attacks, but no charges would be filed from Suzie’s disappearance and death. He would spend approximately 3 years in jail and would be on house arrest for another 5 years.

In 2008, Clifford would be charged again with the attack and rape of a 53 year old woman with multiple sclerosis. He had befriended her and was regularly visiting her to help with housework and other chores. The attack came when she spurned his sexual advance, whereby he repeatedly struck her with a meat tenderizer before forcing himself on her. The attack resulted in multiple bruises and the dislodging of the victim’s two front teeth. The victim stated at the trial that Clifford told her during the attack that in 1991 he killed his former girlfriend, Suzie Rushing in 1991.

As a result of the revelations at the trial, a new investigation was conducted but no charges were filed. Clifford was cleared of rape of the woman because he claimed that the sex was consensual and produced three witnesses that testified they had heard the victim admit to having consensual sex with Clifford prior to the attack. The victim claimed to jurors that she said this but it was a favor she did for him to help his self-esteem. He was convicted on seven other offenses aggravated indecent assault and sexual assault as well as a charge of making terroristic threats can will serve up to 37 years in prison.

Within a few year’s of Suzie’s death, an air of normalcy fully returned to the neighborhood. A group of new parents moved into the homes and the ones who lived through that time began to leave their guard down. The streets once again filled with children playing under little-to-no supervision.

Suzie Rushing’s case remains open.


Neighborhoods Seem Safe Until they Don’t – Delinquency Story 2 – (1991)

The cul-du-sac, where young Carter Gallo lived was always active with neighborhood children. By summer of 1991 he was 9 years old and had made many friends on his block and those adjacent to the one he live. In fact, groups of elementary and secondary school children would regularly gather – often unfettered from the watchful eyes of parents – in the neighborhood to play games, skip rope, wrestle, ride bikes, build forts, and explore nearby wooded areas.

There were his closest friends at the time, the Barnyard brothers, who lived around the corner on the next block.  Jared Barnyard was 10 and his older brother Raymond was 11. Jared and Raymond were the youngest of a large extended family that lived in the neighborhood. Their father, a gruff steelworker, and mother, a mousy stay-at-homer, practiced the “free-range” method of child-rearing with the boys before it was considered an actual thing. Jared and Raymond were sent out of the house each summer day to play in the neighborhood with the only instructions to return for supper and to reenter through the garage if they returned dirty.

His regular baby sitter and friend Karen , who lived two doors down at the bottom of the cul-du-sac, was 11.  Karen, the youngest of three siblings, had a fixation on being accepted as an adult.  She, mostly through self-appointment, acted as a supervisor of the neighborhood children during outside play. She had already exchanged her barbies for make-up kits and developed an interests in boys with the intent that she would enter 6th grade as a mature adult – unlike me – as she regularly pointed out.

Carter followed these children up and down the block, interacting with a host of 20-30 other neighborhood children. Often, Carter would follow Karen to the other end of the block to play.

At the other end of the block, approximately 15 houses away from Carter’s, lived two sisters – Jennifer and Suzie Rushing. Jenny was 11 and, just as rambuctous as the other young children who lived on the block. Suzie, was 16, and had a slight learning disability in which she was tracked into special education and separated her from adolescents her age. Unlike Jenny, Suzie was a blond, somewhat chubby, and clumsy. The other children in the neighborhood included her in games and play, but often she was sidelined from being central to the activity.  She liked to take walks around the neighborhood by herself, stopping to chat with neighbors, children and adults alike, and visiting neighborhood pets before moving onto the next block.  Although this activity is indicative of her gregariousness she would later be described as a “loner” because her learning disability acted as a wall between her and the people she would engage. She was a loner, not by choice, but through the sigma of being a special needs child.

Many times throughout his childhood, Carter would watch Suzie ride her bike down his block stopping to try to play with the other children for a while, eventually being turned away.

The day before Christmas Eve that year, Suzie went missing after she left for a walk in the winter rain. The paper the next day read:

Sixteen-year-old Suzanne “Su-zie” Rushing left home in the rain two days before Christmas without her Walkman, her wallet or her purse things her parents say she Wouldn’t leave without. ” She went for a walk and hasn’t been seen since. Her Christmas presents remain wrapped and stashed in a closet at her mother’s home.. Lt. Paul “Butch” Davie said police are concerned that Suzie might be a victim of foul play. Police have interviewed family, neighbors and friends, but don’t have much to go on, he said. A regional police alert has turned up no leads. “I really don’t like it. . . . To be gone this long, and over the holidays, it has me kind of panicky,” Davie said of the 10th-grade student. Although her parents recently divorced, she seemed to accept it but preferred to keep quiet and to herself, said her mother, Tammy Rushing. She was to take her driver’s exam yesterday and planned to start a job after the holidays, said her father, Teddy Rushing. “She had all the plans in the world,” he said. “I’m worried. Nothing adds up.” Records show no money has been withdrawn from her bank accounts, he said. Davie said anyone with information should call police.

19 days later her body was found by hunters seven miles away at the bottom of a ravine adjacent to a popular community park.  It was likely she had been raped and murdered. The paper the next day read:

The body of a girl who had been missing for 19 days was found yesterday by hunters in a heavily wooded section of a park. The body of Suzie Rushing, 16, was found at about 11 a.m. about 300 feet from a pavilion in a secluded area Police Chief Tom Sully said. : The park is about seven miles from her home, where she was last seen alive Dec. 23 when she left to take a walk. The disappearance of the 10th-grader, who had a learning disability and who left without telling her mother she was going and without taking cherished possessions, drew extensive publicity and prompted a series of searches in the Lower Burrell area. County Chief Detective Mick Brady said investigators believed that her death was “suspicious” but would not comment further pending an autopsy to determine how she died. The autopsy was to be performed last night at Central Medical Center and Hospital, Downtown. “All we can be sure of is that her body was found in the woods,” said First Assistant District Attorney Allen Rell, who joined the investigation at the scene. – Detectives would not comment on why they believed that her death was suspicious but said her body was fully clothed. Suzanne, described as “a loner”, was a sophomore enrolled in special-education classes . She was last known to be alive at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 23, when neighbors told police that they saw her walking from her home . Several searches were organized for her because her family believed that she would not have left home for long without her dog, purse and other possessions.




Understanding Choices that are not Choices – Delinquency Story 1 – Part A (1981-1984)

Delinquency Story 1 – Part A (1981-1984):

I am Carter Gallo.

I share the story of my childhood and adolescence not because it is special or has some significance that others do not. In fact, the significance of the story is that it is mundane. The facts of mine are different, yet the arc of the story is similar to millions of other children that grew up at the same time and under similar circumstances. Like most children, I made the transition through adolescence into adulthood and am considered a well adjusted adult. But to say this is hardly telling the story behind it, as just like mine, childhood for most is fraught with significant and (sometimes traumatic) events, encounters, and turning points that provide obstacles and opportunities that shape a child’s course of development. It include the intertwined experiences, decisions, and lives of other children and adolescents. I use my own story, since I know it at greater detail and depth than any other, to highlight how these various turning points can shape the course and outcome of childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood.

I was born in September of 1981. Demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe would go on to call me, along with other children destined to graduate from high school in the year 2000, the first children born in the Millennial generation.

The first important thing to know about the stage set for my life is that eight months after I was born my father died. For his entire life he unknowingly lived with a small hole in between the two chambers of his atrial wall – a congenital condition known as an atrial septal defect. This hole continually leaked oxygenated blood into his lungs which, through a process not worth explaining for this matter, led to early onset heart failure. My mother, Lydia, recounted that he had seen multiple doctors who misdiagnosed his weakening for months leading up to this event. He walked away from these visits being told his failing lungs were pneumonia and his lethargy was psychological. The day he died she walked him into the hospital and he smiled at her before the porter wheeled him into the examination room. He said not to worry and to go home to be with the baby. Within that hour, at the age of thirty years, he was gone from this Earth.

In adulthood, I’ve given a great deal of thought to what would have been if that tiny hole in my father’s heart would have healed on its own during his childhood without complication, as many do, or have not existed as all, as is in the case of my own beating heart. First, our family was on the trajectory to the upper-middle class. My father graduated with a degree in broadcast and print journalism from Pennsylvania State University in 1972. He held several positions as a radio broadcaster and newspaper journalist in  throughout the Pittsburgh area as well as working in marketing and advertising. By all measures before his death, he was well liked and had been quickly rising through the ranks of the regional mass media industry and had the trappings of an early successful career – we had a new car, a starter home, and he was sole breadwinner. If this trajectory had continued, our family would have lived comfortably among our upper-middle class peers.

Instead, Lydia at thirty-one was now faced with the challenge of dealing with the grief of her sudden and tragic loss, with a new born to care for, and no career. Although I do not remember much, these early years as I recall were quite somber.

I grew up in a small 25′ by 30′ 3 bedroom ranch-style house located on a cul-du-sac at the end of a housing plan in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. The small city of roughly 5200 households and 13000 people came into its own as a result of the post-war development boom in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Our house, along with all the others in our plan of around 200 homes – and much of the rest of the city – were built in a similar fashion by a developer named Asa Speck.

The earliest clear of memory of my childhood is in the fall of 1984, when I was 3 years old. I was standing in the third bedroom with my mother looking at some of the decorations she had placed on top of the Yamaha electronic organ my father had purchased her before he died. As I pointed to items asking “what is this?”she explained them to me in detail. “This is clay and glazing from the bottom of your uncle’s pottery kiln. I thought it looked interesting so I kept it…That is a glass fishing float which the fishermen use to keep their nets from sinking…That is a piece of driftwood.” At this point I asked her “what is driftwood?” a powerful lightening bolt streamed down from the sky simultaneously connecting large oak tree in our back yard. The strike was so powerful that the tree split down its center, shards of foot-long splinters were sent flying at damaging speed across the neighborhood, the brunt of the impact along the rear of our home. The force of the shards striking the outside of the house shattered the windows and chunks of plaster in the adjacent bedroom blew off the walls traveling and ricocheting as far as the other side of the house. I can remember my mother’s legs trebling in shock as we knocked on the neighbor’s door for help, the arrival of police and fire departments, and the relief on my mother’s face when the fire chief gave an “all clear” for us to return to the house.  For the longest time afterword I feared saying the word “driftwood” thinking that it somehow was linked to lightning.

As a result of the lightning bolt the tree was now ruined. The yawning split down its middle now posed a new danger of the tree falling onto the house – the oak’s size large enough to destroy the tiny dwelling. The insurance company insisted that the tree be removed immediately along with the restoration to the damaged siding, windows, and plaster inside the house.

A small crew of laborers showed up at our house a week later to do the work. One of which was a young man, Floyd, from the neighboring community.  Floyd was much younger than her at only 21 at the time they met; she was now 34. Different in most ways including age, education, upbringing, and moral values they had a source of attraction and connection in each other’s grief and tragedy. Floyd’s mother died from cancer during his teenage years. He bore the psychological scars of the difficulty with his father who remarried a woman uninterested in having a relationship with his children. She wanted Floyd out as soon as possible.

Floyd also bore large physical scars along the left side of his face and on his left hip. They were from the surgery to reconstruct his jaw and face which shattered several years prior when, after a night of heavy alcohol and drug use with his adolescent friends, he staggered to the edge of a small girder bridge and then fell backwards off it into the dry creek bed below and was at death’s door before he was rescued. Despite his brush with death, Floyd continued to lean on a dependency on alcohol for emotional control and relief from his loss of a mother and then his family.

Floyd saw a sympathetic and caring person in Lydia – a mother. Someone which he longed for in his own life. Lydia saw in Floyd a person who could take on the role of breadwinner – a husband and father. Someone that was missing her own life. They were perfectly broken for each other. Both blinded by their own desires for what they wanted to see in the other that they were unable to see how they themselves could not fulfill the other’s needs. A man as young and inexperienced as he would not be able to stand up as a breadwinner for a struggling widow and her child – who recently fell from the precipice of an upper-middle class life-course trajectory.  Just as a 34 year old widow with a toddler would not have the ability to stand up as the missing mother in his life – while he had already began his descent into alcoholism.

After the work was completed on the tree and house, Floyd asked Lydia on a date and she said yes. A few months went by and he, suddenly and unexpectedly, moved into our home. For the next decade, Lydia and Carter would daily face Floyd’s struggle of full-blown alcoholism and its effects on their family, friends, and livelihood.

We often give consideration to how the people, environment, and  events are tied to the cause of family problems, yet it is more typical than not that we misdiagnose the amount of agency people have in how environments are created and events unfold. We often think about the choices that parents, adults, and children make (or don’t make) that lead them down the path towards delinquent behavior.

Lydia, why didn’t you see Floyd’s alcoholism it coming down the tracks? Weren’t you able to tell that he would not be able to help you the way you needed?

Floyd, how could you think that a widow with a toddler would be able to handle your epic problems? Couldn’t you figure out that you needed more help?

It is easy think of the choices that people make as if each one can be as easily made as the next. At times this is true, but what also happens looks a lot more like the story above. This is a more difficult way to think about the reality of our choices and their consequences, which are made within a set of conditions whereby some choices will “unfold” easily while others choices could only be made with great emotional, cognitive, or material cost. Tied to this story are several events – or turning points – where the actors that have very little to no control over what happens – an undiagnosed birth defect, two deaths, a remarriage, an act of god, an insurance claim – but yet they are the main drivers that set the stage for Floyd and Lydia (little Carter too) to come face to face, interact, and begin a tragic relationship which will have negative consequences for everyone.

If you are interested in working with juvenile delinquents, or their families, it can be really easy to get frustrated when face with types of “choices which are not choices.” Although there is no way around this frustration, asking clients about their lives may bring a greater understanding about why they are in the situation that they are in. It may even help you as a clinician to find creative solutions for what may seem to clients as intractable problems.

How I am innovating online learning

How I am innovating online learning

by Christian Vaccaro

I created instructional technologies similar to those found in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at no additional cost to the university and required no additional specialized support beyond that of the course instructor.

MOOCs and The Value and Limits of Online Learning

There has been a great deal of discussion in higher education circles about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – by companies such as Coursera, Udacity, and EdX – that offer college level courses taught by world-renown scholars for free to anyone in the world with an internet connection.

To learn more about MOOCs , I audited a course on Network Analysis in 2014 by Stanford Professor of Economics, Matthew O. Jackson. By taking the course, I learned a good deal of valuable information on Network Analysis, but the more importantly I learned about the mechanics of MOOCs. I noted that they have value but, for all their hype, limitations exist for their proliferation beyond elite universities.

One of the values of MOOC design is that it allows for an expert to deliver their knowledge about the subject matter with a consistent voice and in a logical order. This is mostly accomplished by the MOOC company (supplemented by the host university) assisting the expert faculty to record, edit, and produce their classroom lectures. This has the effect that the professor is the focal point of the course – their voice, their logic, their examples, their knowledge, their everything shines through in a very meaningful way.

Yet, this is a very costly endeavor for universities, as creating a MOOC – with the assistance of professional editors, videographers, and even production teams – can run upwards of $100,000. Importantly, they are not yet (and may never be) monetized beyond advertisement and good will from the host university. Elite universities with large endowments (like Harvard, Stanford, and MIT) can afford to provide these services without consideration of finances, student outcomes, and student-faculty engagement. Simply put, MOOCs work for these institutions because the cost is negligible for large and elite universities considering the resources they already have. Similarly, the thousands of students taking (and dropping) these courses will not be given “real” credit for them anyway and, thus, are not viewed as part of the university outcomes. Finally, elite faculty members connecting to the world in this way are viewed positively because they – and their lessons – have been unavailable to the general public in ways that are not true for non-elite and public universities.

It is very difficult to achieve this value in online courses offered at non-elite and public universities, where a great deal limitations exist for recording, editing, and posting faculty lectures.  Faculty are expected to put online courses together without any budget – and sometimes with little time.  To accomplish this they often resort to piecing together relevant readings, videos, podcasts, and other online media that is available to them – through library subscriptions or online – to create their course content modules. Others rely on “canned” material from textbook providers. Although faculty are very good at doing this and protocols exist to ensure these are sufficiently constructed so that students get an education they are paying for, sometimes even very well constructed, the faculty voice is lost and students in these institutions do not get the sense of a personalized experience with the faculty member who, because of the lack of resources, behind the scenes.

My Innovation to Online Learning

I have been working on ways to develop online course material using instructional technology that delivers knowledge about the subject matter with the consistent voice of an expert and in the logical order found in the most well-constructed MOOCs with little to no additional cost to the university.

I believe I have done so in developing my online course, SOC333 Delinquency and Youth. The programs I used to create the instructional technology have no additional cost associated with them beyond what is readily available to all faculty at my public university (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and I utilized no specialized services to create them.

SOC333 Delinquency and Youth has been a popular podium course in the sociology department for at least the previous ten years. In addition to sociology majors, it regularly attracts students in other majors interested in careers that provide human services to youth and juvenile delinquents including criminology (CRIM), psychology (PSYC), and child development and family relation (CDFR). Because the course attracts a range of students it offers instructors the challenge of providing useful, relevant, and interesting content to many who may or may not have been introduced to different elements of the subject matter from a related (but different) field. I taught several podium sections of the course over a 5-year period and, in that time, I created a unique approach to the course instruction that includes engaging lecture material that has been successful at meeting the challenge of aligning the diverse range of students to the course objectives while keeping them interested. Before proposing to develop SOC 333 as an online course, I determined that I would need to find a way to transfer this strategy to an online environment using instructional technology. I decided to do this using as many free or already available technologies as possible. They are described below.

Development of Lecture Video Content Using Adobe Premiere-Pro

I decided that I would develop and submit the proposal for conversion SOC 333 to an online offering prior to teaching a podium section of the course in spring 2016, which I would also record on digital video. Once I made this decision, I knew that I would need to revisit, update, and revise the lecture material I have developed for the course to prepare them for video. In revising the presentations, thought about how online instruction is not bound by the traditional classroom clock. I settled on revising my lecture slides by delineating weekly lectures into 3-5 segments that would be suitable for videos lasting 10-35 minutes in length.

To record the lectures, I went to Stapleton Library and consulted with the media circulation librarian to have an extended loan for a small digital camera and tripod. At the beginning of each class, I would place the tri-pod and camera in a still-shot position in the back of the room and record the entirety of the classroom activity. I would then download video file onto an external hard-drive and label the file to be edited in the future.

At the end of the semester, I used a free copy of the video editing software, Adobe Premiere-Pro, which was made available to me through IUP to edit the course lectures into clean and easy-to-watch video segments. I learned to use the program software at no cost though tutorials found on YouTube. During editing I removed student questions, classroom discussions, digressions, and moments of dead-air time from the videos. I also regularly spliced frames of the lecture slides into the videos. I created a free YouTube account upload the lecture videos, which I have made available for anyone to view. In addition to the students in my course using these videos they have, so far, been viewed over 8000 times by people in 110 countries. To summarize, I created over 15 hours of quality edited video of my own lectures, designed specifically for video, to be used for SOC333, using a video camera and tripod loaned from the library, and editing software available on any campus computer for which I taught myself to use. The total additional costs to accomplish this was $0.00.

Example of Lecture Video

Development of Recitation Videos Using Doceri

Once I developed video lecture content I realized that students may not be interested in watching 10-35 minute videos a second or third time when reviewing for exams. I also realized that review of the lecture slides may not provide enough of a foothold for some students with little background in sociological terminology or theory. In addition to this, other students may be familiar with some of the material covered in the course because of the background they received in their major or from another course. This led me to the idea of creating “recitation videos” of the lecture content, which would be shorter, condensed, with few illustrative examples and at a faster pace.

To design the video recitation, I decided that it would be the best pedagogical approach to have the lecture slides on-screen for viewing with me giving a voice-over. I also thought that it would be good for me to be able to underline, circle, and draw on the lecture slides while providing commentary. To increase the pacing of the recitation video I would attempt to reduce the length of the commentary to 1/3 the original lecture segment so that a lecture segment lasting 30 minutes would become a 10-minute recitation video.

To record the recitation videos, I used Doceri, which is a classroom presentation product available to any faculty member at IUP. Doceri allows instructors to use an iPad to create and voice-record presentations on a virtual whiteboard. Through mastering the use of the program, I was able to upload images of each slide to the virtual whiteboard, record my voice while simultaneously underlining, circling, highlighting, and illustrating the significant points of the slide, pause recordings, and transition between slides. Doceri also provides the function of uploading the recorded presentations to YouTube, which makes it highly compatible for sharing on D2L.

To summarize, I created over 5 hours of quality edited recitation video using the Doceri virtual whiteboard, which was uploaded to YouTube, and to be used for SOC333. The total additional costs to accomplish this was $0.00.

Example of Recitation Video

Development of Module and Instructional Content Introduction Videos Using OBS Studio

After I developed the course modules for SOC 333, I realized that each module would need a detailed introduction to the objectives of the module (what the module is about), instructional materials (what is in the module), and learning activities (what the student is expected to do). I have come to learn that for many students, detailed instructions that are well written can often be confusing and are many times overlooked. I realized that it would be better to provide students with a “walk-through” of each course module rather than to give detailed written instructions. To accomplish this, I decided to utilize a screen video capture program which records video of your computer screen while you use your computer. I first discovered that this type of program existed from watching YouTube tutorials of Adobe Priemiere-Pro.

After searching, I found that the program OBS studio was highly recommended by many users as well as a free downloadable open-sourced software program. What makes OBS studio so great is that, when combined with a web-camera, the program can simultaneously record both the user and their use of the computer. I used OBS studio to record introductions and directions to all the course modules, instructions and tips for the final paper, and an introduction for promoting the course to students. The video introductions were uploaded to YouTube and then embedded into the announcement section of the D2L homepage using HTML embed codes.

To summarize, I created approximately 2 hours of video introductions and instructions to each of the course modules that includes voice, video screen capture, and web-cam video using the open-sourced, free software program OBS studio. The total additional costs to accomplish this was $0.00.

Example of Introduction Video

Other Instructional Technology Innovations

In addition to the aforementioned innovations using video in SOC333 I have made a few other interesting innovations.

I used HTML embed code to create a Twitter widget for the D2L homepage. This widget broadcasts the updates I make from my twitter homepage ( on the D2L course site in the same way the IUP twitter widget located on the MyIUP homepage does. I provide multiple daily updates on twitter regarding news, events, and significant tweets relating to the fields of sociology, psychology, criminology, human development relating specifically juvenile delinquency. This provides students a sense of faculty presence on the D2L page. My utilization of twitter has been highly successful as I currently have 1830 followers of which approximately 1000 are IUP students.

I also used HTML embed code to create a widget for my blog ( This webpage provides a great deal of professional biographical information for students to learn more about their instructor – including blog posts relating to sociology, curriculum vitae, news articles featuring Dr. Vaccaro, course evaluation summaries, and contact information.

Screenshot of D2L Course Site with Blog and Twitter Widgets 

Quality Matters Instructional Technology Standards

The utilization of these instructional technologies meet or exceed the six Quality Matters standards for use of instructional technology in the online classroom. The tools used in the course support the learning objectives and competencies (6.1) by providing students with high-quality lecture and recitation video to help them understand the course. Course tools promote learner engagement and active learning (6.2) by providing students with video and audio that is compatible with tablet, PC, or smartphone technologies. Technologies required in the course are readily obtainable (6.3), free to use, and do not require subscription to any service. The course technologies are current (6.4). There are no need to provide links to privacy policies because they do not require a subscription or registration (6.5).

Most importantly, I created these instructional technologies at no additional cost to the university and required no additional specialized support beyond that of the course instructor. It is for these reasons that I believe I am innovating online instruction at my university and perhaps providing a road-map for similar innovations elsewhere.


New Book Project – Shoulder Tapping at the Amoco Station: What Millennial Boys in the Suburbs Tell Us about Juvenile Delinquency

Today I am happy to announce that I am embarking on my second book project. I was incredibly humbled from the task and experience of co-authoring “Unleashing Manhood in the Cage.” And I have enjoyed all of the positive impact that has come from its publication, but it is time now to start something new.

One of the best pieces of advice in writing is to “write what you know.” From both a personal and professional standpoint, I know juvenile delinquency.

As a sociologist and teacher, I have spent my career studying the psychological and social lives of young men and I am continually returning to my own life experiences as an adolescent in the 1990’s to describe and understand them. Therefore I have decided to write a semi-autoethnographic book on my experiences and their relation to our understanding the social science of crime and delinquency for young men in the early millennial generation.

I think the book will do well because when I relay my experience of adolescence in the suburbs outside of Pittsburgh in the 1990’s to outsiders their most common reaction to my  tapestry of stories of street fights, petty crimes, school truancy and insubordination, parties, and substance abuse is that of shock and disbelief. It is even more remarkable – from a social science perspective – because I keep in regular touch with many, if not most, of the people whom I’ve shared these experiences and can explain and provide details of the remarkably varied trajectories their lives have taken.

I will give myself two years to develop the book, which I am tentatively calling “Shoulder Tapping at the Amoco Station: What Millennial Boys in the Suburbs Tell Us about Juvenile Delinquency.”

I will be blogging parts of the first drafts of all the chapters and will be asking for feedback on them from my friends and followers here and on facebook and twitter. I will be reaching out to many of the people who are part of these stories to get their interpretations of what occurred and will try to include as much as I possibly can.

I will also be asking others to share pictures from this period, historical records, news clippings, and other material of importance. The point will be to get the story as accurate as possible – and items that take me beyond memory will be of precious importance.

The tentative chapters of the book are going to be:

  1. Introduction
  2. Tough love and becoming delinquent in 1990’s suburbia (historical analysis)
  3. Scripts of ritalin (psychiatric theory)
  4. You made a choice to skip class (rational choice)
  5. Foot patrol (control theory)
  6. The class clown (anomie theory)
  7. Losers (labeling theory)
  8. The off-season (differential association)
  9. They don’t understand us (conflict theory)
  10. I’d rather have you do that here (family and delinquency)
  11. Wood shop crew (schools and delinquency)
  12. The point (peers and delinquency)
  13. Tom Green, Half Baked, and Jackass (media and delinquency)
  14. Running from the cops (police and juveniles)
  15. Busted (courts and juveniles)
  16. Anklets (corrections and juveniles)
  17. Turning points (life course trajectories)
  18. Postscript