Sociology 102-80, Murray

Hello, students, and welcome to the on-line version of Social Problems (SOC 102 80)! The most important things you’ll need for this course are the ability to motivate and direct yourself – qualities necessary for success in an on-line learning environment -- and curiosity about the world around you, which sparks any interesting sociological exploration.

Once we’ve established that that describes you, let me ask you further: do you enjoy analyzing current and recent mainstream and popular films? Just about any movie (or book, song, poem or magazine article for that matter) provides a glimpse into something sociological. And, because we are studying social problems, some of the most provocative films reflect exactly what we will be examining this semester. Precious looks at how education lifts a horribly abused girl out of urban blight. The Blind Side shows the sharp contrast between the “haves and have-nots”, often living side by side. Gran Torino depicts an aging man’s resentment and alienation in an immigrant neighborhood. Mental illness and how society deals with it is the story of The Soloist. Substance addiction and recovery is the theme of Rachel Getting Married. Closeted homosexuality is central to Brokeback Mountain. Fahrenheit 9/11, Capitalism: A Love Story, Bowling for Columbine and Sicko, four films by the controversial documentary maker Michael Moore, critique the American institutions, respectively of gun ownership, corporate gamesmanship, national security and the health care system. Erin Brockovich takes on the battle between the “little guy” and companies who put profit before people and planet.

So how are you going to watch all these films? You will need a subscription to Netflix, or to purchase these films used and cheap via, or through any on-line viewing venue you may be able to tap into, probably something you know about better than I! You may buy or rent films in pairs or in a group to share or view collectively, or you may review films you’ve already seen via clips of scenes on YouTube. Each film corresponds to a section of our text, Social Problems, a New York Times article on a current event, on-line class-wide discussion on Discussion Board, and a written assignment submitted on Journal. Most class “sessions” will run 1 week, others will be 2 weeks in duration. You can expect to spend about 5 or 6 hours per week on this course including film viewing, text reading and written work. Your portfolio of work on Journal and Discussion Board will comprise your entire grade for the semester: the assignments also function as “tests” and projects. You will have 10 Journal entries and 6 Discussion Board forums at the conclusion of the course, and that is plenty for me to meaningfully access your engagement in the course work.

It is assumed that, by registering for an on-line course, you have completed any instruction needed to familiarize yourself with the way these courses work. Our Syllabus and weekly Announcements will supply you with details as to what I expect of you and the sociological content of the class; for technical information, please contact the Help Desk, follow the on-line tutorial found on the opening page of Blackboard, and see below.

How to Access Blackboard:
To log on to Bb point your web browser to and click the Login button in the upper left. Then enter your username and password in the spaces provided and click login again -- you'll find your course Bb sites listed on the right.

Some things to be aware of as you work with Blackboard:

  1. You probably won't find all your courses listed; the only ones that will appear are those that have been activated by the professor teaching the course. Professors who don't use Blackboard will not activate their courses.
  2. Your username is comprised of your lastname and firstinitial, usually appended with a numeral. If you don't know your WPUNJ system username password you can use the Username lookup link at , or go to it directly at:
  3. If you are already logged in to the WPUNJ system through WPConnect you won't have to re-enter your username and password -- just click the first login button.
  4. Blackboard documentation can be found in two places: at Bb Home,, before one logs in, and in the Blackboard Support tab after one has logged on.
  5. You can always obtain Bb help by using the Problem Report form at , or by going to it directly at: .

WPUNJ Student Email:

 To access WPUNJ Student Email point your web browser to, enter your username and password, then select the Mail tab.  If you are logging on for the first time you'll be asked to set your time zone and language.

Blackboard courses will use student email; third-party email addresses will not work on Bb

Professor Sarah Murray