New honors course combines research with the paranormal

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A new course is being added to the Honors College at the University of Indianapolis. The course, HON 480: Logic and Reasoning: The Academic Perspective of Paranormal Activity, is interdisciplinary and covers a wide variety of subjects. Ann O’Connor-Ledbetter, a faculty adjunct who will come to UIndy to teach the course, is very excited about it.

“What I think is so interesting about UIndy is that they’re willing to identify the fact that college students have different interests, not like this cookie-cutter, ‘Math 101’ type of course that we used to take,” O’Connor-Ledbetter said. “[This course is] an opportunity to have fun and take academic research and couple it with something that we are all interested in.”

Assistant Professor of Geology Christopher Moore, along with sharing his time between the department of anthropology and department of earth-space sciences, is currently the interim executive director of the Honors College. Moore said that his job is making courses such as HON 480 come to life.

“We want to have a unique experience for our honors students at both the sort of co-curricular realm, but also in their actual curriculum,” Moore said. “It’s my job to make sure that we have a curriculum, we have courses our students can take, and those course are exciting, engaging, and something a little bit different from what is going on in the rest of the university.”

Even though this course is specifically designed for the Honors College, Moore said that there is a chance that other students that are not in Honors can take it as well.

“Whether we allow folks who aren’t honors into the class depends on how many enroll,” Moore said. “So if there are folks who are really interested in taking this class, then they should keep an eye on it and during that drop/add week in the spring semester. If there are some seats that haven’t been filled in there, I would consider letting folks in.”

O’Connor-Ledbetter has come up with a syllabus of what the course will involve. Some things on the syllabus are specifically about the paranormal, but there are also other aspects.

“The first week we are going to be addressing actually how to write, how to pull together academic research and create empirical-style articles, how to use meta-search engines to find information, how to use the library databases and discern what is credible and what is not so credible,” O’Conner-Ledbetter said. “[We are] also teaching students to reach out to those in the professions for it, for example psychologists or religious authorities, whether it’d be a priest, a cardinal, an imam or a rabbi.”

Moore said that this course will address different aspects of the paranormal from different perspectives.

“Some of the explanations might come from quantum physics, some might come from psychology,” Moore said. “It’s very broad in the sense that it covers approaches to the paranormal in a lot of different disciplines and how those disciplines engage in the paranormal.”

According to Moore, beyond any benefit from taking a course that is interdisciplinary, this course also has a number of specific benefits.

“The major benefit to a course like this is that it is a unique, topical experience, whereas a lot of the courses that are in the general education core are survey courses, so you take an ‘introduction to’ class and you learn a little bit about everything,” Moore said. “This takes just the opposite perspective. . . . You’re still developing all these critical thinking skills and writing and communication skills and all of those kinds of things that the general education core is meant to convey, but you get to focus in on a particular topic.”

Overall, O’Connor-Ledbetter is looking forward to being at UIndy and learning alongside the students.

“I’m excited to see what students will be finding,” O’Connor-Ledbetter said. “This will be my first time on the UIndy campus. I’ve taught at other universities here in Indiana and Louisiana, and I am looking forward to being with your students.”

Moore is also looking forward to what this course could offer in the future. Moore hopes that this course will spark opinions not just from honors students.

“If there is adequate interest, then this is the kind of course that could be developed either on a regular recurring basis, or maybe the sections that are honors and sections that are not honors could potentially be offered down the road,” Moore said. “But if there is interest, we are certainly interested in hearing from students and their interests and how they would like to engage both in the general education core and other courses.”

The course is currently being reviewed by the General Education Core Curriculum Committee and is slated to be offered in the spring semester of 2015, in the hope that it will fulfill the social sciences requirement.

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