Course Syllabus

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus are subject to change. Instructors will notify students of any changes and students will be responsible for abiding by them. Even if you print this syllabus, please check the online version often.


SRA 211: Threat of Terrorism and Crime (3 credits) - Provides an overview of the nature, scope, and seriousness of threats to security as a result of terrorism and crime.

This is an introductory course with a broad focus on terrorism and crime in relation to security and risk analysis. The course introduces SRA majors and other interested students to the nature, scope and seriousness of the security threats posed by terrorist and criminal activity. Students will examine law enforcement and counter-terrorism policies and measures, including international counter-terrorism cooperation. Students will also consider the methods used to study terrorism and crime and the implications of the strengths and weaknesses of these methods for the reliability and completeness of our knowledge and understanding of terrorist and criminal threats. This course will utilize collaborative and action-learning experiences wherever appropriate.

The course will be divided into four discrete yet interrelated units. In addition, several weeks of the class will be devoted to a group-based counter terrorism simulation project.


SRA Introduction from the Course Author: MP4 Download (126.6 MB)  

UNIT 1: Methods of Study and Analysis: Students will become acquainted with the fundamentals of studying crime and terrorism, and will be introduced to current views of terrorist and criminal psychology as well as to the ways in which analytical tools such as game theory, social network analysis and network mapping can be applied to terrorist and criminal groups and activities.

UNIT 2: Terrorism: Unit 2 will focus on the causes, intentions, nature and scope of security threats posed by terrorism. Students will examine the various types of terrorist groups and the range of terrorist motivations, including the phenomenon of Islamic extremism and the so-called "Global Jihad". The overall current threat of terrorism as well as the principal targets of terrorism will be considered, along with specific terrorist threats, such as terrorists' use of weapons of mass destruction as well as terrorist threats against critical infrastructure (including cyber-infrastructure).

UNIT 3: Counter-terrorism Efforts: The major objective of Unit 3 will be to assess the United States' counter-terrorism policies and international counter-terrorism cooperation. Students will review the architecture of the U.S. counter-terrorism infrastructure and will examine the nature of today's terrorist threat and the relationship between robust counter-terrorism policies and civil liberties (including data privacy). The role of intelligence and covert operations will be considered, as will the importance of international counter-terrorism cooperation.

Group Project Preparation & Presentations: In order to develop an understanding of the methods used by intelligence and investigative agencies to map terrorist/criminal networks, students will participate in a Team Project simulating international efforts to thwart a major terrorist attack (described in more detail below).

UNIT 4: Crime and Law Enforcement: The focus of Unit 4 is on the causes, intentions, nature and scope of security threats posed by criminal activity. Sessions will consider drug cartels, cyber crime and white collar crime as well as theories and policies aimed at crime prevention and mitigation. The discussion of organized crime will include an overview of transnational criminal issues, including trafficking in persons, illegal trade in weapons, commercial piracy and international drug and other smuggling, as well as an in-depth look at the Sicilian Mafia. The unit will conclude with discussion of crime and violence at academic institutions.

The goal of the SRA program is to build future leaders in this critical major. Prospective employers in both government and the private sector increasingly focus on skill sets such as critical thinking ability, teamwork, team-building and effective communication skills. An international perspective is increasingly important as the pace of technological innovation increases amid trends toward greater globalization. This course helps students to become familiar with the subject matter, vocabulary and skills of the field.

Regardless of whether a student wishes to pursue a security and risk-related career path in the public or private sector, an understanding of both topics will be necessary. Whether you are evaluating corporate computer networks for vulnerabilities, analyzing the connections among terrorist groups for an intelligence organization or assessing the impact of the Internet on the terrorist planning process, this course will provide foundational knowledge of the threat posed by terrorists and criminals. Finally, critical thinking is a fundamental skill developed and used throughout the SRA program. By challenging students to understand differing perspectives and biases and introducing analytic tools and skills that require the critical assessment of information’s credibility, integrity, and accuracy as it relates to terrorism and crime, the course contributes to SRA’s programmatic goal.


  • None


  • TBA


  • Forst, B. (2008). Terrorism, Crime, and Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521676427

    • An online version of this text is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book and can be accessed through Library Resources in the course navigation. Some E-Books will only be available online, while others will be available to download in full or in part. You may choose to use the E-Book as an alternative to purchasing a physical copy of the text. For questions or issues, you can contact the University Libraries Reserve Help.
  • Supplemental Reading Assignments: Readings and other materials will be posted on the course's CANVAS website, located in CANVAS folders for each lesson and are designated as READINGS

Assignments & Grading

Some activities are worth more than others in the course. Please be aware of these relative differences so that your work reflects the required effort for each assignment. If you have any questions, please contact your instructor.

Course Grading Breakdown
Grading Category Total Points Percentage of Final Grade
Exercises 80 8%
Discussion Forums 40 4%
Quizzes 400 40%
Group Simulation 450 45%
Peer Evaluation 30 3%
TOTAL 1000 100%

Course Grading Scale

The following are minimum cutoffs for each grade:

  • 93.00% = A
  • 90.00% = A-
  • 87.00% = B+
  • 83.00% = B
  • 80.00% = B-
  • 77.00% = C+
  • 70.00% = C
  • 60.00% = D
  • less than 60.00% = F

Course Policies and Expectations

  • Assignment Policies
    • Spelling and grammar count. Your submissions will be marked down for incorrect spelling, poor grammar, and use of contractions (i.e., using don’t instead of do not). In formal writing you spell out both words unless you are using the word in a direct quote.
    • Assignments are due at 11:59 PM ET on Sundays.
  • Assignment Submission Guidelines:

    • All assignments must be submitted by the corresponding deadlines in order to receive full credit.

    • Only one submission will be allowed per assignment.  Please do not submit drafts of assignments for "pre-grading" or advance feedback.

  • Make-up Exams/Late Assignments

    • No make-up exams, quizzes or other assignments will be given without prior approval by the instructor and valid written documentation supporting the request. The same rule applies to exercises and other assignments.
    • Make-ups for tests and/or assignments for students who do not comply with these rules may, at the discretion of the instructor, be allowed on a reduced-point basis.
    • Assignments turned in late will, at the discretion of the instructor, be graded on a reduced-point basis.
  • Grades for Teams:

    • All team members are expected to contribute equitably to the work of their respective teams.  Accordingly, all team members will normally receive the same grade for each assignment.  If, however, there is evidence that one or more team members contributed either minimally or not at all, the instructor reserves the right to reduce their grades.  Additionally, in cases in which there are disputes about the contributions of individual team members, the instructor reserves the right to assign to individual team members specific, individual "deliverables" for remaining team-based assignments.
  • Logging into Canvas - Students are expected to login regularly to check for course updates, announcements, emails, discussions, etc.

  • Emailing through Canvas - Students are expected to use Canvas for all course email communication.
  • Attending virtual meetings - Students are expected to use specified virtual meeting tool(s) for collaboration, meetings, presentations, etc., as needed.

Academic Integrity

Penn State and the College of Information Sciences and Technology are committed to maintaining Penn State's policy on Academic Integrity in this and all other courses. We take academic integrity matters seriously and expect you to become a partner to the University/College standards of academic excellence.

For more information, please review these policies and procedures:

While utilizing additional sources outside of this class is encouraged for gaining a better understanding of course concepts, seeking explicit answers for graded assignments from outside sources (e.g. Course Hero, Chegg, tutoring services like, etc.) is considered CHEATING and will not be tolerated. Sanctions range from failure of the assignment or course to dismissal from the University. Additionally, sharing course content without permission is a violation of copyright and may result in university sanctions and/or legal ramifications. Contact your instructor with questions related to this topic. 

University Policies

Review current information regarding various Penn State policies (such as copyright, counseling, psychological services, disability and military accommodations, discrimination, harassment, emergencies, trade names, etc.) on the University Policies page.

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage (


Find extensive information and links to many Penn State and IST resources (including the Penn State libraries, video conferencing tools, technology and software, writing and research help, and much more) on the Resources page.

Technical Requirements

Standard World Campus computer technical specifications are assumed for this course. Please test your computer for requirements. In addition, a webcam and a headset with a microphone are REQUIRED for the course. These may be used for virtual meetings, virtual office hours, interactions with classmates and your instructor, and group presentations - which are all conducted with virtual meeting tools. No special software is required.


The following schedule outlines the topics covered in this course, along with the associated time frames, readings, activities, and assignments. All due dates reflect Eastern Time (ET). Specifying the time zone ensures that all students have the same deadlines, regardless of where they live.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due