EXAMPLE Course Syllabus
This is an example syllabus - please consult the official syllabus for the semester you are attending!


Forensic entomology online course description

The Role of Insects in Crime Scene Investigations

ENT 401, sec. 730 - ENT 890, sec. 730

Angel Based Online Course - 7 Weeks

Spring Semesters


Ryan K. Kimbirauskas, MS, ABFE & Richard W. Merritt, PhD, ABFE Michigan State University

Department of Entomology Department of Entomology

322 Ward Giltner Hall 243 Natural Science Bldg.

East Lansing, MI 48824 East Lansing , MI 48824

*contact instructors by email (details under "Communication")


No prerequisites are required for this course.

Course Text

This course does not require a text. All assigned readings will either be made available through links to Michigan State University's electronic library or uploaded to the ANGEL Learning Management System for direct access. Assigned readings may include: material posted on the internet, trial manuscripts, case reports, or articles from peer reviewed scientific journals.

Course Description

This course describes the various ways insects can and have been used as evidence in court and explains how they can assist in solving crimes. The emphasis is on how insects and related arthropods are used to determine postmortem intervals and estimate time of death in murder investigations. This course was designed for law and legal professionals, teachers and students, and members of the general public who are interested in learning more about forensic entomology. Some material presented in this course is graphic in nature and includes photographs and video of crime scenes and bodies in various stages of decomposition. Actual cases are used to explain major points.

ENT 401/890 - Course Syllabus

Course Goals & Objectives

The goal for this course is for every participant to finish with a greater understanding for how insects are used to solve crimes. Upon completion of this course, each student is expected to understand:







Course Format

Michigan State University owns a campus-wide license for ANGEL, a commercial Learning Management System (LMS), deployed on a university-wide scale. Every student enrolled in this course will have access to the ANGEL system and can access course materials after logging in with their MSU ID and password. Course lessons, assignments, readings, quizzes, discussion boards and grades will all be maintained on ANGEL. An introductory tutorial on how to navigate the ANGEL system will be provided at the beginning of this course.

The lecture material for this course will be delivered primarily through self-guided power point presentations. Each presentation includes audio narration by the instructors and most lectures run between 15-20 minutes (unstopped). Once a lecture has been posted on ANGEL it will remain open throughout the remainder of the course; each lecture and each slide within a presentation can be replayed at the learner's discretion.


All course related communication, including questions for the instructors, will be handled through the 'In Touch' function of the ANGEL system. Because there are multiple sections of this course that will be running concurrent, all emails sent to the instructors must include your course title and number (i.e. ENT 401, ENT 890, ENT 812). Email is the only means of communication for this course so you will be expected to check your ANGEL account for updates and notices

on a frequent basis. The instructors of this course will check for incoming mail a minimum of 3 times a day, however there may be circumstances where emails can not be returned until the following day (i.e. out of state testifying, called to a crime scene, conducting field work).

Example Course Schedule

You will be notified immediately if there are changes to the order of lectures.

Open Orientation:

Course Introductions

Getting Started - Angel Tutorial

Orientation multiple choice quiz (10pts)

Participant Background (5pts)

Forensic Entomology Pre-assessment (5 pts)

Discussion Board: Introduce yourself to the class (5pts)

Unit 1:

Lecture 1: Introduction to Forensic Entomology

Lecture 2: Entomology and the Law: Scope and Status of FE

Lecture 3: Stored Product Entomology Cases Studies

Lecture 4: Urban Entomology Case Studies

Unit 2:

Lecture 5: Insect and Arthropod Basics: Distribution, Diversity & Ecology

Lecture 6: Insect and Arthropod Basics: Life Histories & Development

Lecture 7: Insects of Forensic Importance: The Beetles (Coleoptera)

Lecture 8: Insects of Forensic Importance: The Flies (Diptera)

Unit 3:

Lecture 9: Insect Applications to Medico-legal Entomology

Lecture 10: Human Decomposition and Insect Succession

Lecture 11: Factors that Influence Decomposition and Succession

Lecture 12: Case Studies Involving Insect Succession

Unit 4: February 6th - February 12th

Lecture 13: Measuring Insect Development

Lecture 14: Calculating ADD & Estimating Time of Death

Lecture 15: Factors that Influence Insect Development & PMI Estimates

Lecture 16: Case Studies involving Postmortem Intervals

Unit 5:

Lecture 17: Observations & Reporting at the Crime Scene

Lecture 18: Collecting & Acquiring Temperature Data

Lecture 19: Collecting, Preserving and Rearing Insect Specimens

Lecture 20: Unusual Cases and Unique Death Scenes

Unit 6:

Lecture 21: Interpreting and Writing Entomological Reports

Lecture 22: Court Cases and Testimony of the Insect Expert

Lecture 23: Additional Case Studies

Lecture 24: Preparation for the Virtual Crime Scene

Unit 7:

The final week of the course will be used to assign and work on the Virtual Crime Scene Project (brief description under Learning Assessment). Time permitting, additional lectures may be assigned during week 7.

Learning Assessment

Students will be expected to participate in and complete a variety of online activities that reinforce and demonstrate learning in place of the traditional classroom discussions and paper-and-pencil testing normally conducted in on-campus classes. Grading will be based on each student's 1) participation in discussion forums, 2) learning self-check quizzes, 3) analyses of case studies and assigned readings, and 4) entomological report on the final virtual crime scene. In keeping with appropriate standards of academic rigor, graduate students will be expected to submit the final report at a higher level of work and include multiple references that were not covered during the course.


There will be a total of 75 participation points that can be earned during the 7 week course (50 for the 2 week course). Participation activities may involve completion of Orientation Week assignments, contributions to Chat Rooms and Discussion Forums through ANGEL, and literature reviews of journal articles relating the forensic entomology. Specific assignments and deadlines will be announced by course instructors.

Unit Quizzes:

There will be a total of 10 assigned quizzes during the course and are posted on your course schedule. Quizzes may be multiple-choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, or short-answer and each quiz will be worth 10 pts (100 pts total for the course). These quizzes are self-guided and their purpose is to re-iterate the bigger points of the unit and to help keep pace with the course objectives.

Quizzes will be made available on ANGEL at the beginning of the week for each unit. You may take the quiz any time during that week, but it must be submitted before the beginning of the next unit. The ANGEL system will not accept a quiz score after the deadline and will record your score for that particular quiz as a zero. You are responsible for taking and submitting quizzes on time.

Once a quiz is opened you will have 30 minutes to complete and submit your answers. Once all 10 questions have been answered and submitted you will be able to view your score and any incorrectly answered questions. Each unit quiz may be taken twice prior to the deadline and the ANGEL grade book will automatically record your best score.

Short Answer/Essay Questions

There will be 3 (25 point) short answer/essay questions assigned at approximately the 2nd, 4th, and 6th weeks of the course and will be posted on ANGEL. Due dates for these assignments will be determined by course instructors. The purpose of the short answer/essay questions are to asses your thought process and critical thinking skills. Specific directions will be provided for each question posted.

Final Test: Virtual Forensic Entomologist

The final test for the course was designed to assess your knowledge with regard to making accurate entomological observations at a crime scene, identifying what and where to look for entomological evidence, how to properly collect entomological evidence, how to analyze entomological evidence, and how to prepare and submit a final report that includes a postmortem interval and estimate of death. Each student will be assigned a unique "virtual death scene" and will process that scene and prepare their report using the tools provided during the course. This project will be broken down into two 50 point sections: 50 points for processing the scene and 50 points for the analysis and conclusion within the final report. You will be assigned your crime scene at the beginning of the final week of the course and will have until the end of that week to submit your final report.

Grades and Scoring

The breakdown of points and weights for grading (7 week course):

Total: (350 points) 100%

The breakdown of points and weights for grading (2 week course):

Total: (250 points) 100%

The course Grade Book feature in ANGEL will automatically convert the points earned to percentages and maintain a running overall average according to the weighting scale described above. Students can view their own grade book entry under My Grade in ANGEL at any time.

The grading scale used for calculating final grades is as follows:

Please note:

If you are in need of academic support because of a documented disability (whether it be learning, mobility, psychiatric, health related, or sensory) you may be eligible for academic accommodations through disability services for students. For more information contact Margaret Dibb, Director, DSS at 517-552-6213, or schedule an appointment in person at the Access Center, Stevenson Union, Lower Level. MSU is an affirmative action / equal opportunity university.