American Government


  2. A. Course Title: American Government
    B. Course Number: GO 213 - 10311
    C. Semester: Spring 2017
    D. Days/Time: Online
    E. Credit Hours: 3
    F. Instructor: Ollinger Riefstahl, Alison
    G. Office: Mansur Hall (MH) 129E
    H. Email Address:
    I. Office Phone: (575) 492-2814
    J. Office Hours: Monday: 8:30:00 AM-9:00:00 AM (MST);10:00:00 AM-11:00:00 AM (MST);12:00:00 PM-1:00:00 PM (MST);
    Tuesday: 9:00:00 AM-9:30:00 AM (MST);11:00:00 AM-12:30:00 PM (MST);
    Wednesday: 8:30:00 AM-9:00:00 AM (MST);10:00:00 AM-11:00:00 AM (MST);12:00:00 PM-1:00:00 PM (MST);
    Thursday: 9:00:00 AM-9:30:00 AM (MST);11:00:00 AM-12:30:00 PM (MST);
    Friday: 10:00:00 AM-11:00:00 AM (MST);
    I am also available by appointment. If these days and times do not work for you, please contact me to set up a time that does.
    K. Time Zone: Mountain Time
    L. Prerequisite(s): None
    M. Corequisite(s): None
    N. Class Location: Virtual

    This course examines the philosophic background of the Constitutional Convention, the legal and constitutional structure of the national government, and the relationships existing between the formal and informal groups seeking to make claim on or through the government. This is a three credit hour course.


    This course is considered a breadth course and fulfills a part of the general education requirement at New Mexico Junior College. It will enable students to understand the “power” behind those who serve in government and how individuals can interact with government to ensure their interests are best served.

    This course is a general education course with transferability to New Mexico schools, but it is always advisable to check with the receiving four-year school.



    McGraw-Hill Text: AM GOV (this is the title)

    Losco & Baker- Am Gov authors

    Bound Text ISBN - 9781259284267

    All other materials will be provided by instructor.


    additional materials will be provided by your instructor through Canvas.

    You can buy your books online at the NMJC Bookstore.


    Students attending New Mexico Junior College will be evaluated according to the following grading scale:

    						90 - 100%	=	A
    						80 -  89%	=	B
    						70 -  79%	=	C
    						60 -  69%	=	D
    					 	 0 -  59%	=	F

    This course is conducted entirely online, which means you do not have to be on campus to complete any portion of it. You will participate in the course using NMJC’s course management system called CANVAS. If you do not have access to a computer off campus, there are many computers available on campus you can use to participate in the course. Most public libraries also have computers with internet access that you can use for free.

    Grading is based on the following components:

    12 Reading/Vocab quizzes = 300 points

    2 Movie/Documentary Analysis Papers (3 pages) @ 50 points each = 100 points

    2 Unit exams @ 50 points each = 100 points

    12 additional assignments related to in-class activities (Discussion Board, Reflection Paper, Virtual Field Trip, Research Wiki etc) @ 25 points each = 300 points

    Total Points Possible: 800

    Grading Scale:
    800 - 720 pts = A
    719 - 640 pts = B
    639 - 560 pts = C
    559 - 480 pts = D
    479 and below = F

    This course has a total of 800 points possible. It should be remembered that I can only evaluate you on what you submit to the class. I do not GIVE grades - you EARN them. You have the responsibility for your grade in your hands; I am the facilitator for your educational experience - but you are the driving force.

    Quiz and Exam Formats:
    Your chapter quizzes are all objective online assessments. You have the ability to utilize your book while taking them. They ARE timed, and you only have ONE attempt to complete and submit the quizzes. You cannot stop once you have started them, so please plan your activities accordingly. Essay exams will have more attempts to access the materials and complete the essay and will be utilized to reinforce major concepts at the midterms and final exam.

    Movie Analysis Papers:
    You are going to watch two movies and write a critical analysis/review of each of them for class. I do not want a synopsis of the movie, I want you to pay attention to things like the style, the message, portrayals of stereotypes, and how these elements might reflect or contradict the things we have been studying in class or how it highlights things we may not have looked at. You will be given a handout with questions and topics to cover in the reviews. This should not be a taxing exercise, but one in which you will critically review an artistic work and see how it relates to the history of government in this country and how we view that period or event in our contemporary culture. What do these films tell us about our history, our government, and our growth as a nation? How do they inspire us?

    Discussion Boards, Reflection Papers, and Virtual Research Assignments:
    In this course we will read several outside articles and documents related to the chapters as assigned. For some, you will be asked to post to a Discussion Board forum or write a reflection paper as part of your weekly work. Discussion Boards will require you to post your own thread which needs to be substantive and academic in tone and vocabulary, and to then reply to five other posts written by your classmates. You also need to follow the rules of common courtesy and reply to those who post to your thread (what I call housekeeping your thread). You should follow the rules of common courtesy and polite conversation, calling others by name and referencing their point before you make your own. These exercises are worth 25 points each and cumulatively make up almost a third of your final grade. These take the place of a research paper so the writings need to be academically challenging, reflective, and introspective. This is your opportunity to show me what you have learned and demonstrate your understanding of the material so this is more than congratulating each other for posting; this is about creating a dynamic learning community which allows your work to grow and shine.

    Reflection Papers are more personal and written in the first person, but that does not mean that they are informal assignments. There is a “Reflection Instructions and Tips” document in Canvas to help explain what I am looking for in a reflection. These are not simple reaction papers – these are pieces of reflective writing that should integrate the topics discussed and covered in class with your personal experiences and opinions.

    Ask The Professor (ATP) Discussion Board- this is a discussion that will run throughout the course. This is where you may ask questions regarding assignments or anything course related and I will answer here to create a resource of information for you to utilize. Many times students have similar questions and having a central place for questions and answers for the course makes more sense than individual emails. Of course if you have personal questions please contact me through email privately.

    The Student Lounge Discussion Board – this is a discussion board that will run throughout the course where students may ask each other questions or use it to connect and work on class materials and assignments. Often your classmates are the greatest resources in a learning community and this is a forum where you can interact outside of the parameters of assignments. Some courses utilize this feature more than others, but I want to create spaces and opportunities for exchanging information, knowledge, and social interaction. I hope you have fun visiting the lounge!

    Turnaround/Feedback – The turnaround time on assignments varies depending on the complexity of the assignment. In most cases your work will be graded within a week to ten days of submitting it. Feedback is provided with written comments through Canvas. If you ever wish to discuss grades with me, or for me to explain a rubric or grading criteria, I do not conduct those discussions over email (for FERPA reasons) and you will need to contact me to set up either a phone or Skype conversation.

    Netiquette - As many of our assignments will be completed over the internet, it is important you understand the proper online “Netiquette” standards of our coursework. You need to put your professional and academic self forward at all times, this doesn't mean we cannot have a good time and a humorous tone.

    For Discussion Boards and other collaborative communication please follow the basic guidelines below:
    •Use descriptive subject lines to make threads easy to follow and scan.
    •Keep posts to the correct format for length and content.
    •Back up your statements when you agree or disagree with others.
    •Use professional language, including proper grammar, in academic-related posts. No slang, emoticons, or chat acronyms allowed.
    •Use attachments or links to websites for long, detailed information.
    •Stay on topic or start a new thread if it is allowed.
    •Be respectful of others’ opinions and remember the golden rule—to treat others as you want to be treated.

    Announcements – The Announcements feature in Canvas will be used to communicate with the class as a group. I will post weekly announcements regarding assignments, feedback, and instructions to accompany the materials in the modules as we move through the course.

    Email – the best way to contact me will be using NMJC email or Canvas Inbox messaging. These are both labeled with time and date stamps which help all of us keep track of conversations. I have virtual office hours on Weds 2:30-4:30 and Saturday 2:30-4:30 where you can email me and have a quick response. On all other email communication please give me at least 24 hours from when you sent your message to respond. If you wish to speak with me directly on the phone you can call my office number during office hours or we can set up a time for a phone or Skype conference at your convenience.

    Questions – If there are questions regarding technical issues, the Canvas Help Desk is available for you to utilize. Please understand that I am not a technical resource, I am utilizing the system in the same ways you are, and although I can help direct your questions to the support team I am often unable to explain or fix technical issues. I hope this topic isn’t one we have to visit much during the term. That being said – technical issues are not necessarily excuses for not getting work done on time. There are opportunities to use the campus computers if your personal computer becomes unavailable or you may have to make alternate arrangements. If you need to make arrangements due to technical problems, please contact me immediately and we can discuss the situation.

    Virtual Office Hours – W 2:30-4:30 and Sa 2:30-4:30. I am available via email and we can then make arrangements to have a phone or Skype conference.

    Retrieving Grades from T-BirdWeb Portal
    Go to the New Mexico Junior College T-BirdWeb Portal login page. Please enter your User Identification Number (ID), which is your Banner ID, and your Personal Identification Number (PIN). When finished, click Login.

    Tips for Success in Online Courses:
    1. Log in to class regularly.
    2. Pay attention.
    3. Take notes.
    4. Keep up with readings and assignments.
    5. Ask questions when you do not understand something.
    6. Utilize your professor’s office hours and e-mail.
    7. Read the text.
    8. Adhere to the deadlines posted in the course outline.


    New Mexico Junior College’s institutional student learning outcomes represent the knowledge and abilities developed by students attending New Mexico Junior College. Upon completion students should achieve the following learning outcomes along with specific curriculum outcomes for respective areas of study:


    New Mexico Junior College's Social/Behavioral Sciences Department endorses the Core Competencies as established by the State of New Mexico. Within our respective fields, as appropriate, students should:

    A. identify, describe, and explain human behaviors and how they are influenced by social structures, institutions, and processes within the contexts of complex and diverse communities.

    B. articulate how beliefs, assumptions, and values are influenced by factors such as politics, geography, economics, culture, biology, history, and social institutions.

    C. describe ongoing reciprocal interactions among self, society, and the environment.

    D. apply the knowledge base of the social and behavioral sciences to identify, describe, explain, and critically evaluate relevant issues, ethical dilemmas, and arguments.

    Selected Specific Competencies will be used to demonstrate mastery of the above.


    After completing this course the student should be able to:

    1.Develop an understanding of the basic political institutions in American politics.

    2.Develop an understanding of the contemporary problems in the political system and potential institutional improvements to help the U.S. closer approximate the ideals of democracy.

    3.Understand the evolution of institutions in the U.S. system through lens of expanding democratic ideals.

    4.Familiarize students with prominent theories in political science and the leverage they provide for understanding American politics.


    Student Requirements
    If you have not already received login information for Canvas/T-BirdWeb Portal/E-mail, you will need to contact the Enrollment Management office at (575) 492-2546.

    Check first-time login page for instructions at

    Canvas Assistance

    You must have access, on a regular basis, to a computer that supports the Canvas minimum specifications and has an active connection to the Internet. See the minimum computer specification requirements at


    Additional Assignment details will be posted in Canvas, along with all Rubrics used for assessment.

    FINAL EXAM: *Final Exam is scheduled for Week Sixteen during the finals period and will be taken online using Respondus Lockdown Browser


    * I reserve the right to edit this syllabus at any time, or to make changes to the class format if adjustments need to be made. If made, these changes will be communicated in writing using the CANVAS system.

    I will not tolerate cheating, plagiarism, disrespect of anyone in this class, and consider these to be grave offenses.

    I am always available for outside help or instruction, and I hope you will find me to be a very tolerant and fair person, albeit one with a dry sense of humor. This is a learning experience for us all, and it is my hope that we can make it an enjoyable one. I look forward to the semester - and hope you do as well.


    Students will be held responsible for the information on these pages.

    Academic Honesty
    Each student is expected to maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity in online academic and professional matters. The College reserves the right to take disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, against any student who is found guilty of academic dishonesty or otherwise fails to meet these standards. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, dishonesty in quizzes, tests, or assignments; claiming credit for work not done or done by others; and nondisclosure or misrepresentation in filling out applications or other College records. Cheating or gaining illegal information for any type of graded work is considered dishonest and will be dealt with accordingly.

    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information
    Any student requiring special accommodations should contact the Special Needs Student Services Coordinator at (575) 492-2576 or by e-mail at

    Attendance Policy and Participation Expectations
    It is expected that you regularly log into class at least three times weekly and check your Canvas mail to ensure you have not missed any changes/updates. Students are expected to complete discussions/quizzes/tests/ assignments before deadlines expire.

    Canvas Help
    If you experience difficulty with Canvas you may reach the Canvas Helpdesk at, or by calling the 24 hour helpdesk phone at (575) 399-2199.

    The professor is responsible for monitoring and evaluating student conduct and student behavior within the Canvas course. By registering for this class, the student is assumed to have entered into an agreement with New Mexico Junior College and the professor to log into the class regularly and to behave in an appropriate manner at all times. Disruptive behavior may result in the student being removed from the class and dropped for the semester. For comprehensive information on the common rules of netiquette and other online issues, please review the NMJC Online Student Handbook.

    Online Learning Environment
    By participating in an online class, you undertake responsibility for your own progress and time management.

    Offering the work of another as one’s own, without proper acknowledgment, is plagiarism; therefore, any student who fails to give credit for quotations or essentially identical expression of material taken from books, encyclopedias, magazines and other reference works, or from the themes, reports, or other writings of a fellow student, is guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism violates the academic honesty policy and is considered cheating.

    Tutoring Assistance
    Free tutoring services are available to all NMJC students through Brainfuse and the Academic Success Center located in Mansur Hall room 123 and 124.

    Withdrawal Policy
    The instructor has the right to drop any student who has failed to log on to Canvas for two weeks or more, but it is not guaranteed that the instructor will drop you. If the student chooses to stop attending a class, he/she should withdraw from the class by accessing your student account in the T-Bird Web Portal at, or submitting the required paperwork to the Registrar’s Office by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Failure to withdraw yourself from a course by this date may result in your receiving an “F” in the course. All students are encouraged to discuss their class status with the professor prior to withdrawing from the class.


    Tentative Course Schedule*

    Week One: Course Introduction and Syllabus/Getting Started/Module Zero
    Week Two: Citizenship in Our Changing Democracy: Chapter 1 - Reading Quiz, Political Ideology and Citizenship Quizzes and Discussion
    Week Three: The Constitution: The Foundation of Citizen’s Rights - Chapter 2 reading quiz, Crash Course video, What Do You Declare? Crash Course Video Introduction and Reflection
    Week Four : Federalism: Citizenship and the Dispersal of Power – CH 3 reading quiz, Articles on Federalism,
    Week Five: MOVIE ANALYSIS PROJECT 1: Hurricane Katrina and the crisis of Federalism
    Week Six: Civil Liberties: Citizen’s Rights versus Security - Chapter 4 reading quiz, Crash course videos and Reflection; First Amendment Freedoms videos and research wiki
    Week Seven: Toward a More Equal Citizenry: Civil Rights - Chapter 5 reading quiz, Virtual Field Trip – Jim Crow Museum
    Week Eight: Movie Analysis Project 2: The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till
    Week Nine: Essay Exam 1
    Week Ten: Public Opinion and Political Participation - Chapter 6 & 7 reading quiz, Citizen Engagement Quiz, Crash Course video Reflection
    Week Eleven: Interest Groups in America – CH 8 reading quiz, The Best Democracy America Can Buy video and Discussion; Activism Challenge
    Week Twelve: Parties, Political Campaigns, and the Media – CH 9 & 10 reading quizzes, Election 2016 Discussion Board, A Letter to the President, Crash Course video
    Week Thirteen: Doing the People’s Business – Congress – CH 11 quiz, How a Bill Becomes a Law, Crash Course video; Charlie Wilson’s War;
    Week Fourteen: Power and Paradox – The Presidency – CH 12 quiz, Presidential Virtual Museum Exhibit
    Week Fifteen: The Courts – CH 14 – Reading quiz, Court Case Analysis
    Week Sixteen: Final Exam

    This schedule may be changed or updated during the course and is not to be a final course schedule.