May 25, 2019  

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Professor Foils Break-in of Student’s Home during Online Class

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Marge Crowe

University of Southern Mississippi professor Marge Crowe knows how to get the attention of her students. But they aren’t the only ones.

Crowe, a faculty member of the Department of Curriculum Instruction and Special Education, is credited with inspiring a would-be burglar to reconsider breaking into the home of a student in one of her online classes. The incident occurred near the end of the spring 2012 semester.

Dawn Lindley of Ocean Springs, Miss., an undergraduate student in the class, said she was participating in the course’s online chat one evening when she heard a noise in another part of the house. She discovered someone had thrown a brick through her son’s bedroom window and was attempting to enter her home.

Lindley took her cell phone and a gun and hid inside a closet in the computer room, all the while using the phone to text a classmate to tell Crowe to continue with her lecture. Only by chance was Lindley using the speakers on her computer at home to hear Crowe, when normally she uses her laptop computer and earplugs.

“The earplugs weren’t working that night,” Lindley said.

While in the closet, Lindley called the police, who arrived and caught the alleged intruder in the woods behind her house. The officers told her that after giving them an alias, the would-be burglar gave his real name, then said the reason he didn’t enter the house was because he heard a voice after at first thinking no one was home.

The voice was Crowe’s, coming over the computer speakers. “All I could I do was continue speaking, hoping that would scare the intruder off,” she said.

Crowe said the experience was unlike any in her 33 years in education, and was relieved that it resulted in a positive ending. She added that the outcome was also a real tribute to the advancement of technology. “In this situation, you saw several aspects of technology at work, with the online class, the chat room, the cell phone and text messaging.”

Susan Rayborn, an interactive course design specialist with Southern Miss’ Learning Enhancement Center has assisted Crowe over the last few years with her online courses, incorporating Wimba online learning technology. Wimba combines interactive technologies such as voice, video, podcasting, instant messaging, application sharing, polling and whiteboarding.

“In general, technology can present some interesting challenges and Marge has always met those challenges with humor,” Rayborn said. “But I don’t think anything could have prepared her for this particular lesson."

Lindley, who is pursuing dual certification in elementary education and special education, praised Crowe not just for likely saving her life but also as a teacher. “She incorporates what she’s learned from all her years in education in her lessons, and is always willing to go the extra mile to help her students. And she proved it that night.”