8 Tips for Taking Online Criminal Justice Classes

8 Tips for Taking Online Criminal Justice Classes
Beth Dumbauld

A StraighterLine conversation with Dr. Alexis J. Miller, Ph.D. in Criminal Justice

Dr. Alexis J. Miller, Ph.D. in Criminal Justice, has seen it all when it comes to helping students find success taking their online criminal justice classes. When it comes to the education of students of criminal justice, she’s been on the front line for years, teaching courses online and on-campus.

Looking to succeed in your online criminal justice degree program?  Here’s the best advice for students who want to find success in their criminal justice degree program, and aren’t sure where to start.

Here are the top 8 tips for success in taking online criminal justice classes:

1 - Make a Daily Commitment

Designate a specific time each day for studying using your favorite time management apps and calendars. Mark it as an ongoing daily repeat. If the best time for you to study is in the morning, designate an hour for studying at the same time, every morning. If the best time for you to study is at night, choose a repeating time slot each night for your academic pursuits. Online, it doesn't matter when you study. The key is daily maintenance and consistency. Good study habits are important.

Dr. Miller also advises every online student to “treat your online class as a job.” If you do so, you’ll find completing your online class is not a big deal. If you don’t, and save study time for “whenever you have free time,” you’ll fall behind.

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2 - Writing Skills Are Essential

Assess your writing ability. Not knowing how to write well while enrolled in an online program can be devastating. Writing is the primary method of communication in an online class. If you need improvement, take a college prep writing class, like Developmental Writing, before enrolling in a for-credit class.

3 - Statistics, Statistics, Statistics:

Almost every criminal justice course will require that you understand statistics. Taking a statistics course early in your college career is important, whether it’s an online statistics class or one available on-campus. If you have a good understanding of statistics, you will be able to effectively work your way through academic studies while in college, and policy reports while on the job.

4 - Slackers Take Note: You Are Not Anonymous while Taking an Online Class.

Even though you are taking a class anywhere, anytime – don’t confuse an online course’s flexibility as indication that you will be able to slide under the radar. In fact, an online education in many ways is more personalized than one in an on-campus classroom. If you underperform on assignments and don’t contribute with real effort to online discussion boards, it will be noted and recorded.

While online college course provider StraighterLine has one-on-one tutoring for each course it offers, it doesn't have required discussion boards. The attention is on the individual alone. On the other hand, once you transfer those credits to a college where you ultimately plan on graduating, you will most likely be required to take part in some sort of discussion board for the online classes you take. In an on-campus classroom setting, you might be able to get away with not participating, but you won’t be able to hide from a lack of participation online. If quality participation is considered as part of your grade, don’t be surprised if your grade suffers when your own (or lack of) comments are taken into account.

Keep in mind, a professor can use online tools to track time spent on tests and time spent in the virtual classroom, as well as the duration and quality of the participation you have on a discussion board. If you plan on paying for your degree (beyond those courses you've taken online at StraighterLine) through a Pell Grant, you are required to have good attendance for all your classes, including online courses. Professors are required to report your attendance records.

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5 - Read the Syllabus

You are solely responsible for the work you do or don’t do when taking an online college course. When taking a criminal justice class online, you have added flexibility. But with that flexibility comes responsibility. Take the time to read the syllabus. Know what the expectations are, when assignments are due, and ultimately, prepare yourself for what you will be tested and graded on.

6 - Don’t Mistake Feelings for Knowledge

In other words: write in the third person, not the first. Writing about how you feel about a topic is not a substitute for critical reflection and doing the academic work.

7 - Use Online Discussion Boards Wisely

“I agree with what she said,” or “Uh-huh,” aren’t the kind of responses that a professor is looking for when a student is asked to respond in an online discussion board, if your online classes include discussion boards. The effort you put into your online criminal justice course will be reflected back in the form of your grade.  

8 - How to Best Interact with Your Professor Online

Once you have transferred your college credits earned through self-directed online college course provider like StraighterLine and have enrolled in your degree program  – you will become part of a group working with a professor to cover advanced level course material. And, from time to time, you will need to communicate with that professor. Whether you are taking an online or on-campus class in criminal justice, the same common sense communication techniques apply:

  • If you ask your professor a question, give your professor the appropriate amount of time to respond. On campus, one post-it note on the door is sufficient. Online, if your professor hasn’t responded to your question in a few hours, review your syllabus for the written policies about when to expect a response by a professor. If the required amount time has not passed, be patient, and wait for a response.
  • Protocol generally determines that professors are required to respond to questions in 24 hours during the week, or possibly more over the weekend. Give your professors the courtesy of that time. Calling or texting the same question after emailing it won’t give you a quicker response – it will only fill up their in-box, getting in the way of other students who need assistance as well.

Just by knowing and applying these eight insider tips, you’ve got a head start on finding success in your online criminal justice classes and degree program.

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