Criminal Justice Online Teacher Profile
A criminal justice professor answers your questions about online learning.
Debra Lindberg, PhD
Hatfield School of Government,
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Portland State University, Portland, OR
Over 8 years teaching
You can think about a criminal justice degree online either from the perspective of an online student or an online teacher. In this interview, Debra Lindberg, Ph.D. shares her insight as an online professor with all potential online students. Learn how to best take advantage of your online studies.
How would you a student pursuing a degree online?
Most students are older than the "traditional" student (30s and 40s). Most are working full- or part-time or are in the military, and many have preschool or school age children in the home.
What type of students excel in online learning?
Students do better if they are somewhat familiar with using the Internet, can type fairly well, and use MS Word to create, edit and attach documents in order to submit assignments.
They should also have familiarity with the tools and etiquette of communicating in the online environment. We require students to use MS Word and Excel when submitting assignments and to adhere to APA writing format.
How do you overcome fear that online school is impersonal?
I write a "Welcome" email at the beginning of each course and encourage students to call or email me with questions or concerns. I add personal remarks of condolence if a student communicates he or she is sick, has been in a car accident, has sick children or been otherwise engaged and cannot submit an assignment on time, then arrange an alternate due date.
I also indicate our recognition that students are "real people" with "real life" problems and responsibilities and that sometimes "real life" requires their attention before class assignments.
This extends to agreeing to work with a student who has been unable to complete a course and needs to take a grade of "Incomplete," for a period of time. I write letters of recommendation for jobs or graduate school and send emails of congratulations at the birth of a child, a wedding, or any other cause to celebrate. I indicate to students I am happy to talk to them evenings and weekends.
How is technology changing the way online class is delivered?
Our online degree program is delivered via Blackboard. We ask students to write their assignments using Microsoft Office programs. Lectures may be PDF documents or streaming video. Some classes are taught with a discussion board or blog component; others occasionally use "live" chat rooms in addition to printed or video lecture or discussion materials.
Some classes exchange materials online and ask students interact with the professor individually, via the telephone. Almost anything which can be done in a traditional classroom can be done in a virtual classroom.
How do you address students' online learning issues?
Students who don't already use their computers for email and for acquiring information via the Internet might have problems. Our program offers telephone and email access to a technical support person, a Help Desk phone number, and tutorials in specific procedures. All our syllabi follow the same format including telephone and email communication options.
In addition, I frequently call students who express concern or frustration, whether it's regarding course material, technical problems or events in their lives which interfere with school work.
I also call students who have been "absent" from class. We provide links to the APA writing format, to the university catalog and to the PSU Library, including its journal collection.
What is the procedure for a criminal justice degree online?
While criminal justice syllabus formats are the same, courses follow differing procedures, depending on the nature of the course: some require students to read text and lecture materials, then take a quiz and/or participate in a discussion; others might require a field exercise in the student's community followed by a written exercise.
In classes where students post to a discussion board, every student is allowed to speak. For some students, it is easier to create a statement or comment, spend time editing it to the desired effect, then post it, than it is to make comments in a traditional class.
Blackboard has flexible testing capabilities. Both multiple choice and essay tests can be created within the system. Blackboard also allows for both synchronous and asynchronous courses, but asynchronous courses are more common.
What can criminal justice students do if they need help?
All professors post office hours in online courses and are available by email. Many students call during office hours and sometimes come to the PSU campus in person. Students who need more help should make their needs known to the professor and arrange for a telephone conversation where a difficult concept may be explained in depth and the student has the opportunity to ask questions.
The professor and the student may be able to work out a solution on the phone or the professor might refer the student to others who can more readily assist (e.g., Compass Knowledge, PSU admissions and registration, PSU Help Desk, etc.).
How can students communicate with teachers and other students?
Students should work on developing a clear writing style and proofread any email or document they submit.
They should apprise the professor (by email or phone) as soon as they learn of a conflict in dates for assignments due and their work schedules or access to the Internet. They should politely ask for special considerations, such as extended due dates. Carefully reading written instructions for assignments will help greatly when correctly preparing them for submission.
Rules for "Netiquette" are posted in our syllabi. Students should read and follow them – it is easy to be misunderstood when the listener/reader cannot see the speaker/writer's facial expressions and hear the tone of the words.
Sarcasm and even humor do not translate well via email. Just as some students are more articulate than others when speaking, some students communicate more effectively online than others.
What should students consider when deciding on a degree online?
Potential students should be ready to take on a rigorous course of study in our program. We expect no less of our online students than we do our on-campus students and provide them with the same high quality criminal justice education.
Online Degree Guide
Online programs offer a great education alternative for criminal justice students.
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