Why are some online criminal justice programs longer than others?

Throughout my career as a student I often heard this question: why are some online criminal justice programs longer than others? In fact, why are there such differences in online programs anyway? Can’t I just complete my degree program in one year if I would like?

Well, all these questions are valid, and the time factor can be explained in many ways. As you may know, I have my own take on it.

One thing a potential student needs to understand is that online learning is a fairly new phenomenon. Yes, it has been around since the 1990s, and distance education has been around for decades, but the online academic environment is still within its infancy. In my opinion, the educational institutions have a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the time of an online degree program.

  • Can a student handle the workload which is often far more accelerated than in a traditional university or college?
  • Can the student successfully complete the program within an asynchronous learning environment? This means, can the student complete the degree by means of self learning and self motivation?
  • Does the school have enough resources to offer a more accelerated program? This includes: professors, instructors, assistance, tech support, student support, and many other behind the scenes individuals.
  • Can the degree program be squeezed into a shorter timeframe? Can one really learn the content of the program in a shorter time span and be able to successfully recall all the details? Majority of the schools just don’t want to “stuff a cow into a pig.”
  • The school’s reputation is also very important. I know that the educational institutions which are online and off do not want to give off the perception of a fast degree drive through education.

Over time, I have noticed that the same educational institutions, many well known around the world, have started creating programs around the student’s needs. A four-year degree, what seems as an eternity to me, can now be completed in around a year and a half.

Many schools who participate in the online education arena started to ask students, in forms of interviews and surveys, about their personal needs in their educational pursuit. Also, in order to stay competitive and profitable these colleges & universities structure their educational content so it can be completed in an accelerated or delayed pace. Yes, some individuals would like to take their time in completing their degree program.

So, here are some points from a new school of thought about online education in criminal justice, or any other field for that matter:

  • The schools make it known that the accelerated learning program is no walk in the park. The student obliges and says “bring it on” plus one more class at a time.
  • Majority of the students are working professionals or stay at home parents (this will soon change as high school graduates are flocking to the Internet to sift through colleges). The need for an alternative educational venue, away from the traditional concept, is a much-needed boon for some. So is the ability to complete the degree program in a “timely fashion.”
  • Your concept of a “timely fashion” is different from mine or anyone else’s. Schools started getting the hint after many students were bored with the one class at a time scenario. So, they made it two classes at a time, and now, you can find yourself taking up to four classes at a time in select educational institutions. What you can do in three years I can do in one. Why should I suffer? Right?

No matter if you embark on a criminal Justice program online, or any program for that matter, you should understand that the length of the program is something you should consider heavily before applying. This isn’t so you can complete a four-year degree in a one year time span. It is so you don’t fall behind in your studies and personal life.

Taking on too many courses at one time can be very detrimental to your way of living and your academic performance. In my opinion, if you cannot allocate 15 to 20 hours per week on school work, then you should not take any extra courses beyond the number that is recommended. If you can contribute that much time, then you can probably request extra courses by speaking to your academic advisor or dean.

One caveat, and a reason why some online criminal justice programs are longer or shorter than others, is that even if you take extra courses you might have to wait to take the next one anyway, as the courses are often offered on a cyclical basis. When you request information from the school you can ask if there is a possibility to complete the program sooner. You can mention “with prior approval” so you don’t get the usual “our programs are accelerated as it is” line.

Good luck on your educational pursuit. Let me know how it’s going.

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Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

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