Online education makes it possible to take classes without a classroom. (iStockphoto) Online education makes it possible to take classes without a classroom.
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Maybe your agency is too small to hire a crime analyst, or maybe you are the crime analyst in need of professional development. Maybe you want to earn a degree that will be relevant to your work. Maybe you are near retirement and would like to get a degree that will build on your experiences and prepare you for new career options. There are a number of colleges and universities offering degrees in crime analysis online, which makes them more accessible to you. Other universities specialize in intelligence studies online, which is another alternative to consider.
What is it like to learn online? Is online learning legitimate? As an adjunct professor for two online universities, I can attest that online studies are legitimate and they are not the easy way out. If you decide to try an online college or university, be prepared to do a lot of reading and writing. Many courses include student discussions, which are most often asynchronous, which means that you join in at no specific time.
If you don't want a degree but would like some focused training, you can look into certificate programs. Arapahoe Community College offers an online certificate program in Crime Analysis. Anacapa Sciences, a private vendor, offers a free online 1-2 hour class in Introduction to Intelligence Analysis. Trying this mini-class can give you a sense of what it is like to learn online, plus you can earn a certificate for the class.
If you already have a bachelor's degree and want a higher degree, online learning can help you more easily blend your work life with an academic pursuit. Tiffin University offers a totally online master of science in criminal justice with a crime analysis concentration. Michigan State University has a law enforcement intelligence and analysis master's program which is entirely online, as well. The American Military University offers bachelor's and master's degrees in intelligence studies that are entirely online.
On March 28, 2009, I interviewed David Jimenez on this topic for my Analysts' Corner Blog Talk Radio show. Mr. Jimenez is currently the director of training, education, and career development for the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts. He is also an online faculty instructor with the American Military University, where he instructs courses on intelligence, criminal intelligence, and law enforcement intelligence applications. He is an analyst with U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement, and retired from the United States Air Force.
In our interview, Mr. Jimenez highlighted that not being afraid of technology and being self-driven and motivated are very important for anyone considering becoming an online learner. The ability to stay the course to pursue a degree through completion is a challenge. Some students combine online learning with other, more traditional options.
Mr. Jimenez noted other important aspects to consider when exploring online degrees. When choosing a program, study its accreditation to determine legitimacy. Consider the quality of staff, the online environment, the timing, and possible funding reimbursement options for you. You need to have the appropriate technology and Internet access to be a successful online learner. Generally, dial-up Internet access is a liability.
How do you measure the value of an online course? Mr. Jimenez and I agree that good online educational experiences involve quality contact with the instructors. You need feedback from the instructor throughout the course. He or she should be available to answer any questions you might have in a timely manner. The course syllabus should have good objectives. Assignments will involve reading -- what is the quality of the readings selected for your course? Are there any other modes of learning, such as audio or video to augment the course? These might not be available to the instructor, but they can make a course more interesting.
One of the distinct advantages to learning online is that the other students can broaden your horizons due to the fact they are likely to be from other parts of the country, and even the world. Many will have real-world experience in other disciplines and work experience that expands your world view and may give you practical knowledge that you can apply to your work. In many online learning experiences, the instructor learns from the students, who are mainly working adults who contribute relevant material to discussions.
Asynchronous learning offers opportunity through its flexibility. You can go to class at any time of day, so if you are a night owl you can do your course work at midnight. If you work odd shifts, you can adjust your schedule as needed to complete your assignments. No matter what hours you work, learning online requires that you show up and do your work without outside prompting. You have to want to earn a degree. All it takes is you, your mind, your dedication, and some basic technology. Check it out!
- Analysts' Corner Podcast: Online Education in Crime and Intelligence Analysis
- American Military University
- Anacapa Web-based Training
- Arapahoe Community College
- Clackamas Community College
- Michigan State University
- Tiffin University