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Tips for Teaching a Criminal Justice Online Course

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 Tips for Teaching a Criminal Justice Course   

Strategies for keeping your students on track in an online environment, both in and out of the classroom

Adapted from: Mary Dodge’s popular webinar, “Using Courseware in Criminal Justice Courses”

Mary Dodge is co-author, with Callie Marie Rennison, of: Introduction to Criminal Justice Systems, Diversity, and Change, Fourth Edition

The most exciting and fun part of our work is being in the classroom and making meaningful, long-lasting connections to students. Though many campuses are planning on reopening in person this fall, the reality is that online education is here, and it is here to stay. Here are some tips you can use to help keep your students on track in an online environment, both in and out of the classroom. 

1. Encourage accountability in reading assignments

  • One of the problems that we all have is that students neglect reading assignments. This behavior means that they are missing out on essential information and arriving to class unprepared to engage in discussions about the material. One solution is to consider using a digital platform that will help keep your students accountable for their reading and give you insights into how your students are processing the assigned reading. 

2. Find engagement triggers

  • This approach is all about engagement! Ideally, triggers will connect students to the real world and specific cases. These can include, for example, an ebook, videos, pictures, polls, question prompts – anything that will grab the students’ attention. Triggers are low stakes opportunities for students to engage with the content, provide their opinion, and think about applications. 

  • Scenario-based exercises that explore relevant issues and use students’ critical thinking skills to reason through what might happen and to see different perspectives are also great engagement triggers. Breakout rooms and report-backs in Zoom to encourage discussions can be a terrific way to enhance this approach!

3. Enhance your lectures

  • Use micro lectures (think 3-5 PowerPoint slides) that focus on the main content you want students to learn. 

  • Bring in videos, case studies, and activities, but also look for tools that allow you to provide your students with direct feedback, a way to see and track their course progress, and have transparency about course objectives and due dates. I use Sage Vantage and it is an excellent method to encapsulate all of this!

  • Sage Lecture Spark is also a great tool for enhancing your lectures! It is is a free tool designed to help instructors launch meaningful classroom discussions with their students. Updated on a weekly basis, it is a nice way to tie current events to key concepts in criminal justice.

4. Find a book and platform your students will enjoy and want to use

  • No surprise, I use the book I wrote with my coauthor, Callie Rennison, Introduction to Criminal Justice in Sage Vantage. It is a user-friendly platform and students find it easy to use as well. Here’s what my students had to say about the experience:

    • “I think it gives a nice look into what we are learning in class, allowing the professor to branch out more and be more specific while the textbook takes care of the base information.”

    • “Some strengths of Sage Vantage are that it is easy to use, allows us to see what assignments are due, and shows us how far we are within each chapter."

    • “One aspect of Vantage that I found to be the most helpful were having the knowledge checks because they pushed me to actually pay attention to the reading, instead of zoning out.”

For more free content for your criminal justice course, click on one of the following resources: 

CJ Lecture Spark

Criminal Justice Lecture Spark:

Criminal Justice in Practice

Criminal Justice in Practice:

What would you respond to
a call for burglary?

Teach an Introduction to Criminal Justice course? Check out Dodge's newest title: