Criminology Distance Education Programs: Are They for Me?

When you’re making the decision of where to get your criminology degree, you must first answer a fundamental question: do you want to study in person or from distance?

First, just to clarify, distance learning or distance education in this case means the same thing as online education since we are talking about an entire degree program. (If you want to get technical, the term “online learning” is also used in the context of a blended or face-to-face class with just some supplemental activities online, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Similarly, the term “distance education” could include other methods, as it used to mean books or CD-ROMs sent through the mail, but now it means online just about always.)

Is Distance Learning for Criminology a Good Idea?

With those definitions out of the way, you now should think about whether distance learning is right for you personally.

First, distance learning gives you some clear advantages, but also requires a lot from you in a different way than face-to-face instruction does. First, the benefits of distance learning include the flexibility of scheduling that allows you to live your life while still working towards your degree. If you’re working full-time, raising a family or anything else, going to school the “traditional” way might be impossible. But online programs allow you to complete your coursework whenever you can.

Most online distance education courses are what is referred to as “asynchronous” learning, which means that the class as a whole doesn’t meet at any particular time. Usually new material is posted each week and students have to complete readings, discussions and assignments by a particular deadline.

Sometimes programs offer classes that are “synchronous,” which means that the class does meet (virtually) at an assigned time and communicate through video or audio conference and chat messaging. It’s a good idea to verify the method of delivery of any criminology program you might be interested in as one of your first steps.

What About Distance Learning for Criminology Specifically?

With distance education classes, you will encounter the exact types of classes that you would in person: history of the field, crime theory, crime prevention, social support and human services, etc. Most social sciences, which criminology falls into, are generally thought of to translate better to online than things like English, other humanities and math or hard science. This is because social sciences usually involve lots of reading, lecture, essays, and research projects, all of which work pretty well in the online format.

Compare that to some English or other humanities classes that are practically all about real-time discussions. Or a lab science course where actively doing guided experiments is crucial to the learning process. These types of courses are typically ones where you will be better off taking them in-person instead of from distance, but criminology is a pretty good choice to take online. Do make sure to consider your own personality and whether online will work well for you. Are you able to stay motivated and on task? Can you thrive in a self-paced environment without a whole lot of one-on-one direction? Taking advantage of additional student support services offered by your school and using a friend or family member as an accountability partner to keep you on track  are also good ideas.