Posted: 11/21/13

TAMIU CJ Students Share
Online Classes Experience

Cordelia Perez

Cordelia Perez

As a new year approaches, some people might take the opportunity for self-reflection and propose a resolution to better themselves and perhaps learn something new or complete a project started long ago. It might be difficult to squeeze something new into a schedule packed with commitments because adults are busy.

Carving out a bit of time to take on a new venture takes some planning and effort, but it’s worth it, say three Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) criminal justice students who have succeeded in continuing their education through online classes.

A working parent likes being able to take classes around her children’s and her work schedule.

“Because of my shift work and busy schedule with my boys, online courses have offered someone like me the perfect opportunity to earn my bachelor’s degree,” said Cordelia Perez, Laredo Police Department sergeant, patrol division.

Another student appreciates the quick pace of online classes which keep her on track to complete her degree.

“Online courses provided me the flexibility and opportunity to go back to school and pursue a higher education at my time and pace,” said Cindy Domínguez-De León, case manager, U.S. District Court.

A third student says online classes give him freedom to travel for work while studying.

“My schedule prohibits traditional attendance, and the flexibility of working while on the road,” said Todd Radford, chief, Lakeway Police Department, Lakeway, TX.

In order to accommodate students’ needs, the TAMIU Criminal Justice Program has undergone tremendous change in the past few years, according to Dr. Claudia E. San Miguel, chair, TAMIU College of Arts and Sciences Department of Public Affairs and Social Research.

“We successfully launched a comprehensive master's degree that is entirely online and offer more online undergraduate courses. While we are among a minority of universities that have embraced this burgeoning movement to incorporate technological advances in the delivery of curricula, online courses are crafted with the intent to provide students with an opportunity to earn their degree without having to worry about balancing school and work schedules,” said Dr. San Miguel.

Courses are also developed to maximize interaction between students and faculty through the use of state-of-the-art technology to allow dynamic classroom discussions to take place online.

Undergraduate students have the option to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice (BSCJ) or a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences with a Criminal Justice Concentration (BAAS-CJ).

Both majors offer students classes on campus and online and the BAAS-CJ lets Texas peace officers use Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Office Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) training hours to satisfy 21 semester credit hours of vocational/technical credits.

“Students enrolled in the graduate program take classes online, including 5-week courses. This makes it possible for graduate students to complete their degree in less than two years,” said San Miguel.

She explained that changes to the Program were created to make it more accessible to students.

Stemwork classes are no longer required to enter the graduate program and the previous GRE requirements have been lifted.

“Cordelia, Cindy, and Todd are three excellent examples of students working in the field of Criminal Justice. Due to their schedules and our online course offerings, now they don’t have to wait to earn their degrees,” San Miguel said.

The Working Mother

Perez has children, a full-time job, and a full load of classes.

A typical week for her is not unlike most working parents’ weeks.

“I go to work at 10 p.m., get out at 6 a.m., wake up my boys and get them ready for school, sleep for about 5 hours, wake up, check for homework and tests online, pick up my boys, cook dinner, go to class on campus, then go back to work,” said Perez.

This schedule does not include her volunteer work and driving her sons around to extra-curricular activities.

“Online classes have created opportunities for someone like me because of my demanding schedule,” she said.

“I graduated form high school over 25 years ago. I enrolled in college right after I graduated from high school and earned my associate’s degree. I never obtained my bachelor’s degree, but in 2011, I finally decided to finish something that I had started and stopped repeatedly so long ago,” Perez related.

Chief Todd Radford

Chief Todd Radford

Perez currently takes classes online—biology—and on campus.

“I have found electives a lot easier to take online and even though subjects such as biology and math are harder for me, I still take them online because of the convenience,” she said.

Perez advised students pace themselves when enrolling in an online class.

“Overall, it’s been a good experience. People who want to enroll in an online class should start off with a class that won’t be too challenging.”

The Police Chief

“Online courses have been exceptional. It’s what I expected and a lot more,” said Radford.

A police chief, husband, father, and a speaker at many events across the country, Radford’s schedule changes from week to week.

As a graduate student, Radford takes all of his classes online.

“My schedule prohibits traditional attendance and the flexibility of working while on the road is why I chose to take online courses,” said Radford.

“The best I can do is try to stay current, get my work done and take care of business,” Radford admitted.

Radford, it turns out, is a bit of an ambassador for TAMIU. He recommended the Program to others and they have signed up.

“Get with an advisor early in the process. Know what you are getting into. Speak with a few current students to get their perspective, and buckle up because this ride is fast, exciting and educational,” Radford offered.

He also said that ANGEL, the e-learning platform, makes online courses easy to manage.

“Self regulation is the hardest part of participating in online courses. The student must carve out time to manage the work flow, but it’s totally worth it!” he said.

The Case Manager

“The most difficult part about taking the online five-week course was getting used to immediacy and demands that a five-week course entails. Yes, the class will be over quicker, but that does not make the class any easier. In fact, because a student has only five weeks to learn the material, there is no time to slack off or procrastinate. Students must be willing and eager to learn or they will not succeed in these courses,” said Domínguez-De León.

She graduated from St. Mary’s University with a B.A. in December 2010 and is now enrolled exclusively in five-week courses at TAMIU.

“I would have loved to have taken live courses like I did with my undergraduate degree, but because of life changes—I am now married and working full-time—live courses were simply not an option due to scheduling conflicts,” she said.

Online courses gave her the flexibility and opportunity to earn a graduate degree at her time and pace.

“The five-week online criminal justice classes have made it possible for me to receive a master’s degree within two years. It gave me the flexibility to pursue higher education on my time,” Domínguez-De León said.

To those interested in taking online classes, she recommends students be prepared for class and do all the assigned readings for class.

“For one of the classes, there was a lot of reading. We finished four novels, read several journal articles, took weekly quizzes, had weekly discussion boards, wrote a 15-page research paper, in addition to other requirements -- all within five weeks,” she said.

“There is no time to procrastinate. Students must be willing and eager to learn to be successful in these courses,” she advised.

“Being able to be in constant communication with my professors was a major concern for me, but the professors were able to make me feel as if I was in a live class with constant discussion boards and quick email responses,” Domínguez-De León said.

All three students have different backgrounds, but they share a goal—to earn a degree from TAMIU.

“TAMIU, and in particular, the Criminal Justice Program has internationally and nationally recognized scholars teaching online courses. Students will learn from renowned faculty the knowledge and critical thinking skills that will help them achieve a competitive edge in their professional careers,” said San Miguel.

Registration for Spring 2014 is currently underway.

The course schedule is available online at schedule.tamiu.edu

For more information, contact Dr. San Miguel at csanmiguel@tamiu.edu or call 956.326.2529.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Additional information is also available @txamiu on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and www.tamiu.edu

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu