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The difference between the Associate’s Degree and the Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice

The Associate’s Degree is a two-year degree and focuses on the general skills required of persons pursuing a career in criminal justice. Skill based practical courses such as basic police photography, traffic accident investigation, firearms management, unarmed self-defense, report writing, or crime scene protection are typical in the Associates Degree. In addition to the law-enforcement centric training, the Associates Degree typically includes basic general education requirements as well including, but not limited to; math, English or communication, sciences, history, general psychology, and other general sociological or behavioral topics.

While the Associates Degree in some cases is viewed as preparatory to the Bachelor’s Degree (which usually requires four years for completion), the focus area of the Bachelor’s Degree extends well beyond the practical found at the Associate’s level. Within the 120-126 credit hours of coursework required for the Bachelor’s degree, the program concentration will be more focused on advanced studies well beyond the basics covered at the Associates degree level.

For example, the baccalaureate degree seeking student can expect to be exposed to practical application of theories, research and analysis of laws and best practices. Central to criminal justice focus, students will develop skills related to teaming, management, supervision and leadership practices in criminal justice. They will also be exposed to other agencies, existing organizations and functional areas of interest with regard to criminal justice as a discipline.

The general intent of the Associate’s Degree in criminal justice is to better prepare students for introduction and access to initial entry-level positions in the criminal justice field. Whereas the Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice is focused toward better equipping students to perform at the mid-level positions in the criminal justice field, regardless where they start in the discipline. The academic rigor expected at the baccalaureate and advanced degree levels are necessary to prepare criminal justice practitioner for the variety of situations they may encounter during their career.

So the question becomes which degree is best?
To best answer that question the individual must first have an established goal for use of their degree. Since a degree is not required in order to become a police officer in most states, the Associates degree may be sufficient for initial entry into law enforcement, if the goal is to be successful at the entry-level positions. For most state, government, nonprofit, and private sector organizations, the Bachelor’s degree is necessary for initial entry, and in order to be competitive for advancement.

Furthermore, although many detectives, analysts, and other specialization ranks do not require a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, most require a baccalaureate degree in some discipline or another. Degrees beyond the bachelor’s degree, including the Master’s and PhD are generally pursued by those interested in teaching, training, instructing, or research in the area of criminal justice.

Finally, where does one start their educational journey?
For most, the best place to start is at the local college or university, by asking questions of the criminal justice instructor, or the criminal justice advisors, regarding how to best plan the academic journey to result in academic success and job placement and/or advancement.

As the late Stephen Covey was quoted, it is important to "begin with the end in mind."

Eugene Matthews is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and teaches a local university in Missouri.

QR Codes in Education: Reach and Engage Students in Learning

Engaging student in active learning is a continual quest for most educators. What follows are links to one under used tool which educators can leverage to increase student engagement and, we hope, student learning. In addition to a brief explanation of QR Codes and QR Generators, I’ve also included several sites where educators have successfully used QR coding in a variety of ways to engage their students in learning. Not every method discussed may be appropriate for your student, but with a little imagination, you can probably tweak enough of the offerings to justify the time you invest in reading this article. To increase that likelihood I’ve added a bonus method at the end.

QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed for the automotive industry in Japan. The information encoded by a QR code may be made up of four standardized types (“modes”) of data (numeric, alphanumeric, byte / binary, Kanji) or, through supported extensions, virtually any type of data. The QR code when scanned with the camera of a mobile device such as an iPad, Android tablet, or smartphone can transfer video, web links, text and email addresses amongst other digital content quickly and easily to users.

What is most impressive about the QR code is that it is free; all that is needed is a free QR Code generator. In addition to the many instructional videos available on that detail exactly how to create QR codes, below are two sites that list some of the top QR code generators. Those with “*” indicate QR generators that have appeared on multiple lists as most preferred or highly rated.
*Kaywa QR Code
*BeeTagg QR Generator
ZXing Project
Online Qr Lab
*Kaywa QR Code
*BeeTagg QR Generator
QR Stuff
The QR Code Generator

Exploring The Educational Potential of QR Codes by Joe Dale (
Popular with advertisers and marketing companies, QR codes give readers an immediate opportunity to visit a website to find out more information about a range of facts, products and services.

For schools that have invested in iPads or tablets as learning tools or allow their students to bring in their own devices (BYOD), QR codes have proven to be a great timesaver for sharing links and distributing information en masse. Projecting large QR codes on a screen so they can be scanned from around the class makes it easy for students to access the same content on their own devices and interact with it individually instead of passively looking at the interactive whiteboard.

5 Real Ways To Use QR Codes In Education by Nick Grantham (

Book Reviews: One of the best ideas I have heard for using QR codes is in the school library. QR codes are created for specific books, linking to reviews, trailers, or additional resources.

QR Code Orienteering: Create an orienteering course where each checkpoint is a QR code. As students check-in (scan the code) the virtual treasure map will unfold, with each code being a clue to find the next.

Multimedia Content: A popular use for QR codes in education is to add multimedia content to hard copy pages. It is kind of like a stepping-stone on our way to fully digitized textbooks and worksheets.

Solutions And Tutorials: A practical and fun application for QR codes is a modern version of answers being written in the back of the book. By placing answers to questions online and linking with QR codes, students can attempt their own solutions before using the code to review the correct answer. Not only is this a novel way for students to look up answers, it once again lets teachers use interactive media to present solutions in a more thorough and engaging manner.

QR Codes On School Equipment: QR codes let us link physical objects in the real world with digital assets online. This is very useful as we can now attach all sorts of additional information to equipment to assist in use.

Ways to Use QR Codes for Education by Christy Crawford
For the complete list visit ( The following ideas are focused more toward HigherEd interactions.

1. Become a museum curator. Bring a President’s Day, Black History Month, or Women’s History Month bulletin board to life with QR codes. Place the code linking to compelling video or audio and/or a short quiz underneath images

3. Is there a special basket, bin, or shelf in your library devoted to an author? Use a QR code on that basket, bin, or shelf to instantly pull up videos of the author discussing their life, their favorite books, or tips on writing

6. Eliminate math phobia. Send home how-to videos for “scary” math problems by adding QR codes to homework sheets. Nervous parents will get at-home assistance and students will appreciate the review.


Bonus: Virtual Introductions. When staff or faculty are in class session and therefor unavailable to introduce themselves to perspective students, a QR code can reclaim a missed opportunity. Similar to a self-guided tour, the staff and faculty can generate a short introductory video with a brief bio and other information of interest linked to a QR code. Perspective students, parents, or campus guides can scan the QR code and use their mobile device to get a brief introduction from staff and faculty.

Methods to Reach and Engage Students in Learning

Okay, so now that we know that most students do not routinely check their email, but do check their texts, how can we leverage that knowledge?

If you are fortunate enough to work at an institution that provides your phone, then texting and using other facets of social media is probably less of an issue for you. As for myself, since I am not yet so fortunate, but recognize the need to use alternative means for contacting my students, I have started exploring options beyond the institution email (which many openly share that they don’t use).

Paramount or at least equally important to me is maintaining my personal privacy. I am either with or accessible to my students in the building all week long (regardless of what office hours state). As a result, I am less interested in sharing what little personal time I can eek out with them as well. It’s important, however, that I balance my need for privacy with my students’ need to have access to me – particularly my online students spread across the country.

Please indulge me as I try to explain or justify my rationale. I first reduced the modes of communication to three: reactive, static, and proactive.

Reactive communication: Relies on the student being inadvertently becoming aware of an event or issue. When there is a blood drive, or student government organization, or other short-term event occurring to which students may have an interest, posters, flyers, and other forms of advertisement are applied.

The results? If it is something that the student is interested in, and they happen to get exposed to one of the advertisement methods, then they may participate…if the event hasn’t already occurred. Reactive communication has a very limited shelf life with regard to gaining and holding attention, although there are some techniques for expanding and capitalizing on each form of advertisement (for specific ideas check out my short article on QR Codes in Education: Reach and Engage Students in Learning). While this is fine for some venues, it is not very useful for targeting students toward learning engagement.

Static communication: This method of communication relies on the student either adopting the habit of routinely checking their institutions web site, learning management system, or email. The results? Once they
arrive, they would be bombarded with a wealth of information, activities, assignments, and other important notifications; “the career will be at this time and location; the senior exit exam will commence at this time – ensure you bring your student identification; the student government association is hosting a free car wash; your course room is now open and the following assignments are due…” All this excellent information and opportunities for engagement hinge on the student either making a regular practice of visiting the static sites, course rooms, or email, or through happenstance or serendipity. Although this volume and value of information offered may exceed that found in reactive communication, the success rests more on luck than effort. While this is also the most common approach by many, it is not as useful for targeting students toward learning engagement.

Proactive Communication:  Herein lies what may be an answer, if not the answer to increased student engagement in learning. Rather than relying on happenstance, serendipity, and luck, or hoping that students become disciplined enough to adopt as routine, an almost manic checking of their email, the institutions website, or the course room for information, educators can incorporate a different approach: placing the information in front of the student. As simple as this may sound, the process is far from simple.

Placing information in front of students is an intentional and strategic effort to identify what communication methods students use to find information, or keep up with current events, then creating a small consumable “chunk” of data that they can access quickly, integrate simply, then move on. Rather than re-invent the wheel I am exploring methods to present bite size (micro) info block, to achieve significant (macro) results – a technique I explain and use in my leadership classes.

Prepare Yourself to Think Differently:
Before examining these methods it’s important for we educators who believe that content is king, to limit our ‘chunk’ of communication. Does this mean reduce it to 140 characters or less? If possible, yes. Instead of sending a list of course assignments and due dates through email, why generate a QR code that links students to the course calendar? They then have the option to add due dates and events into their personal calendar or mobile device with alerts to provide them notice ahead of the scheduled deadline. Perhaps instead of requiring the student to watch a video in the course room, you could send a link directly to, YouTube, TeacherTube, TED interactive, or similar site. These sites have already done the hard work of modifying the video for viewing on various devices. Maybe rather than information and inspirational handouts explaining the how to learn a math or science procedure, we send a link to or similar site where the process is explained in detail, through video clips that the student can re-watch as often as necessary.

Prepare to Reach Students Differently:
One free solution I’m currently exploring for use to proactively reach students is “Textfree” by This Free application provides unlimited text and picture messaging to any mobile number in the US and Canada. Send and receive free texts (real SMS) with your unique phone number assigned for free for this purpose. Students don’t need the application (Textfree) in order to receive or read your messages, and you could text from anywhere in the world as long as you have a data connection. You can send and receive texts from a variety of mobile devices and desktop systems (

The catch? You must send at least one text message every 25 days or your unique phone number is considered abandoned and will be returned to the pool of local phone numbers. Secondly, you will need practice being clear, concise, and consistent in texting. Third, it is important to respond to text messages as quickly as possible so as not to lose the engagement, once it has been established. This last point has been identified as one of the top negative aspects students find in online learning.

Another free solution I have used with increasing confidence and reliability is Google Voice (  Although this solution requires a bit more effort to set up, it too allows for a measure of privacy in that texts and phone messages are sent to your Google voice account instead of your personal phone. Google voice maintains a record of voice mail, and texts sent to your Google Voice number you can retrieve at any time. Your text regarding an assignment or a student’s text questioning their grade will create an authentic sense of interest between your efforts at advancing your student’s learning. Will this replace the face-to-face interactions? Probably not, but as a proactive measure it increases the likelihood of student engagement, which could increase student success.

The catch? While it’s a fairly simple system to acquire and set up Google voice, getting students to text you and getting students to respond to texts may still be an issue. Since this is still in the experimental phase, I won’t have any data regarding how valid these issues are for a while.

The last free solution that I am still examining is Instagram. As with the other two solutions, the onus for the communication is that you can encourage students to read your messages, or in this case watch a brief video, view a picture or other image.
Instagram has been a part of the social media for some time. Richard Byrne and John Spencer have provided lists of ideas as to how this resource might be incorporated into the educational classroom. Again, this is rather new to me so I have yet to explore all the ideas presented. Below is brief explanation along with the websites to get you started in your own examination of Instagram as an educational tool:

Instagram in Education

Sample Uses:
  • Share homework assignments (photos of the whiteboard/SmartBoard, etc.)
  • Share interesting student work
  • Class scavenger hunts
  • Photo essays
  • Caption writing
  • Photo prompts
  • Math/science concept illustration
  • Art
  • Share photos of real-life connections to classroom learning
How do I get started?
  1. Download the app to your iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, or Android smartphone.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Take photos from the app, edit, caption, and post (You can also upload photos from the device to Instagram).
Things to Know:
  • Instagram, like Twitter, uses hashtags to categorize photos by topic.
  • Users of Instagram can mention other users (Possibility for feedback).
  • Users can share photos from Instagram via email, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Be wary of sharing photos with students’ faces and names due to privacy concerns.
Links to more tips and ideas:
An Idea for Instagram in Education” (Richard Byrne from Free Tech for Teachers )
Ten Ideas for Using Instagram in the Classroom” (John T. Spencer from Education Rethink)

How some students responded to the question of online communication stay in touch.

Earlier this week I was invited to speak to a collection of students in the residence hall regarding topics of interest in current events. The catch? It was Wednesday evening at 7:00PM in the primarily freshmen residence hall. This was the first such program completely student sponsored, so when I was asked to support it I simply couldn't say no, and am very glad I agreed.

During the conversation one of the first things I noticed was that there were almost more than 2 dozen students in attendance. The second thing I discovered was that many learned about the event via two primary modes, neither of which I had considered:
Instagram and direct text 
What does that say about how students communicate? I didn't know, so I asked the group, "what is the main way you communicate online?" The answers all took on a version or form of, "when I'm just catching up with my friends, I text or get texts, and when I'm checking to see what's going on I use Instagram." None of these students use Facebook, the university email system, or other more traditional forms of social media to communicate. With the notable exception of when they know an assignment is online in the course room.

EM Matthews
Texting, was not too surprising, but Instagram was not something I had considered. For those reading this who may not have an Instagram account, it is an online mobile platform that allows photos, images, and videos, to be shared by users and add filters to them, to be shared on various other social networking services. Revolutionary? Not really. Illuminating? Absolutely!

So what value will this have for me as an online and in-seat instructor? 

I have already began exploring Instagram to determine whether there are some ways to leverage this news and allow me to continue to host content in the course room, but rather than 'hope' the student checks his or her email, and/or possibly his or her course room - I may be able to (with their permission) zip them a reminder notice of due assignments that can be added to their calendar as an alert. Or integrate videos linked through Instagram to the course room to increase student engagement and interaction.

The jury is still out as to the viability, but the door is wide open for the possibilities. Perhaps with a little imagination, I will be able to corral even the least interested of students to spend a little more time in their online class and interact at a level that causes the student to learn.

Perhaps you have more, different, or better solutions for increasing student engagement in online courses with somewhat traditionally (dull) material...perhaps you'd share some ideas here?
Eugene Matthews

Assistant Professor

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