Vance-Granville Community College’s Criminal Justice Technology program is again offering an innovative approach to help certified law enforcement officers earn a two-year degree in a little more than a year.
Starting in January, officers will be given a chance to complete an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Criminal Justice through a series of hybrid classes. Most classes will meet on the VGCC Main Campus for just one night a week, with other class work being done online, said Andrea Ferguson, the VGCC criminal justice instructor who coordinates the Criminal Justice “Cohort” program.
“Law enforcement officers, who work on a non-traditional schedule, will not have to worry about not having enough time to sit in class. Since most classes are taught as hybrids, this will mean less classroom time and more computer time, allowing the student to decide what time for study works best for him or her,” said Ferguson. She teaches the cohort’s major classes and serves as an academic coach and faculty advisor for their other classes.
Eighteen certified law enforcement officers completed the program the last time it was offered by VGCC. The 2014 graduates included officers from city and county law enforcement agencies in Vance, Granville, Franklin, Warren and Northampton counties. The cohort program also gave a few officers who had started their degrees before the cohort was established a chance to graduate sooner due to the new schedule, and some students were able to complete their Criminal Justice degrees ahead of schedule because they were able to take some of the earlier classes offered through the cohort schedule.
The program, believed to be unique among community colleges in North Carolina, is designed with a specific type of student in mind: one who has already completed the Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program and is employed by a law enforcement agency.
“The hybrid format works well for this group,” Ferguson said. “I have heard many of the students say there was no other way they would be able to obtain their associate degree.”
Most of the first cohort’s classes were condensed into four weeks, with a few lasting five or eight weeks, rather than the traditional 16-week terms.
“The courses are intense but with the material in such chunks, students feel like they can meet the short deadlines and do not have enough time to get overwhelmed,” Ferguson reflected. “The cohort allows the student to take a full load while focusing on just two classes at a time. Students don’t get overwhelmed, trying to coordinate six or more classes at one time.”
She added that the hybrid format, rather than taking classes fully online, helps students to establish a closer relationship with their fellow cohort members and their instructors. “Because some of the students may have been out of school for many years, we need some face-to-face classes and we want to be able to offer the support they need,” Ferguson said.
Graduation from the program has also been rewarding financially for students. “Some officers have gotten promotions after completing the program, and the associate’s degree has definitely led to pay increases for several of them,” she said.
For more information on the VGCC Criminal Justice Cohort program, contact Ferguson at (252) 738-3441 or email@example.com or Criminal Justice Technology program head Steven Hargrove at (252) 738-3467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.