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Zorich thinks the website did a good job looking at different factors that determine what makes a top ranked online degree. SuperScholar.org editors evaluated and ranked schools based on market reputation, academic quality, student satisfaction and cost.
In selecting ASU as No. 1 in the nation, SuperScholar.org editors wrote: “An exceptional reputation for its Criminology and Criminal Justice programs, solid completion rates, and highly competitive tuition costs help make ASU Online our choice for the best online Criminal Justice degree program.”
Other schools ranked in the top 10 for online criminal justice degrees include: The University of Cincinnati, Boston University, Michigan State, Washington State and Florida State.
The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU began offering online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the fall of 2010, one of the first traditional universities to do so. Zorich said they'd already been moving in that direction, offering more classes online, so it wasn’t as big a stretch as it might have been for other degree programs.
“We just didn’t throw classes out there,” said Zorich. “We actually did our homework. And the resources were given to us to build the courses the way they needed to be built. ‘Quality matters’ has been the hallmark of our course building.”
The top ranking wasn’t a surprise to Rachael Zeller-Smith, an online instructor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. She attributed the success to the collaborative efforts of its professors and self-disciplined students who “bring an undying appetite to learn.” Zeller-Smith said the school is always looking for ways to improve online learning.
“The planning that goes into developing a class takes much forethought, insight, and consideration,” Zeller-Smith said. “Choosing pertinent materials, the most effective technological platforms, and course design can take months. The end product is a top rate, quality educational experience.”
The school utilizes graduate students as teaching assistants, and relies on full-time faculty and faculty associates to teach online classes. Zorich said that combination gives students the best of both worlds – that of the academic and the practitioner.
“And so in our classes, I think you’ll see a nice balanced perspective of people that have a very strong academic background and then those people who have done the work in the field for the last 25 to 30 years, risen to the top of their careers, and now are teaching other people about their experiences,” said Zorich.
The marketing and communications director for ASU online, Russ Knocke, often points to the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice as a model for bringing together what he calls "top-in-class" instruction and technology.
“When we’re talking to other departments around the university about the potential for launching new online programs, we will frequently cite the undergraduate or the graduate program in criminal justice,” said Knocke.