Open Online Courses in Criminal Justice

What is Criminal Justice?

Criminal justice is the study of the structures, functions, and policies related to apprehending, persecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating individuals who have violated criminal laws. Criminal justice is a broad subject of legal and police studies that can be broken down into many concentrations including punishment and corrections, criminology, American court systems, juvenile crime, law enforcement, homeland security, among others. Although the study of criminal justice offers a variety of concentrated disciplines, criminal justice at its core involves the general examination of crime, justice, and criminal behavior. Additionally, basic criminal justice programs introduce students to the ethics of police work and the responsibilities of the American court systems.

What Can Online Courses in Criminal Justice Actually Teach Me?

Unlike some other university degrees, criminal justice programs are not accredited by a specific programmatic accrediting agency. However, you can typically expect to receive the same foundational education in criminal justice from most colleges that offer this major. While programmatic accreditation does not exist, it is important to ensure your online criminal justice courses are from an institution recognized by a regional or national accrediting body. Accredited schools often have professors who have earned a Ph.D. in criminal justice and have extensive experience working in law enforcement or other legal fields. Because criminal justice courses are based on theoretical studies and do not require a significant amount of hands-on work, online courses in criminal justice are a viable option for learning more about this field. An online criminal justice course will introduce you to the principles of criminal law and the American justice system and provide you with a thorough understanding of criminal behaviors and punishments.

Online courses in criminal justice are helpful for learning the theories and principles behind police work and the judicial system. Students enrolled in these courses can anticipate being able to answer questions such as:

  • How are juvenile offenders treated differently from adult offenders?
  • What rehabilitation programs are offered to offenders who are going to be released back into the community?
  • How is an offender determined guilty beyond reasonable doubt?
  • What is involved in trying and prosecuting a criminal offender?
  • What police tactics are used to prevent white-collar crime?

Before you enroll in an online criminal justice class, it is important to determine whether the institution has a strong reputation and is recognized for its criminal justice program. You should also check to see if the criminal justice professors at the school have extensive field experience in addition to their academic credentials. Reading student reviews of the class or program you plan to attend can also give you a better idea of the school’s reputation.

Free Online Courses in Criminal Justice From Around the Web

If you are interested in online courses in criminal justice, you may find the following list of open courseware helpful. Although free, these courses usually do not offer the benefit of interaction with a professor. The resources below consist of lecture-based courses, videos, exam outlines, and other materials that can help determine your interest in college criminal justice programs.

Subjects

Criminal Justice (14)

Cybercrime and Wrap UpUniversity of Michigan

Open Courseware

Criminal Law, Cyber Security
Taught by: Bryce Pilz, J.D.

Course Description:

This very timely open criminal justice online course dives into the heart of the current conflict between the government, intellectual property holders and the file sharing community currently going on around the world. Originally published in 2008 but updated in 2011, this course examines topics in free speech as it relates to intellectual property, including current legislation, copyright law and information access, and requires you to examine legal cases in addition to reading the course textbook. The graduate level class is intended for students at any level of law school.

Law and Veterinary MedicineTufts University

Open Courseware

Criminal Law, Civil Law
Taught by: Paul Waldau

Course Description:

This criminal law online course, which requires a PDF viewer to access, covers legal concepts like contract law and malpractice in the veterinary profession. Originally taught as a single lecture on November 6, 2006, this course covers topics like the legal status of nonhuman animals and the difference between criminal and civil law. The information presented is designed for undergraduate students who have little criminal justice background, so you should be able to understand the lecture notes without any prior education.

International Studies: Global Issues & InstitutionsUniversity of California, Irvine

Open Courseware

Terrorism, Political Science
Taught by: Bojan Petrovic

Course Description:

Designed in 2009, this terrorism online course will teach you about the international institutions that shape and define the world, as well as the issues which they attempt to address. You will learn about a wide range of topics from global financial markets to climate change, terrorism and clashes over cultural values. This course is written for undergraduate students wanting a survey of the world, and requires no special technology or software other than an Internet browser.

Approaches by Other JurisdictionUniversity of Michigan

Open Courseware

Information Security, Cyber Security, Criminal Law
Taught by: Don Blumenthal

Course Description:

If you're interested in information security and particularly the legal aspects of it, this course is for you. Privacy and data security are hot topics in the press today, for good reason, as more of our information moves online and security breaches increase. This course examines this trend as well as legal and technical safeguards, including real world examples of best practices. You should be aware that this course has an extensive reading list and not all materials are available online. The criminal justice online course is intended for law students at the graduate level.

IIPS 30101: Introduction to Peace StudiesUniversity of Notre Dame

Open Courseware

Political Science, Government
Taught by: Professor George Lopez, Ph.D.

Course Description:

If you're looking for something more creative or interesting than the typical criminal justice online course, Introduction to Peace Studies may be perfect for you. This open online class was originally recorded in spring 2007, and is a survey course with no prerequisites intended not only for criminal justice students, but anyone interested in the topics of war and peace on a global scale. Its lectures and readings broach such subjects as causes of political violence, the study of war and terrorism, terrorism after 9/11, and methods of peace such as non-violent resistance.

Theories of Public PolicyTufts University

Open Courseware

Public Policy, Law, Government
Taught by: Kathleen Merrigan

Course Description:

The involvement of government in key issues, public policy framing, and public policy outcomes are some of the topics explored through this free online course. This is an undergraduate course, so students need not have previous experience with the content to understand the lectures and readings presented. Originally offered in 2005, the content includes lectures, self-assessments, and readings, and requires no additional programs to access.

Disaster, Vulnerability and ResilienceMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Social, Political, Disaster, Policy & Planning
Taught by: Prof. Jennifer Leaning, Prof. JoAnn Carmin

Course Description:

This graduate level course, originally published in 2005, discusses urban studies and planning policy from the perspective of rish management in natural and technological disasters, and the effects. Course topics include identifying how to ensure safety and promote equity amongst populations and how to stay familiar with the political and social dynamics in communities throughout the evolution and aftermath of a disaster. There are no prerequisites for this graduate level course.

Ethics and the Law on the Electronic FrontierMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Law, Policy, Internet, Technology, PATRIOT Act
Taught by: Prof. Daniel Weitzner, Prof. Harold Abelson, Prof. Michael M.J. Fischer

Course Description:

This online undergraduate course, originally presented in 2005 by professors Daniel Weitzner, Harold Abelson and Michael M.J. Fischer, considers the interaction between law, policy, and technology as they relate to the evolving controversies over control of the Internet. In addition, there will be an in-depth exploration of privacy and the notion of transparency in the regulations and technologies that govern the use of information. Topics will include the legal background for regulation of the Internet; Fourth Amendment law and electronic surveillance; profiling, data mining, and the U.S. PATRIOT Act; technologies for anonymity and transparency; and the policy-aware Web.

Forensic PsychologyVirtual University of Pakistan

Open Courseware

Forensic, Psychology, Crime, Violence, Psychoanalytics
Taught by: Dr. Asir Ajmal

Course Description:

This graduate course from Dr. Asir Ajmal deals with the application of psychology in legal and law-enforcement settings. Since forensic psychology is a new area for Pakistan, special attention is given to how its principles might specifically be applied in that country. The course introduces a wide range of topics, such as the role of psychologists in police recruitment, stress management, criminal profiling, the treatment of sex offenders, and reduction of violent behavior. The major emphasis of the course will be on hands-on treatment approaches for violence, and different personality theories regarding criminal behavior and sexual offenses. PSY101 is a prerequisite.

Law and SocietyMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Law, Legal, Society, Policy
Taught by: Prof. Susan S. Silbey

Course Description:

This criminal justice online course, originally published in 2003, provides an anthropological focused view of law as a social institution and as a feature of local cultures. The explorative nature of the topics include understanding social systems, legal reasoning, and how social change impacts legal forms. You will develop a point of view on how law can become a practical resource, a mechanism for handling a wide range of social issues and conflicst. This undergraduate level course does not require any prerequisites.

Warlords, Terrorists, and Militias: Theorizing on Violent Non-State ActorsMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Terrorism, Violence, Warlords, Governments
Taught by: Prof. Fotini Christia

Course Description:

Published in 2009 by professor Fontina Christia, this graduate level course presents an overview of why warlords, terrorists and militia resort to violence. This case-study based course describes their motivations, tactics, and how to counter them. You will critically review the impact of these insurgents have and the way governments respond to violence. Apart from introducing the basic variables and theoretical and empirical findings in the literature, this course will also grapple with questions of definition, operationalization of variables, and general methodology relevant to conducting research in this area of violent conflict. The course will reference modern day battlefields of insurgents and terrorists.

Network SecurityKorea University

Open Courseware

Network, Intrusion, BOTNET, Denial-Of-Service
Taught by: Professor Huy Kang Kim, Ph D

Course Description:

This graduate Network Security course from Professor Huy Kang Kim introduces recent advanced issues in network security. The textbook will provide a basic understanding of network security, while the selected readings will offer deeper knowledge of current issues such as network intrusion detection, DDoS detection, and BOTNET detection. About half of your time in this online course will require student participation and voluntarily presentations of selected papers.

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)University of Michigan

Video

Criminal Law, Cyber Security
Taught by: Victor Rosenberg

Course Description:

This criminal justice online course is a seminar class designed to allow students to research specific topics within information policy. The course was originally presented in 2010, and you can download course materials from the class including student papers and presentations, handouts and video lectures presented by various experts in the field of information policy. You will explore cyber security, mobile services, with particular attention to Apple's iPhone and the FCC, copyright and the fight against file sharing, and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Though there are no prerequisites, this is a graduate level course for law and criminal justice students.

Immigration Law SymposiumUniversity of California Irvine

Video

Physical, Cognitive, Intelligence, PE
Taught by: Teresa Miller, Peter Schuck, Jennifer Chacón, and others

Course Description:

MIT’s Noah Riskin, Professor Alex Slocum, and Aline Newton originally taught this undergraduate course in 2005. A joint DAPER/ME offering for both PE and academic credit, it uses the MIT gymnastics gym as a laboratory to explore Physical Intelligence as applied to Mechanical Engineering and design. Physical Intelligence is the inherent ability of the sensing, thinking, moving human body to function in accord with its physical environment. Readings, discussions, and experiential learning will introduce you to various dimensions of Physical Intelligence, which you’ll then apply to the design of innovative exercise equipment.