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Coronavirus Pandemic Presents Opportunities for Online Learning

Coronavirus Pandemic Presents Opportunities for Online Learning

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By Dr. Michael Pittaro
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

Note: This article was originally published on In Public Safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus pandemic commonly known as COVID-19, was first detected in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China. The coronavirus has now spread to more than 150 locations internationally, including the United States.

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Due to the swiftness of virus outbreaks across the world, international researchers are frantically trying to learn more about the virus. More importantly, they are attempting to develop a vaccine that could control and contain the broadening permeation of the virus from spreading further.

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the  COVID-19 outbreak a, “public health emergency of international concern.” Most recently, on March 13, President Trump issued a Proclamation Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak.

With urgent calls from national, state, and local government leaders to shut all non-essential businesses and activities, citizens are self-quarantining and practicing social distancing.

Colleges and universities across the United States have responded by transitioning from traditional in-person classes to entirely online instruction. Many high schools and universities have cancelled their graduation ceremonies.

The national movement to virtual learning is unprecedented. As one can imagine, students and faculty unaccustomed to online learning are expressing concerns, which is to be expected. However, as a full-time university professor with 18 years of experience teaching online, hybrid, and on-campus courses, I can assure the dubious among you that distance learning has many advantages that far outweigh any disadvantages to both students and faculty.

Teaching Online Is Incredibly Appealing to Seasoned Public Safety Professionals

Like my colleagues who also teach in American Military University’s School of Security and Global Studies, teaching online is incredibly appealing to the seasoned public safety professional. It is an outstanding way for us to share our real-world experience and knowledge with a wide and diverse population of students along with an international following. This experience includes:

  • Emergency disaster management
  • Criminal justice
  • Security management
  • Fire science management

In a 2018 post on In Public Safety titled The Scholar-Practitioner Approach to Teaching: A Criminal Justice Professor’s Perspective, I noted that teaching always has been an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career, both personally and professionally.

When I taught my first class back in 2002, I quickly realized how much experience and knowledge I had acquired over the nearly 20 years spent working within criminal justice. There is no denying that students tend to gravitate toward registering for online classes where the instructor has had lengthy “on-the-job” experience and held leadership positions within the field.

Those who “have been there, done that,” and are now sharing those experiences with their students are breaking down the dichotomy that has traditionally existed between instructors and students. Those with “real-world” experience in their respective public safety positions can provide first-hand insight and direction in what it takes to succeed in their respective profession.

For those who have expressed an interest in teaching online, I can honestly say that there are many advantages to serving as an online instructor. For example, the various public safety professions typically require working erratic long shifts, holidays, and weekends. Online teaching, however, provides a nice balance by offering a positive social outlet in reaching students who genuinely appreciate the advice and guidance from someone inside the profession that cannot be articulated in a textbook.

Some of the advantages of distance learning for faculty and students include, but are not limited to the following:

No Commuting to Class: This is especially important for public safety professionals who typically work non-traditional hours. It saves you money and time otherwise spent traveling to and from work.

Accessibility of Classes: You can work from virtually anywhere with a high-speed internet connection, well beyond the comfort of your own home.

Asynchronous Learning: Asynchronous learning is a general term used to describe learning that does not occur at the same place or time, which may encompass a wide variety of instructional interactions, including email exchanges, online discussion boards, and course management systems that are both user-friendly and easy to navigate.

Convenience and Flexibility: You can choose the times that are most convenient to you, which can easily work around your busy work schedule, family obligations, and other personal and professional responsibilities. For example, I just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas. Since I purchased the onboard WiFi, I was able to work directly from our ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, AND while sitting on a lounge chair at the beach. Therefore, you can live or travel anywhere in the world as long as you have a reliable computer and internet connection.

Teach and Learn: Even though those of us who are entrusted to teach share our knowledge and experience with our students, we also learn from them, as well as from other professionals who comment on our blog publications through various social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Availability: Unlike traditional classes in which the instructor is held to certain office hours each week, you can respond to students in the morning, afternoon, and evening, thereby increasing and improving the opportunity for your students to receive a timely response.

My role as an educator is not merely to help students acquire the knowledge they need to obtain a career in their respective field, but also to help create generations of successful, future leaders. Therefore, I have always defined my success by the success of others with whom I have worked in and out of the classroom. Simply stated, there is no greater feeling than knowing that you played a small, yet vital role in someone’s life.

There is also a tremendous sense of personal and professional fulfillment by contributing to the advancement of your respective profession. The satisfaction in knowing that your knowledge and experience have been shared internationally with other like-minded professionals is incredibly satisfying.

About the Author

Dr. Michael Pittaro is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice with American Military University and an Adjunct Professor at East Stroudsburg University. Dr. Pittaro is a criminal justice veteran, highly experienced in working with criminal offenders in a variety of institutional and non-institutional settings. Before pursuing a career in higher education, Dr. Pittaro worked in corrections administration. He also served as the Executive Director of an outpatient drug and alcohol facility and as Executive Director of a drug and alcohol prevention agency. Dr. Pittaro has been teaching at the university level (online and on-campus) for the past 15 years while also serving internationally as an author, editor, presenter, and subject matter expert. Dr. Pittaro holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice; an M.P.A. in Public Administration; and a Ph.D. in criminal justice. To contact the author, email IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.

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