"The idea is to provide an advanced degree in a way that's more accessible," Karen Morris, a spokeswoman for the campus, said of the proposed online graduate program in criminology, law and society. "A lot of people . . . don't have the time or money to go back to grad school for a master's degree for two or three years. This is a way for them to get the same quality course work, but do it via the Internet."
The proposed program, which administrators hope to begin offering next summer, was approved by UCI's Academic Senate in May. It must be approved by the systemwide Academic Senate and the university's statewide provost, C. Judson King, but UC officials are not aware of any opposition to the proposal.
The program would enroll about 45 graduate students, most likely working professionals in the fields of corrections, probation, law enforcement, criminal prosecution or defense and civil law. They would spend two years earning master's degrees in criminology, law and society by taking courses such as crime and social deviance, hate crimes, and ethics in policing.
Unlike traditional students who attend lectures and meet with peers and professors, however, they would do the bulk of their work via home computers and the Internet.
"Everything they do will be online," said Henry Pontell, former chairman of the university's criminology, law and society department and one of the prime architects of the proposed new graduate program. "Everything that a regular on-campus student does will be done by computer."
Among other things, he said, the course work would likely involve streaming online videos of lectures or other material, electronic books, homework assignments given and returned by e-mail and online class discussions or conferences, both live and by electronic postings.
' "The best universities in the county have already started this," Pontell said, "and UC doesn't have one yet. . . . We need to move in this area if we're not going to be left out entirely."