Criminal Justice has a well-worn aphorism, “If it isn’t in writing, it never happened.”

A huge stressor for my students happens when they lose or can’t find an out-of-class assignment or research, or their USB, CD etc., gets corrupted, damaged or left at a friend’s place. These 21st century tales of woe replace “the dog ate my homework.” Instructors have the option to:

  • Award the student a “0” for the assignment—this signals we don’t believe them or we don’t care
  • Allow the student a redo—this signals due dates are suggestions, or instructors are gullible
  • Some variation of these two

Rather than address a 21st century issue with a 19th century response, why not go digital?

The solution I use can be applied to virtually any course, but I use it most in my Criminal Justice Research Class. This course has several writing, review and analysis assignments that students refer to often in preparation for the follow-on Senior Seminar course.

My solution is to teach them how to use Google Docs in Google Drive to save, modify and retrieve their information. I link this practice to the successful Criminal Justice Professionals who have access to their investigative information at all times, on a secure network.

Students experience significantly less anxiety over computer crashes, corrupted USB drives, etc., knowing they always have access to their information, wherever they may be.

It’s no longer a matter of whether I believe their tale of woe or not. If my student didn’t “write it down in their Google Drive—then it never happened.”

I know I’m not alone in recognizing the virtues of digital, especially for writing and research. See what my peers are saying in other Faculty Partner blogs.

Eugene Matthews, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Park University in Parkville, Missouri.