Canadian police use elearning to cut classroom time

The Internet has increasingly become a crime fighting venue for many Canadian police officers, but it’s also turning into a valuable tool for upgrading law enforcement skills.

Through the Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN), a not-for-profit organization providing e-learning courses for police services across Canada, police officers can get access to various law enforcement training via the Web.

One of the biggest benefits e-learning has offered is significantly reducing the amount of time police officers spend on training, said John Arnold, president of CPKN.

“We can take a one-day classroom course, and when you put that online that will drop down to about a two-and-a-half-hour course online so there’s a savings right there of people’s time,” said Arnold.

CPKN is the brainchild of a project initiated in 2004 by the Canadian Police Research Centre in partnership with the Justice Knowledge Network at Holland College in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Three years later, some 12,000 law enforcement personnel from various police services across the country have signed up for CPKN’s e-learning courses, according to Arnold, adding that the number is expected to reach close to 20,000 by the end of the year.

“We firmly believe that what we’re doing is providing the police the opportunity to keep their police officers in patrol cars and not have them sit in classrooms doing training,” he said.

The courses are delivered using Flash, Java or HTML for easy interface, according to Sandy Sweet, chief operating officer at CPKN. Students have to be registered and authenticated by the system before they are given access to the course materials.

Once the students are authenticated, their training begins and the system tracks their progress up to completion of training, said Sweet.

“We are very careful about who we register,” said Sweet, stressing that the online courses are intended only for law enforcement purposes.

There are, however, certain courses that are particularly useful as training material for some government employees, an example of which is the Domestic Violence course. The course can be of value to social workers so they can be allowed access to the course, he added.

Arnold admits e-learning is “not the silver bullet” for training the police, but it offers police services an option and enables police colleges to overcome the physical limitations of conducting on-site training.

Classroom training offered by police colleges, he said, is often at full capacity. By taking those same training materials and putting them online, more police officers can benefit from the training.

Many of the online courses offered by CPKN are blended with a hands-on component which would require a trainee to undergo some form of classroom or on-site training, said Arnold. But these types of courses are still shorter than a full classroom training equivalent, he added.

“Domestic violence investigation courses (for instance) used to be a five-day classroom course. We put three of those days online, which is about six hours, and then they come in and they do two hours in the classroom with scenario training,” Arnold said.

Currently, CPKN is either in partnership or working out a partnership agreement with police colleges across the country.

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