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Virtual Learning: Distance Education for Law Enforcement

Kim Waggoner & Tom Christenberry

Imagine a police department’s roll-call room at noon, where 30 homicide detectives have gathered for in-service training on crime scene evidence. As the detectives watch, a leading forensic scientist at a university 200 miles away discusses the details of a recently concluded murder investigation.

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A detective in the back of the room with a puzzled expression raises her hand. The detective’s image fills the screen of a monitor at the front of the room as she asks about a blood stain found at the crime scene. A photograph of the stain now appears on the screen as the scientist answers the detective’s question. Thanks to a videoconferencing system, the police detectives and the forensic expert are having a live, two-way training session despite the many miles that separate them.

Also called video teleconferencing, this technology is merely one aspect of an educational concept being implemented all over the world. Known as distance education, or distance learning, it is the delivery of education or training, through a variety of means, to students separated from instructors and possibly from one another. For law enforcement agencies working with limited budgets, distance learning represents a cost-effective way to provide the training that their employees might not receive otherwise. Moreover, the technology that some programs use enables organizations to conduct long-distance meetings and seminars and tap a vast pool of expert resources.

This article explains the concept of distance education and features a number of agencies that have implemented successful distance education initiatives. It also presents guidelines that can help other law enforcement agencies start their own programs.

What is Distance Education? Technology has changed the way people accomplish tasks in every area of their lives, and education is no exception. At one time, correspondence courses provided the primary means for students to learn at a distance. Today, distance education can be as simple as a lecture prerecorded on an audio- or videotape or as complex as two-way, real-time audio- and video interaction using videoconferencing equipment. These techniques represent the limits of a broad spectrum that encompasses the two general categories of distance education: asynchronous and synchronous.

Asynchronous Distance Education Students who view lectures from prerecorded videotapes can do so from the comfort of their homes, with no interaction with the instructor or one another. This type of learning, which is known as asynchronous, does not require simultaneous participation.

Audio- and videotapes represent simple and affordable options for asynchronous education. More technologically advanced means include electronic mail and the Internet-based World Wide Web.

Because asynchronous methods involve no real-time interaction, they provide a flexible, convenient way of learning. Students who need the structure and personal interaction found in the traditional classroom, however, might prefer the interactivity provided by synchronous instruction.

Synchronous Distance Education As its name implies, synchronous distance education requires the simultaneous participation of students and instructors. As such, it occurs in real time and, depending on the technology used, can provide two-way audio and video. Satellite training, for example, involves two-way audio but only one-way video. Specifically, students can see and hear the instructors but must ask questions or make comments using methods that, at the most, transmit their voices only. At the other end of the spectrum, certain types of videoconferencing allow participants both to see and hear one another.

Who is Using Distance Education? Whichever delivery method they choose, law enforcement agencies around the country are using distance education. Administrators can use these examples to design similar programs or take advantage of the distance education courses the following organizations provide to members of the criminal justice community.

The Law Enforcement Training Network Like a cable network for law enforcement officers, the Law Enforcement Training Network (LETN) provides subscribers with a variety of training and educational programs for a monthly fee. Viewers can tune in to both live and prerecorded programs on a variety of law enforcement topics.

LETN’s satellite feed makes live programming possible, and shows come from such sources as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the FBI. Once recorded, these programs are broadcast numerous times during the course of a month. LETN’s regular programs include Roll Call, 10 minutes of daily training; Command Center, 15 minutes of news, new-product information, and videos from law enforcement agencies in action; and LETN News, featuring law enforcement headline news.

LETN’s Training On Demand (TOD) series provides training and testing in a video format. Law enforcement agencies can watch TOD Monday through Thursday, or they can order the videotapes and use them at their own convenience. Many TOD programs evaluate students’ knowledge with pre- and post-tests and can earn students continuing education units with the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville or Pennsylvania State University.

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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    BLUEOFWATER

    about 6 years ago

    222 Comments

    :^ )

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    heatherchernen

    over 6 years ago

    262 Comments

    What is the tuition for graduate courses and how easy is it to get a job after graduation?

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    Chuck_McDonald

    over 6 years ago

    4 Comments

    I am a Security Officer in a Texas school district. Our department is fazing out the security officers and trying to go all police officers. I need to get TECLOSE certified to continue my employment with this district or move up to a better position in another district. In the mean time I still have bills that need to be paid and things that need to be attended to at home. I am not interested in degrees. I have a bachelors degree that will not help me with this endeavor. I simply want to know how to find an inexpensive correspondence course that will insure TECLOSE minimal requirements and will help me learn what will be necessary to successfully pass the TECLOSE exam.

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    Michele36

    almost 7 years ago

    2 Comments

    I earned my A.A. degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with Empire State College, Center for Distance Learning in June, 2004. Currently, I am working on my B.S. degree in Community & Human Services with a concentration in Criminal Justice. I have eight more online classes to complete and will receive my degree in September, 2009. Anyone interested should call Empire State College at 1-800-847-3000, and speak to someone in the Center for Distance Learning. Even though distance learning may be difficult at time, the Professors are always there for you and are willing to work with you no matter what your needs may be. The cost per credit is $181.00. You can also view their website at www.esc.edu. I would highly recommend this college!! You can also attend this college online through their many semesters which are given in January, March, May, September and November.

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    nat953

    almost 7 years ago

    2 Comments

    I am interested in taking criminal justice classes online. I would like to hear from some people who already done so and learn what their experience was. What college? Easy or hard? Amount of work in a week? Overall feelings.

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    1shot1kill

    almost 7 years ago

    78 Comments

    Great if you have the time to do it

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    luvs2levit8

    about 7 years ago

    8 Comments

    ive taken distance learning and its a smart alternative because it cuts costs for agencies and also students who cant travel.

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    KATHY2387

    about 7 years ago

    18 Comments

    I enjoyed this page & the info. My sister was murdered a few years ago,& I am solely grieving more than anyone in this cold case that no one WILL respond to me about. There are so many ignored factors in the case...yet, no one* wants to discuss this. If I have to get into this field of study just to get my answers,it may or may not be a good thing,at my age...but I have always strived to live by the law as my mother and the Bible has taught me to. ANY advice would be helpful here.

  • Photo_user_banned_big

    KATHY2387

    about 7 years ago

    18 Comments

    I enjoyed this page & the info. My sister was murdered a few years ago,& I am solely grieving more than anyone in this cold case that no one WILL respond to me about. There are so many ignored factors in the case...yet, no one* wants to discuss this. If I have to get into this field of study just to get my answers,it may or may not be a good thing,at my age...but I have always strived to live by the law as my mother and the Bible has taught me to. ANY advice would be helpful here.

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    edwardsthegreat

    about 7 years ago

    56 Comments

    What is the best internet school for an associate degree in Criminal Justice at the most affordable price? Anyone know?

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    lawenftrnr

    about 7 years ago

    8 Comments

    I love internet classes. It's the future. Even better you can do a lot of them in your own time, at your own pace!

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    inspectahbush

    over 7 years ago

    14 Comments


    inspectahbush, boss angeles. (2 minutes ago)
    "when i get her age i hope i can keep that real without getting ma ass kicked!"

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    onegoodcop

    over 7 years ago

    384 Comments

    I have taken several courses over the internet and they are great. If you cant get to the class then this is the best.

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    jonnymertz

    over 7 years ago

    38 Comments

    I am attending an online university, American Military University. The professors and staff are very timely with any questions and responses. I think its a great idea and glad that i could be a part of it. If anyone is interested they have a sister school caller American Public University Systems. www.apus.edu

  • Picture_16_max50

    jonnymertz

    over 7 years ago

    38 Comments

    I am attending an online university, American Military University. The professors and staff are very timely with any questions and responses. I think its a great idea and glad that i could be a part of it. If anyone is interested they have a sister school caller American Public University Systems. www.apus.edu

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