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How to use online education for CO training

With shrinking training budgets and staff shortages, online education provides a cost-effective and time-efficient way for facility leaders to deliver CO training

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As correctional leaders struggle to handle shrinking budgets, they must seek out creative solutions in order to meet the training demands of their staff.

If implemented correctly, online training benefits both correctional staff and organizations alike. Depending on available resources, agencies can build their own in-house training modules or utilize outside vendors that specialize in online training development and delivery.

Benefits of online training for correctional officers 

If implemented correctly, online training benefits both correctional staff and organizations alike. (Photo/PXhere)
If implemented correctly, online training benefits both correctional staff and organizations alike. (Photo/PXhere)

Online training or e-learning delivery systems allow correctional facilities to deliver training in a manner that reduces overtime costs and scheduling issues that often accompany training.

Having e-learning available for correctional officers reduces the need to find coverage for posts that would otherwise be left unattended while staff attend training.

When using online training, supervisors can arrange for the relief of staff while officers complete their online training. Depending on the officer duty assignment, online training may even be completed at their respective post without a need for relief.

In an organization that operates 24-7, online training allows for constant training availability, where access to training is limited only by the access to a computer. This allows staff members to participate in training without disrupting their schedules, which could also include their sleep schedule.

Another benefit of online training is that it allows for an effective method of updating staff on changes in policy, laws, processes, or procedures. Changes or updates can be built into training modules and successful completion of the training – which can include a quiz or test that serves as a record of attendance and measure of material comprehension.

Online training prepares COs for discussions and hands-on learning

Online training can be used to provide introductory course information prior to classroom instruction, allowing instructors to make better use of face-to-face instruction time. Basic information can be covered during online training, along with videos of hands-on skills, which can then later be demonstrated and mastered in the classroom.

This efficient use of online training means providing COs with more time on the range, on the mat, or practicing skills needed to effectively do their job.

How to implement effective online training

Online training can be an effective training tool with proper implementation. In order to best serve officers and the organization, administrators should consider the following:

1. Course selection

High liability courses, such as use of force, restraint application and firearms, which are designed for development of skillsets, should be reserved for classroom training. Online training is best for preparatory training or refresher training, and for topics where there is a need for the dissemination of a high volume of policy or statistical information.

Training administrators should take a thoughtful look at course topics to determine which are best suited for online instruction and which should be taught in the classroom, range or mat room.

2. Avoid the online training rut

Because of the convenience of online training it becomes easy to depend on this method of instruction. A department may continually recycle the same training with little or no change to design or content as the courses are implemented year after year. Even while the content of many topics may not change from year to year, training developers should attempt to repackage courses in an effort to keep them new and interesting to staff.

Course content experts should review training prior to implementation of every training cycle. It is vital that online course content is reviewed each year to ensure that any policy, procedure or legal updates are reflected.

3. Mix it up

Rather than simply designating a topic as an “online course” or a “classroom course,” mix it up. Just because a topic has been designated for e-learning doesn’t mean it must stay that way year after year. For example, an agency may choose to conduct a course via online training one year and then offer it in a classroom setting the next.

4. Appeal to various learning styles

We know that people learn in different ways. Fortunately, many learning management systems and online learning software have tools and features that make e-learning interactive and appealing to a variety of learning styles. Many online learning products have the ability to appeal to those who learn best through videos, lecture, reading or other activities. When used properly, these tools can make online training beneficial, effective and even fun.


The benefits of online training to correctional facilities are obvious. The primary goal should always be to ensure that the training method is beneficial to officers. Careful thought should be taken with regard to online curriculum and design, and to the best use for staff.

With proper implementation, online training can benefit a correctional organization and its staff. Online training disseminates a large amount of valuable information in an efficient way. One thing remains certain, as technology assumes a larger role in nearly every aspect of our lives, online training in some form will eventually become part of every correctional organization.

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