How To Use Online Training

An online instructional platform can help agencies reduce training costs, maximize training efficiency, and track the successful completion of training.

David Griffith 2017 Headshot

Training is one of the most expensive and time-consuming operations conducted by any law enforcement agency. In-service training is particularly difficult for agencies now facing shortages of sworn personnel. When you don’t have enough officers to cover calls, pulling officers off the street for training is not easy. Plus, it means even more overtime expense for the agency, as somebody has to cover for the officers in training.

Because in-service training is such a huge drain on resources, many agencies have turned to online training to reduce the need for classroom sessions and to make training more efficient. But in order to get the most return out of their investment in an online training platform, agencies need to know how to use them to their best advantage.

POLICE asked retired training sergeant and solutions engineer at online training platform provider Vector Solutions Doug Kazensky for tips on how agencies can gain the most benefit from online training. Here’s his advice.

Have a Plan

When your agency acquires online training capabilities either from a company that supplies you with a platform or from internal programmers, you may want to send out as much training as possible to your officers. Kazensky advices against such a “shotgun” approach.

“You don’t want to burden your officers with 30 hours of new training that they have to do in between taking calls,” he says. “Develop a training plan and know exactly what training your officers need.”

Note: some agencies do let officers check out online training modules from the provider’s or agency’s library on demand. The decision to do so is up to the agency.


Preload Content Online

As previously mentioned, training time is at a premium. You can use online training to preload information that could take an hour or more to discuss in a classroom.

Kazensky uses the example of active shooter training. This is obviously training that has become more critical for almost every agency nationwide. But it’s really complicated to execute, especially if it involves scenario training and a church, school, or other building as a venue. Kazensky says online training is a way to eliminate or reduce classroom time before the scenario starts. He gives this example from his own experience. “The first hour was about going over a PowerPoint on the history of active shooter response and tactics. Then we developed our own online presentation and sent it out ahead of time. So then when they showed up for the actual training day it was straight into safety checks, issuing gear, breaking into teams, and getting out there and actually doing it.”


Identifying and Meeting Training Needs

Not only can agencies use online training to preload information for classroom or practical sessions, they can also use online training to follow-up on needs identified during classroom and practical instruction.

Kazensky offers this example of identifying a training need that could be met by online instruction. “We had a fleeing felon scenario in our training, and we asked our students, ‘Can you shoot them?’ We got five different answers. Today when that happens the training instructor can assign some online training on the topic and then follow it up with training on state and local law and department policy.”


Write Your Own Training

Police training in the United States cannot be one size fits all. Each agency operates under different state and local laws regulations, and policies, in addition to federal law. That means if you are using online training and you want it to apply specifically to the needs of your agency, you will have to produce some of it yourself.

Kazensky says trainers should not be intimidated by the prospect of taking their classes online. “It’s just a matter of recording what you would do in front of the class and assigning it out to the officers as if they were going to be in class with you,” he says. “It’s very simple to create classes in Vector Solutions.”


Keep It Short

Even if you are planning to replace an hour of classroom training with an online presentation, you should keep each online presentation relatively short. Kazensky recommends that you aim for 10 to 15 minutes for each session, even if that means creating four sessions to accommodate an hour of training.

There are several reasons you want to keep your agency-generated online training short. One, nobody wants to open up an online class and see that it takes forever. Two, shorter classes can be completed whenever officers have time during their shifts. Three, shorter classes are well-suited to use during roll call briefings.

Note: Some of the classes offered by Vector Solutions are an hour or more. But they are professionally produced and designed to hold viewer attention.


Policy Sign Off

One of the more popular law enforcement uses for online training systems is to disseminate, train, review, and test officers on new and existing policies. Currently, a lot of agencies accomplish this by sending out PDFs via e-mail or even more old school, putting the information out on hard copy.

“Just being able to capture who actually read it and signed off was a nightmare,” Kazensky says about old school methods of policy training. “When you have a training management program like Vector, you can create training for that policy and track that they actually have viewed it and signed off on it. For example, if someone asks how often your officers have reviewed the department’s pursuit policy, you can say we go over it once per year.

“When you get that public disclosure request asking for the training records of officers, having that all in one place so that you can just print it out, just frees up your time. Also, you’re confident that the information you are releasing is accurate,” Kazensky adds.


Reviews and Evaluations

One of the most important aspects of law enforcement training is proving that the officer has received, understands, and will retain the information. In a classroom setting, trainers will provide review and testing about the material. The same has to be done during online training.

“There need to be little training reviews and assessments throughout the course. And then you need to have a test at the end,” Kazensky says. “You have to prove retention and that they at least have gained some knowledge and some insight and that they retain it.”


It Doesn’t Replace the Classroom

Regardless of how successful your agency is in implementing online training, it can’t entirely replace the classroom. And it certainly can’t replace hands-on or scenario-based training.

Online training is a supplement, according to Kazensky. “The ability to take an online course and pair it with some practical training or classroom training can really help fill in some gaps, and it frees up more time for practical training,” he says. 

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