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Embracing Several Generations in Distance Learning

By Swisher, Steven; Whitfield, Chester | Corrections Today, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Embracing Several Generations in Distance Learning

Swisher, Steven, Whitfield, Chester, Corrections Today

In recent years, the advancements in satellite and Internet capabilities have proved to be an effective and cost efficient means of delivering information to the field of corrections. The rapid pace of these capabilities has provided unique challenges for the National Institute of Corrections to bring useful information to the field and to explore alternative means of training corrections professionals.

Generation 1: Satellite/Internet Broadcasts

From the onset, the objectives of NIC's long-term distance learning initiative were to deliver meaningful information to corrections professionals and to do so by reaching a broad audience. To date, NIC continues to deliver up-to-date information through its satellite/Internet broadcasts. Local classroom programs that use satellite and Internet technology make it convenient and less costly for thousands of professionals to participate at hundreds of sites across the country. These broadcasts, most recently on the Prison Rape Elimination Act, are interactive and allow practitioners to learn from experts in the field. Equally important is having information available after the broadcast. Previously aired broadcasts are available through the NIC Web site ( or by contacting the NIC Information Center 1-800-877-1461.

The Second Generation: Web-Based Training

As part of its ongoing distance learning initiative, NIC began to explore new strategies for delivering comprehensive training to the field that would also streamline its management processes. In a concerted effort to reach more correctional practitioners, NIC established the following long-term objectives before adding Web-based training:

* Provide increased flexibility and individualized training delivery;

* Meet the growing (and changing) needs of the correctional community;

* Reach a previously difficult-to-reach constituent base; and

* Create automated registration and training management functions for NIC's training delivery strategies.

Web-based training has become a critical training delivery strategy for NIC and has been well received by correctional practitioners overall. NIC's e-learning courses expand the opportunity for corrections professionals working in jails, prisons and community corrections agencies to access training either through the Internet ( or by requesting NIC's custom courses on CD-ROM.

Six courses tailored specifically for correctional audiences are currently available. These courses are self-paced, use principles inherent to adult learning and include audio, video and animation components. As with instructor-led training, the objectives of Web-based training are for corrections professionals to acquire new information and improve their skills. NIC's available custom courseware includes:

* "Jail Staffing Analysis" -- This course is designed to teach jail administrators how to determine their staffing needs systematically and in a way that is easily understood. The course also includes staffing analysis plans that are self-calculable, savable, job-aid documents.

* "How to Develop Effective Performance Objectives" -- This course takes a trainer on a journey through the challenging process of developing performance objectives that extend learning from the classroom to the workplace.

* "E-learning: A Foundation for Correctional Trainers" -- This course introduces participants to training via the Internet using Web-based training or e-learning. The course reviews the basic principles of e-learning and describes its strengths and weaknesses.

* "Career Development Theory and its Application" -- This course discusses the four major career development theories and how they apply to counseling offenders.

* "Program Planning and Evaluation" -- This course builds on the concept that deliberate planning is essential for reducing recidivism and meeting program goals and focuses on translating the principles of evidence-based practice into an effective program design.

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Embracing Several Generations in Distance Learning


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