P1 First Person: Reinventing professional training

Editor's Note: This week’s PoliceOne First Person essay is from Dr. Paul Lasiewicki, a PoliceOne Member and a Sergeant with the Flagstaff (Ariz.) Police Department. In PoliceOne "First Person" essays, our Members and Columnists candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which individual officers can share their own personal insights on issues confronting cops today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. If you want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members, simply send us an email with your story.

Dr. Paul Lasiewicki
Police1 Member

When online education was first introduced in the early 2000s, many questioned the quality of e-learning...and rightfully so. As a result, instead of being assigned a fitting role in traditional learning institutions, online learning programs were relegated to a more modest position. Online education was (successfully) marketed to offer college access to non-traditional students – as kind of a “next-gen” distance learning option. Although this role brought educational opportunities to those who otherwise would not have been suitable candidates for a more traditional approach (working adults, those locked into rural settings, or those with predominant social obligations like single-mothers), the tendency to market non-traditional students only helped to reinforce concerns held by those who favored more traditional systems of education. Things have changed.

Consider where computer graphic imaging (CGI) technology was ten years ago compared with how it looks today. Ten years ago computer images consisted of simple shapes doing simple things – cartoony and crude. Today CGI has literally transformed the way movies are made. Computer images are so sophisticated and blend so seamlessly with real film images that they are hardly distinguishable from live action. The same comparisons can be made with the advances in the technology of online education.

The rapid development of technology combined with consistent research pointing to the growth of online education as a successful learning model has begun to bulldoze away the old stigmas of online education[3]. Today, nearly all traditional colleges and universities have developed strategies for integrating exclusively-online and blended (online + traditional) campuses[4]. In fact, to quote Harvard Business professor and best-selling author Clayton Christensen: “The train has left the station…” [1]. Even though today it accounts for just 1.5 percent of total courses offered, by the year 2016 approximately one-quarter of all classes will be taken online, and by the year 2019 online learning as a percent of total class hours will account for 50 percent of all courses taken [2]. The change is real, and it’s coming… and not without good reason.

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