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E-learning designed for correctional staff provides college credit.

Technology has not only had an impact on individuals' personal lives, but also on their work environments as well. In the corrections field, technology has changed the way business is done, from security to communications to training. With more corrections personnel wanting to expand their careers, and with more training departments offering training in a cost-effective and efficient manner, e-learning is becoming the solution to addressing these issues. Even though a greater number of e-learning programs were designed for K-12 students, most colleges and universities are using the e-learning method for their adult students. It is appealing to college students and adults because it is convenient, affordable and challenging.

That is why the American Correctional Association's Online Corrections Academy (OCA) has decided to provide college credits to its participants. Since its debut more than two years ago. OCA has been a good resource of high-quality, online training and education for hundreds of corrections personnel by offering training that meets pre-service and in-service training requirements; providing asynchronous (individual self-pace) and synchronous (instructors to control and navigate student instruction) e-learning; offering conveniently accessible training (24 hours a day, seven days a week); and providing affordable training to both individuals and agencies.

Currently, individuals use OCA's training not only to obtain pre-service and in-service training, but also to acquire continuing education units from the University of Maryland or continuing medical education units. While some individuals have enrolled in the courses for self-enhancement or to gain additional knowledge in a particular subject, agencies have used OCA as a way to save scarce training dollars, supplement learning programs for pre-service and in-service training, and track staff training records.

Guidelines of Eligibility For College Credits

As a result of partnerships established by ACA with various colleges and universities, individuals who successfully complete OCA courses can earn academic (college) credits. Students who wish to apply for academic credits must complete the online courses as well as the assignments outlined below. Course subjects range from ethics and ethical behavior to correctional supervision and female offenders.

The "Ethics in Corrections" series was specifically designed for correctional officers working in jails and prisons at all levels. The concepts outlined within the courses can be useful for correctional supervisors as well. The correctional supervisor may use the courses as a review or refresher training. To obtain college credits, students must complete the entire Ethics in Corrections series (ETH201, ETH202 and ETH203), purchase the required text and successfully complete the Comprehensive ETH Final Exam. Upon completion of all three courses in the Ethics in Corrections series and passing the series final exam, students are eligible for three lower credits toward an associate's or bachelor's degree.

The "Correctional Supervision" series was designed for newly appointed correctional supervisors who work in jails and prisons on the federal, state and local levels, but they are appropriate across the spectrum. The concepts and principles are applicable to newly appointed juvenile correctional supervisors who work in juvenile detention facilities and juvenile correctional facilities (training schools) at the state and county level, and to both adult and juvenile veteran correctional supervisors who want a basic review of the topic. To obtain college credits, students must complete the entire Correctional Supervision series (CSU202, CSU203, CSU204 and CSU205), purchase the required text and successfully complete the Comprehensive CSU Final Exam. Upon completion of all four courses in the series and passing its final exam, students are eligible for three upper credits toward a bachelor's degree.

The "Supervising Women Offenders" courses are unique because they explore the specific issues and concerns associated with female offenders. Although geared toward correctional officers, the courses can provide invaluable information to supervisors and managers who move from men's to women's facilities or who simply need to refresh their skills in working with female offenders. To obtain college credits, students must complete the entire Supervising Women Offenders series (WOM206, WOM207, WOM208 and WOM209), purchase the required text and successfully complete the Comprehensive WOM Final Exam. Upon completion of all four courses in the series and passing its final exam, students are eligible for two upper credits toward a bachelor's degree.

Other Incentives

OCA is set up to custom-design an agency's training and education courses. An agency may work with OCA staff, from content development and technology needs to implementation. In addition, OCA allows certified corrections professionals to earn contact hours by completing courses. OCA is working closely with Bellevue University to allow students to apply OCA courses as credits toward the university's correctional management degree.

Professional Development staff are continuously looking into delivering the topics that impact corrections every day such as medical and mental health, suicide prevention and legal issues. That is why OCA was created--to serve correctional facilities throughout the nation, from jails and prisons to probation and health care. William Sondervan, Professional Development director, believes that OCA will provide "a proactive approach to delivering high-quality and effective training and education to correctional staff."

Professional Development staff are committed to providing affordable, state-of-the-art e-learning programs that are responsive to the training needs of staff at all levels and in all correctional environments. There can be no better time for corrections personnel to log on to experience e-learning and enhance their knowledge and skills. For more information, visit OCA at www.aca.org/onlinecorrections.

Tonya M. Brooks, MPA, is the Online Corrections Academy administrator for the American Correctional Association's Professional Development Department. She can be reached at tbrooks@aca.org.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Professional Development Update
Author:Brooks, Tonya M.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
Words:905
Previous Article:Changing directions.
Next Article:U.S. prison population up by nearly 50,000.
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