Is this the classroom of the future?

Is this the classroom of the future?

From the comfort of their own home or the convenience of their local station, Police staff have been taking part in a training course that would normally mean a week away from their district.

The five-day Youth Services introduction course was run online as a pilot late last month. Usually it is a residential course hosted at the Royal New Zealand Police College (RNZPC).

The 22 staff were connected to each other and the course facilitator from locations in Eastern, Central and Wellington districts by video screens, home computers and online messaging.


The mobile view.

Some took part from stations; some from their own home or a colleague’s home; on one occasion, a participant listened to a discussion through earphones on her Police iPhone at the hairdresser’s.

“The possibilities are really exciting,” says Inspector Steve Darroch, Manager Teaching and Learning at the RNZPC. “This is going to really drive a lot of change over the next couple of years.”

New Zealand is thought to be the first Australasian police jurisdiction to use the technology in this way.

The secure Cisco Webex platform provides high-quality video and audio. External content – such as a relevant Ted Talk or quiz – can be shared. Sessions are recorded so anyone who misses part of the course can catch up.

Local subject matter experts can make presentations and contribute to discussions without having to travel, and participants can work with local mentors during the course.

Facilitator Senior Sergeant Tania Van Ooyen began the week from a room at the Dog Training Centre at Trentham but later led sessions from home, with Jason Tamasese from Cisco in the wings for tech support.

She says participants quickly became comfortable interacting through screens and made full use of the content sharing and messaging capabilities.

“I didn’t see it as a screen,” says Tania. “I saw it as a living, breathing learning environment which was trusting and supportive. It’s simple, intuitive and it really brings you in.”

She says participants have continued using the platform since the course ended. “You can pick up your cellphone and take your classroom with you,” she says.

Feedback from course participants was overwhelmingly positive, with appreciation of the facilitator’s role in keeping everyone engaged remotely.

“I thought it might be difficult concentrating while staring at a small screen but it wasn’t too bad at all,” wrote one. “Tania does a great job of keeping everyone involved… I imagine without a good facilitator it would be easy to drift off on this side of the computer.”


External content hosted.

“So proud of NZ Police for branching out and experimenting with this pilot,” wrote another. “As long as it’s closely monitored and guided, there is so much that can be achieved in this space.”

The pilot arose from the wish of Superintendent Scott Fraser, General Manager Training, to explore the potential of new technology.

Steve acknowledged Teaching and Learning Advisor Caroline Anson, Senior Sergeant Caroline Bailey, Tania and Jason for making it happen.

He says he is considering offering secondments for staff to explore the options and potential for other courses.

One potential use, he says, is to build virtual communities of practice where workgroups can meet online to share experiences, hear from subject matter experts, undergo training or mentor new members.

This could have real benefits in helping geographically isolated rural-based staff, for example, keep in touch with best practice around the country.

“It means you’re not tied to coming to the college or going anywhere else because you can access what you need from home or your station,” says Steve. “It’s a very exciting opportunity.”