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The future of training

Technologies influence learning in the force

Simulator technology is being used in the Cadet Training Program to help prepare cadets for the field. Credit: Christine Ross

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While evolving technologies have posed serious challenges for law enforcement, they've also opened up opportunities for police to improve their own skills and techniques.

From the use of simulators at Depot to new technologies for specialized courses, when it comes to training, the RCMP is looking into leveraging technology to train cadets and help members maintain and further develop their skills.

Synthetic environments

Depot has long been on the leading edge of police training. A few years ago, they started incorporating simulators into the cadet training program's curriculum. They're now using simulators in the driving, use of force and firearms components of training.

With the adult-learning environment structure, each new lesson builds on what cadets have previously learned.

"It's almost like scaffolding, they learn a skill in one environment and then transfer it to another," says Gregory Kratzig, a training and research analyst at Depot. "And with the sims, it's a safe environment so if they make an error, it becomes a powerful teaching moment without the risk of anybody being hurt."

The simulators make it possible for trainers to demonstrate and give cadets more time and space to practise skills and techniques they otherwise wouldn't be able to, like driving through an intersection with their sirens on — something cadets would usually do for the first time in the field.

They're also looking at integrating more simulator use into the program, but Kratzig emphasizes that changes are always backed by research and empirical evidence.

"We won't just take simulation technology and bolt it onto the program because there's some free time, but instead, as we did with the driving program, we'll approach it like we're starting new, and build it around simulation," says Kratzig.

For visual learners

But training doesn't end after members graduate from the cadet training program. At National Headquarters in Ottawa, Ont., the Learning and Development (L&D) team works on developing training for members at all points of their careers.

They work hard to keep up with developing technologies, while balancing organizational constraints like bandwidth limits. In the past few years, they've been able to increase the quality and size of videos they produce.

Most of what the small video team works on is scenario-based training for online courses and Agora. Guylain Ouellette, from L&D, says many people don't realize how much work goes into the development process of a short video clip. From research, storyboarding, filming and then editing, it's a lengthy process that can take months. But Ouellette says the effort is worth it.

"It's like that famous expression: an image is worth a thousand words," says Ouellette. "When you turn text into visuals, it's so much more immersive and fun to watch. People will watch it over again, whereas they might not reread a scenario if they didn't get it."

From human source informant to diving recertification, Ouellette has worked on a variety of courses. The reception they receive to the videos is overall positive.

"We live in a fast-paced world and everything's visual now," says Ouellette. "We want to ride the wagon and give people what they want."

Another dimension of learning

L&D is now also incorporating 3D videos into the courses they offer. Patrick Walker, a multimedia designer, has been working with the unit for about four years now, developing 3D renderings of everything from Parliament Hill to various firearms.

With 3D technology, members can learn all the components of a shotgun and watch it as the weapon "fires" before even handling the firearm — something Walker says is a learning experience that would otherwise be impossible to offer.

"We could do it in flash [another type of software used for creating course content], but you can't get the full view of the weapon no matter where you look," says Walker. "And there are things we do for the dive team, like how to deal with a member trapped under ice, that you can't film or accurately recreate in flash."

He adds that not only does this technology make for a better learning experience, it can also have a long-lasting effect on the learner.

"The thing I find so effective about 3D is that it's so engaging," says Walker. "The way I always put it to people is that I can remember video games I played when I was six years old and I think that easily translates to a learning environment."

Reprinted with permission from the Pony Express (No. 1, 2015).

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