Web extra: Readiness, set, go

Police, first responders log on for e-learning

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina has been using a Plateau Systems-developed training program since 2002. Its 1,600-member force can view online curricula and register electronically for courses, such as firearms training. Taking courses online saves officers travel time and helps ensure that officers are up to date in their training.

Officer Brian Russell, professional development coordinator at the Charlotte- Mecklenburg Police Academy's Professional Development Unit, said officers use the e-learning system to disseminate new directives, standard operating procedures and other critical information.

Disaster preparedness is a major factor behind state and local government interest in e-learning, industry officials say. Lisa Jackson, senior solutions director for HCM public sector at Oracle, said that concern is behind efforts to ensure, for example, that first responders are certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Public officials also want to know what additional skills, such as speaking a second language, their first responders may have or need. Jackson said local governments are using homeland security dollars to purchase e-learning systems for that purpose.

One challenge facing state and local governments is to establish a centralized database of information that will give them a bird’s-eye view of their organization, government or even region, Jackson said. They understand what integrated learning management systems can do, and they foresee a time when such systems will become more advanced.

“How soon will we get to where the system will make the decision on its own?” Jackson asked. “That’s an interesting question because that’s an artificial intelligence question. That’s exactly where the [learning systems] standards are going.”

Sarkar is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

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