In the prison industry, it’s crucial for well-trained employees to maintain order and execute their duties effectively. If they don’t, consequences can be severe. But American Prison Data Systems — a company that distributes training materials to prisons across the country — used to print 1,100-page training manuals for corrections officers to lug around and read in order to learn. The manual was bulky and tedious to use. That is, until the company streamlined its learning process by going digital.
The company converted its mammoth paper manual into an electronic format via a learning management system. Now, instead of attending weeks of classes and leafing through a huge book, corrections officers-in-training can pinpoint specific areas they would like to focus on by searching through modules and a table of contents. The training software is continually updated, and improvements prompt officers to take quizzes, answer questions and complete other assessments to judge their knowledge retention, said Mark Gross, CEO of Data Conversion Laboratory, the company that digitized APDS’ training manual.
The updated system has 400-500 modules; each one covers approximately two to three pages from the paper manual. The modules are available on tablets, which the officers are able to take with them wherever they go. It also provides them with a more in-depth learning experience because additional items, such as videos, quizzes and questions accompany the text.
“Any time that they have available, they can review materials,” Gross said. “When you make a learning system electronic, you can add supplementary material that wouldn’t have room for.”
Learning leaders looking to move their training onto digital platforms should be careful to use the most up-to-date and complete information available, Gross said. Further, learning leaders should take stock of the different resources and tools available to them before they start, and know their limitations to maximize the effectiveness of online training.
Companies looking to streamline their training process should definitely look to electronic resources, Gross said. Learning management systems aren’t new, but their efficient ability to organize information, keep it accessible to employees and enhance individual learning should not be overlooked. These systems don’t need to be complex either. Gross said start by prioritizing two or three of the most important and easily convertible topics, and build on those in the learning management system.
“There’s so much going on in the electronic database world people can take advantage of,” Gross said. “I think it’s important to think out of the box and experiment with it.”