How technology is advancing correctional officer training

The Tennessee Department of Correction is leveraging educational technologies to improve employee performance and foster career advancement

By C1 staff

Implementing new educational technologies not only helps attract new recruits and retain current staff, but can also support a comprehensive training program, improve recordkeeping for administrative staff and reduce costs for government agencies.

Corrections1 spoke with Terence Davis, director of statewide training for the Tennessee Department of Correction, about how educational technology is improving corrections training and recruitment in his state.

Terence Davis is the statewide director of training for the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) where he coordinates a 200-bed residential training academy and annual training for 6,500 state employees.
Terence Davis is the statewide director of training for the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) where he coordinates a 200-bed residential training academy and annual training for 6,500 state employees.

With the current recruitment and retention crisis in corrections, how important is it that correctional facilities embrace new technologies to improve training opportunities?

It is really important because of the cross section of the people we are trying to attract and recruit into corrections. We are recruiting from multiple generations, including millennials and Gen Z. I think they are going to be looking for more technology in the work environment as part of the work they do and even on the recruiting end, they are using technology to be able to gain information about the places they may choose to work. Incorporating technology into the recruitment process, onboarding and training is essential for corrections and state agencies across the country.

How is the Tennessee of Department of Correction using digital technologies to transform the delivery of training?

We have deployed a learning management system (LMS) that allows us to put our curriculum into an eLearning format and then use tablets in the classroom.

When new recruits go through training, they are able to log into the LMS and then engage with the lesson plan in an eLearning environment. They are able to follow along with the instructor and go forward or backward in the curriculum to review materials they may have missed or want to read over again. They are also asked questions individually to ensure they are staying connected to the material and digesting what they are learning.

We also use tablets for pre-service activities like psychological testing. Potential cadets take the psychological exam online and then the doctor proctors those testing materials remotely.

We also recently started putting more of our in-service programs into that same LMS. Once a person is hired, they can do courses within their own timeframe at their desk or computer.

Why did the Tennessee Department of Correction decide to implement the LMS?

There were two reasons. First, while at the National Institute of Correction (NIC), we were talking about the retention rate of a typical course we instruct. The average person retains between 17-25 percent of what they see during a traditional classroom course presented with PowerPoint. I felt we had to find different ways to approach the delivery of that material to provide corrections and probation officers with the opportunity to retain more material in the learning process.

Secondly, we were in the middle of discussions with different providers to deploy tablets and eLearning platforms for inmates to take courses, read books and have access to entertainment. This prompted me to think that if we were providing that type of technology to inmates we should also be introducing similar technology to our staff members.

What are you most excited about in regard to how technology can improve correctional officer training?

One thing I am excited about is being able to electronically document the majority of the training that our officers are going through and not doing it the old-fashioned way with paper files. 

I am also excited about getting more of our curriculum into the eLearning environment and making it a primary option for people and staff members. We do a lot of classroom training still and that takes up time for everyone, as well as institutions having to give up classroom space. Also having more classes in the eLearning platform allows people to learn at their own pace.

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