Return on Investment: e-Learning at the RCMP *

In a review of its e-learning program, the RCMP reported that by using online delivery, it was able to deliver 43% its formal training courses for just 1% of its budget. When talking about the value of e-learning in modern policing, it's hard to argue with that kind of return on investment.

Responsible for training a workforce of more than 35,000, the RCMP puts optimal value on the tools that enable them to do that job efficiently and effectively. First adopted in the mid 90s, e-learning and other technology-assisted models continue to play an increasingly important role in meeting the demands of broad and complex training mandates within the RCMP.

"e-Learning delivers a lot of advantages, both at organizational and learner levels," says Lisa Gilliss, Manager of the RCMP's Technology Assisted Learning Unit. "Apart from the obvious financial benefits, online courses increase the accessibility, timeliness, and reach of training."

Using online delivery, the RCMP delivered 43% of its formal training curriculum for just $1 million.

*For the 2009/2010 fiscal year.

Prior to online delivery, factors such as course availability, delivery cost, and other logistics might mean an employee could wait up to two years before being granted a seat to a specialized course; rolling out a force-wide training initiative could take up to three years. Using e-learning, those barriers are reduced and training is accessible as needed, regardless of when, where, or how many employees require the training. In fact, mandatory, force-wide training can now be delivered in a matter of months, not years. e-Learning also provides new learning opportunities to thousands of officers and employees who, in the past, may have gone without. Now, when new courses like Marijuana Grow Operations or Major Events Security are created, any employee has the option of completing it according to their own interest and schedule. Furthermore, e-learning is increasing the quality of classroom training by helping learners master the basics with pre-course online materials and allowing instructors to focus on more advanced content and complex scenarios during classroom sessions.

Many groups within the RCMP, including regions, national policy centres, and Depot, are involved in developing e-learning and each are seeing the benefits and returns on those investments. For example, in addition to supporting and enhancing classroom learning, the Pacific Region Training Centre in Chilliwack, BC has found that e-learning can be used to balance the delivery of centralized and decentralized learning against the constraints of geographic and fiscal realities. PRTC is also experimenting with the design and implementation of rapid learning modules (RLMs) as a sub-set of e-learning design and delivery.

"RLMs offer a flexible learning approach," explains Staff Sergeant Bob Perry of PRTC's Research and Development Unit. "They will allow learners to address learning gaps in a purposeful manner while scaffolding on existing experience and knowledge. They also serve as refresher resources."

RCMP Depot is also seeing significant benefits in using e-learning in the Cadet Training Program.

"The CTP is designed on integrated problem-based learning and e-learning provides an ideal platform for this approach," says Christine Hudy, a Supervisor and Educational Methodologist at Depot. "Online courses offer interactive, engaging, media-based instruction perfectly suited for independent, self-paced study. They also ensure cadets receive consistent messaging in critical areas such as the IMIM and disclosure."

With more than 100 online learning products available, RCMP employees have much greater opportunity for professional development. And they're taking advantage. The RCMP is consistently surprised by the huge uptake and completion of non-mandatory courses. In 2011, 32 352 online courses were successfully completed and the Learning Management System was accessed 136 476 times! "Thousands of employees are taking online courses, not because they are being told to but because they want to improve and learn," explained Gilliss.

While much of that online content is specific to the RCMP, many courses are shared with the broader police community through CPKN. In fact, at present, 30 courses within the CPKN catalogue have been produced by, or developed in collaboration with, RCMP groups. These courses cover a broad range of policing skills and knowledge - everything from Forensic Evidence Collection (National Forensic Services) to Human Trafficking (Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre); from Seized Firearms Safety (Canadian Firearms Centre) to Major Case Management (PRTC).

"The RCMP relies on many experts in many fields to ensure our members are getting the information they need to do their jobs safely and effectively," continues Gilliss. "When we're able to share those resources with other policing agencies, everyone benefits."

Due to the success of online courses, the RCMP's internal training units are often unable to keep up with the demands for new online training. In those cases, the RCMP has consistently turned to CPKN as its preferred provider of e-learning development services. Working together, CPKN and the RCMP have made more than ten new courses available this year alone.

More ROI Examples:

2007: CPIC Query Narrative was transitioned from a 3 day classroom course to a 6 hour online course.

  • Online course development cost: $100,000 (+ $15,000 in annual maintenance)
  • Total Savings to Date: $1 million/year

2009: Incident Management Intervention Model was rolled out as mandatory online training for regular members.

  • 17,413 members trained over one year (logistically impossible via classroom delivery)
  • Total Savings to Date: $10 million

Based on the evidence, it's clear that online learning technologies are an important part of resolving the financial challenges that police services, including the RCMP, are facing. But it's not just about saving money -- it's about improving learning, providing the right training at the right time, and making the most of employee time and potential. It's also about improving the quality of investigations and service to Canadians. For example, when Intercepting Private Communications and Introduction to Disclosure were offered in the classroom, the RCMP could only train sixty to seventy people each year; now, thousands of officers have taken these introductory online courses decreasing the number of mistakes that lead to cases being dismissed by the courts. In another example, where an investigation involved an interview with a transgendered person, the interviewing officer reported that the lessons learned in the LGBT online course were key to creating a respectful environment. The simple action of asking how the interviewee would prefer to be addressed, as a female or as a male, set the tone for an extremely successful interview. Those kinds of outcomes speak volumes about the value of diverse, accessible learning.

…it's not just about saving money -- it's about improving learning, providing the right training at the right time, and making the most of employee time and potential. It's also about improving investigations and service to Canadians.

Looking ahead, the RCMP will continue to invest in its learning technology infrastructure. In the months and years ahead, in addition to web-based and blended learning courses, webinars, mobile delivery and gaming technology will be added to the learning mix. It's an exciting time in the world of police training. e-Learning is an iceberg of possibilities and we're only just seeing the tip.

* This article was originally featured in the 2012 Chiefs' Edition of Point.Click.Learn. e-newsletter.