The North Carolina Justice Academy (NCJA) enhances the career of criminal justice officers through training more than 10,000 personnel annually. NCJA offers training at a 100-acre Eastern campus in Salemburg and a 23-acre Western campus in Edneyville. Together, the NCJA campuses feature 24 classrooms, four dormitories, four firing ranges, two gymnasiums, a defensive tactics facility, a driving track, a CSI lab, and enforcement operations simulators (jail cells, interrogation rooms).
As the premier criminal justice training academy in North Carolina, NCJA strives to constantly evolve and find ways to get better. It was with this perspective in 2014 that NCJA leaders sought to address several challenges in how the academy managed and provided training to personnel throughout the state.
One of these challenges involved using several different software applications to manage academy operations. Like many large law enforcement organizations, NCJA had personnel data spread out across individualized applications and desktop files. At the same time, NCJA’s training workflow was fragmented between paper processes and multiple, siloed digital processes. This situation, combined with the decentralized data, limited the academy’s capacity to meet the needs of students and to aggregate data in a timely manner for management reports.
In seeking training management software to best serve the state’s public safety officers in the years ahead, NCJA looked for a comprehensive system to integrate all of its primary functions, such as academy class management, a publicly accessible course catalog, registration system, scheduling, housing, and an online learning management system (LMS).
NCJA contacted Envisage Technologies and provided a list of requirements to an Envisage program manager, who responded line-by-line, consulting NCJA on which module of Envisage’s Acadis Readiness Suite met each requirement. Of the many requirements listed, one of NCJA’s primary objectives was to fulfill its vision of a Virtual Campus. The vision called for a seamless system where students could access the course catalog, see basic course information like prerequisites and available seats, register for classes, update account information, take online events, and print course attendance certificates within a secure, personalized environment. In turn, NCJA staff would have 24/7 access to centralized, online training data with on-demand reporting to always know the progress of their students.
NCJA chose the Acadis® Software as a Service (SaaS) model with cloud hosting. With the SaaS model, there was no hardware to buy, no software to maintain, no network to monitor, nor staff to train – all yielding a quicker setup for NCJA.
The Academy also took advantage of the modular nature of Acadis, customizing its solution with Acadis Training, Acadis Learning Management System, Acadis Scheduling, Acadis Registration/Online Registration, Acadis Housing, Acadis Documents, and the Acadis Person Portal and Registration Portal.
“It was the perfect system to meet our needs,” Deputy Director Dana Phillips said. “And, on top of that, we could see that we were going to save money with Acadis compared to what we had been doing.”
NCJA has grown significantly since it began its journey with Acadis. It is managing its training operations for both campuses through the effective use of Acadis modularization. It cites the realization of its Virtual Campus vision as a game-changer for North Carolina.
With more than 250 miles of travel between its Eastern and Western campuses, NCJA has found online training to be exceptionally popular and useful for officers across the state. Throughout North Carolina, use of the Acadis® Portal and Acadis® Online Registration enables students to review the publicly available NCJA course catalog and empowers them to request new account approval. It then allows approved students to securely log in, view online event registration information, review the prerequisites, determine the type of class (e.g. online, classroom, or blended), determine if the event is open, waitlisted, or full, register for the desired course, and enter course qualifications for approval. When an online LMS event is approved by administration, the link to the course appears on the student’s Acadis® Personal Portal page, and they can take their training as their schedule permits. After the student completes the class, they can see the event title and grade added to their training record in Acadis® Personal Portal, as well as print a certificate of their accomplishment.
In turn, from the centralized Acadis® Training Management, Acadis® Learning Management, and Acadis® Registration modules, NCJA staff can 1) review, approve, and update new student accounts, 2) review, approve, and enroll students into online events, and 3) monitor student accounts, student progress, and success rates. With a modularized, data-centric LMS software like Acadis, interruptive phone calling, emailing, and paper tracking are virtually eliminated. As a result of NCJA’s hard work and emphasis in providing convenient, high-quality online courses, NCJA’s annual number of online courses completed has skyrocketed from 1,883 in 2015 to 106,305 in 2018.
“Word spread about how easy it was to go in and take this online training,” NCJA Instructor Developer Kristi Jernigan said. “The sheriffs and chiefs bought in that this was huge for their agencies.
“It saves hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Jernigan said. “Staff is not away from their department and home. There are no adjunct instructor costs. It can reduce overtime, and officers can take the course anywhere, anytime. Courses are available 24/7. Officers can work at their own pace and can pause a course and pick up where they left off when they have time. Officers sign in, they take the training, including a pretest and post-test, and at the end, they can print their certificate. It’s just so easy for them to do that.”
Jernigan and Instructor Developer Alice Butler have spearheaded the implementation of online training, which has grown from two new online courses developed in 2013 to 22 new courses in 2018. In all, NCJA has developed 125 online courses. The most popular NCJA course, “Strategies to Improve Law Enforcement Interactions and Relationships with Minority Youth,” has been completed by 15,112 officers representing 542 agencies.
Online courses are written by subject matter experts and developed using a RITE approach, which aims to make every course Relevant, Innovative, Timely, and Engaging. The courses are updated at least every two years to ensure they stay current.
“We try to do things RITE, no matter what we teach,” Director Trevor Allen said. “If we aren’t doing it RITE, we won’t do it. We’ll find a way to evolve and get better. Acadis has helped us to keep pushing the envelope, doing more, and doing it better.”
NCJA has also developed seven blended courses, featuring online and field or classroom training components, on topics such as Budgeting for Police Managers, Robbery Response Tactics, Aggressive Driving Enforcement, and Traffic Law Refresher. These courses range from eight to 52 hours each and have more than 800 completions so far.
“Acadis has allowed us to improve our training system by leaps and bounds,” Phillips said. “It has been a huge benefit to our team and the officers we work with.”
This article is not intended to suggest that Acadis has been endorsed by NCDOJ.