I read the article, ‘Credit for Prior Learning: Why All the Controversy?’ on the Higher Education Today blog. Coming from the field of criminal justice and public safety, I can say that this business involves lifelong learning much like many other highly regulated and visible professions. Certainly, a goal of any profession is to have a degree as a ticket for entry but much of law enforcement and other public safety professions are not there. Degree work is optional although very helpful for career advancement. Pre-service training across the country has been focused on what I refer to as the two imperatives: 1) how to stay alive and 2) how to keep from getting sued. Administrators deciding on in-service training have these imperatives in mind as well. This is not to say that the training they receive is not great training. In fact, I have seen some awesome basic and in-service training instructors that had a tremendous amount of real world experience to impart.
I started in law enforcement and then made the move to higher education over 11 years ago. I have advised many criminal justice and other public safety degree seeking students. I cannot count how many law enforcement officers came to me with 10+ years of service but no college degree. They had reached the ceiling of their careers. They had completed some college courses years ago and then got a job in law enforcement without completing their degree. They recognized that they needed to advance their education later in their career in order to be promoted, get specialized assignments, etc.
Imagine a world where current service law enforcement officers could utilize training they have received throughout their careers to stack toward college credit. Imagine a one-stop shop for learning management, course design that shows how these in-service training modules could move an officer toward completing one or more degrees. This is more than prior learning credit. It allows officers to take in-service training however they choose but also allow them to stack training modules toward college credit.
At Franklin University, we have a robust learning design infrastructure and our own internally developed learning management system. Partnering with law enforcement agencies across Central Ohio, we are attempting to build the one-stop learning management and in-service tracking system that is also a pathway to credit. This system does not replace traditional in-service training. It allows agencies to deliver online in-service training, if they wish, but also to document training obtained in the agency or elsewhere. Once in the system, officers can visualize their particular pathway to credit where in-service training modules stack toward college courses. The beauty of this design is that it addresses officers wherever they are at in their careers retaining the possibility but not requiring that they complete a degree. It also provides the pathway to credit toward the Associates degree through any community college partner, the Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and even the Masters of Public Administration with a Criminal Justice concentration at Franklin University, where the college courses officers would need to take would be taken on the same learning management system as where they complete their in-service training.
The combination of pre-service, in-service, degree credit and also the ability to deliver in-service through the learning management system with expert learning designers in the design process could be much more valuable to public safety than credit for prior learning. It brings the two spheres of career development training and academic degrees closer together such that everyone wins.
Jonathan McCombs, MSCJ, PhD (ABD)
Lead Faculty, Criminal Justice Administration