Teaching new police officers online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Kadry, Ahmed (2021). Teaching new police officers online during the COVID-19 pandemic. In: BAM Teaching and Learning Conference 2021, 23 Jun 2021, Online.


In 2017, The College of Policing created the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) as the curriculum to guide higher education institutions in designing degrees for new police officers, including the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) and the Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP). The PCDA and DHEP represent a transformative new era in policing where there has been a recognition that police officers of the future will need to have an acute understanding of the way society and crime has evolved in the 21st century. However, student officers will also carry the same pressures and responsibilities as their predecessors, which include but are not limited to being fully operationally competent, managing high crime demand volumes of policing, adapting to varying work shift patterns, and responding to emergencies which will likely infringe on off-duty days and holidays. As a result, the additional pressure of completing the PCDA or DHEP simultaneously, albeit with allocated time from their work place to complete their degree requirements, means teaching and supporting student police officers from a distance is crucial to ensuring they receive the necessary support to successfully manage their workloads.

The Open University is now 12 months into the delivery of the PCDA with its partner force, North Yorkshire Police, with thirty police officers completing their first year of study, with several more having commenced their first year. This paper reflects on the student engagement of police officers on the PCDA, with a specific focus on how the Open University’s blended learning model of online and face-to-face teaching has had to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, this paper reflects on whether the Open University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) met the needs of student police officers who must be able to apply their apprenticeship studies into their professional policing practice. For example, many activities that were designed on the VLE contained a practical application or use that student police officers could potentially explore and utilise immediately. An example of this is in Unit 1 of year 1 which contains a final session on Counter-Terrorism where students have to complete a threat assessment based off a scenario and reflect on their rationale with their peers and Academic Tutor in a forum setting on the VLE. Threat assessments are a task that newly appointed police officers are more likely to carry out towards the end of their first year as a police officer rather than the beginning. As a result, this considered structure to the teaching material may make the learning content much easier to absorb and understand by student police officers as they are able to apply their learning at the earliest opportunity in the work place rather than a large time separation between learning and application. Examples such as these will be explored in the paper, including positive feedback from student police officers but also where the intention on the VLE has not necessarily translated into the practical world of policing.

The paper concludes with a consideration to the work of Gibbs and Simpson’s (2005) on the importance of regular feedback to students and how this was approached through both the Open University’s VLE but also what extra measures were taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it may have had on the student experience and student engagement.

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