Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Texas Counties Save Money with TEEX Online Basic County Corrections Course

This week I have some news that will make Texas county government officials happy. Yesterday, TEEX’s Public Safety and Security Division launched a new, online course that will save county governments thousands of dollars annually.
There are 5,000 new temporary jailer licenses issued for corrections officers every year, such as those supervising county jails. These probationary officers must be certified by the State of Texas within 12 months of their date of hire. To become certified, officers must pass the Basic County Corrections Course and then the licensing test, which is offered at several locations throughout the state. In the past, the course was taught over a 12-day period. Although tuition is reasonable at less than $500 per student, transportation, food and lodging can boost the cost to almost $2,000 each.

Sending officers to training creates a staffing issue for jails. County detention facilities must maintain at least one corrections officer on duty for each 48 inmates. In a medium-sized department that trains 30 new corrections officers annually, sheriffs are forced to staff 360 additional days just to cover probationary officers attending the course.

By attending TEEX’s online course, probationary officers can complete the academic portion of the course in approximately three working days, from anywhere with an Internet connection. This is one-third of the time that it normally takes. An additional three days of classroom skills training is required, which will be conducted regionally.

With tuition of only $200, governments taking advantage of the online course versus paying travel and per diem costs can save thousands of dollars. Departments that offer their own training can now free the instructor formerly conducting the basic training for other projects or duties.

Taking the online course is simple. After enrollment through a sponsoring agency, students are sent an “E-token,” which allows them to log onto TEEX’s eLearning Campus. The software is designed to work with the average computer system, including a printer and speakers, and the course can even be accessed using a dial-up internet connection.

As students work the
ir way through the 10 modules, they have the advantage of stopping and restarting at their leisure, since the program remembers their place in the syllabus. The course can be taken in just a few sittings, or over several weeks. It’s important to note that the online portion of the course must be taken within 45 days of enrollment, and the probationary officer must complete certification during the probationary period.

The online course formally launched today. Beta testing, using officers from Brazos and Grimes Counties, allowed TEEX’s curriculum and technology staff to work through bugs in the system ahead of time. With quality control and ease of use in mind, TEEX courses are written in-house and live on servers in TEEX’s State Headquarters Building.

This online course was funded through the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division, and TEEX is grateful for the cooperation of the Grimes, Montgomery and Brazos County Sheriff’s Offices.

In addition to the Basic County Corrections Course, TEEX also offers TCLEOSE accepted online courses for the Intermediate Jailer Proficiency Certificate as well as other correctional officer and supervisor training courses. For further information, please contact Kyle McNew, 979-458-2762, kyle.mcnew@teexmail.tamu.edu, or www.teex.org/corrections.

Sam White is a communications specialist and blogger for the Texas Engineering Extension Service and welcomes your comments. Know of something interesting happening at TEEX? Please submit blog ideas to sam.white@teexmail.tamu.edu.