No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Blended learning in practice – Training Solutions preview


Training Solutions Show 2002 Ian MacDonald, Assistant Chief Constable, National Police Training, will be talking at the Training Solutions conference (19-20th June) on how the force's Strategic Command Training programme found blended learning to be a very practical solution in a complex situation. In advance, he gave TraiingZONE some reasons.

TrainingZONE How did you come to use blended learning?

Ian McDonald The previous versions of Strategic Command Training selected and developed the next generation of leaders in the Police, but were criticised for being too long, too didactic, too expensive and often inappropriate. So we looked for ways to tailor it for effectiveness and value. We switched from a residential course to a modular one, which also involved preparing the candidates much more before the formal training began, by increasing the range of learning delivery styles.

Strategic Command Participants need to be very familiar with two roles: investigation at a senior level, and managing a basic command unit, which is a geographical and administrative section of the force. So our partiicipants needed experience of these first, either through having done them already – which is often the case – or through shadowing. Then, we also needed a course that could work with different levels of education – the participants are formidably intelligent and experienced , but they don't all have the same kind of educational qualifications – some finished at school, some have gone on to doctorates. So it was that we decided to offer a range of choices through distance learning, including finance and personnel management, eventually choosing the Henley College to deliver.

We also got the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, with whom the course is accredited, to send out work prior to the course, and the Course Directing Staff keep the participants up to date with developments in leadership in general, and policing in particular. We added the European Computer Driving Licence into the course, just to ensure that we had a common level of IT skills, which would ensure access to the technologically delivered elements, and the participants in their futures. We also – and this was perhaps the most difficult thing to push through – went to the different forces and told them that these people were going to need to be supplied with a laptop and a mobile they could plug into it.

Each of them gets a coach, and each of them has a tutor. The participants prepare development plans based on learning logs, and the use of carefully selected coaches makes sure that they get off to a flying start with their plans – it is an expensive but very effective form of adult learning, and investment that pays off over years, rather than weeks or months. The participants supplement the other modes of training with research and role-play. After they have conducted research assignments, into the public and private sectors, they come back and get questioned by panels of experts,, so that all of this learning is pulled together and tested. We have accepted the want - and, in lesser degree, the need, for the didactic style, but it needs to be made flexible and practical. We dealt with this by getting in key speakers to speak on important themes before, and during the course, at a series of major seminars. This dealt with the knowledge side of things, and also allowed us to throw the events open to wide audience – so the speakers were heard by hundreds, rather than dozens.

All of the training feeds into the accreditation stage, and the have a choice of two channels, at two levels there: a Diploma or an Mst in Applied Criminology at Cambridge, or a Diploma or an MA in Management at Coventry University.

TrainingZONE What problems have you encountered on the way?

Ian McDonald When any of these activities involves senior people there are difficulties freeing them up. The whole process of accreditation was very tortuous, but that's mainly just the bureaucracy of the tendering process.

We did find that it was much easier to get a combination of learning styles working at the senior level. We have tried similar approaches down the ranks, but it has been more difficult to achieve the same success with a blend.

TrainingZONE How important is interaction between learners?

Ian McDonald Yes, it's a big part of the process. They have talking groups on the web, so they can stay in touch and compare notes and experiences. This staying in touch can be particularly important when they are out on assignments, which can last up to three weeks. The proportion of remote working and connecting on the phone and the web has also been a good boost towards diversity. It's much easier for parents, and particularly single parents, to go through a course like this because of its flexibility.

TrainingZONE Does the course adopt a slightly different mix for everyone? Or are there clear patterns?

Ian McDonald The content differs from one to another, but the mix is fairly constant.

TrainingZONE Is this blend uniquely suitable for strategic command training, or is it transferable in format?

Ian McDonald There's a lot of interest in using it elsewhere, we are trying to spin it down the ranks, but that's proving a complex business. The training has to be geared to the competencies and tasks of the ranks to whom it is delivered, , but I think the principles of it – the flexibility and the issuing of work in preparation for each stage of training – these are applicable across adult learning.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!