On Nov. 30, 2021, the Officer Media Group launched our online virtual academy, and the words are even in the name. It is the Officer Virtual Academy or OVA for short. Had this academy been opened in a brick-and-mortar building, we’d have hosted a large reception with all of the fanciness and formality that usually accompanies such. Instead, since the academy is virtual, we’d like to give you a tour of what we have and the expansions we’re planning for the future.
When you “come through the front doors of the OVA,” which means opening the home page on the site (virtualacademy.officer.com), you are greeted with a basic welcome message, the OVA logo, some basic navigation items and a spot to either sign in or register for your account. What you don’t see is the word “FREE” plastered everywhere because, well, that would just be tacky. That said though, all the training provided in the OVA is no-cost to registered users. It is supported by our sponsors and we greatly appreciate their support. N-ear was our founding sponsor and we look forward to enjoying their support for years to come.If you take a look across the top of the home page, you’ll see the OVA academy comprised of traditional Thin Blue Line family colors. One of our founding principles for the academy and all included curriculum is that it has to serve the men and women who make up the Thin Blue Line. All a part of the same family, no matter what color of uniform or shape of badge, those “family” members are the reason we stood this academy up.
The initial offering of courses are broken up into four main channels: Investigation, On The Street, Tactical and Training & Careers. If you take a quick visit over to Officer.com you’ll see that those four channels are four of our six primary, with Vehicles & Fleet and Command/HQ not included in the academy structure… yet. One of the future expansions mentioned above will be the addition of course material suitably placed in each of those channels and they’ll be added to the main navigation once that occurs. You may also see, on the right end, a menu item for our sponsors. Those are the companies that enable us to provide this online training to you, the user, at no charge. Please at least visit their page on the academy and see what they have to offer.
Under each of those four main channels you’ll find a pull-down menu. Each pull-down has (for now) anywhere from two to four Learning Pods. Each Learning Pod has courses scheduled into it. Each of those courses is appropriate to the Learning Pod title.To begin your learning adventure in the OVA, register and sign in. After doing so, click on any course on the home page or visit any channel or Learning Pod. Each course is comprised of one or more video presentations. The academy’s automated system tracks how much of each video you watch and credits you accordingly, allowing you to move on to the next as you finish each in turn. Each course also has a downloadable (PDF) copy of the course syllabus and the course handout. The course handout parallels any PowerPoint presentation used in the course, making it perfect for taking notes on (if you download it and print it out). There is also a section in each course for “Additional Resources,” which are links to appropriate articles containing more information about or related to the course topic. The final item included in each course is information on the training staff. Whichever instructors are primary for the given course, that instructor’s biography is listed in the course information. By doing so, the Officer Virtual Academy supports the instructional expertise for every course provided.
Upon completion of any given course, the system will allow you to download and print a completion certificate. Keep in mind, when you set up your account, user name, etc. that you will be choosing what name gets printed on that completion certificate. While there is not currently any in-service credit provided for the courses, making a copy for your agency still demonstrates your motivation for continuing education in the profession. That always makes you look good to your chain of command.
Of course, as with any launch or “Grand Opening,” there is always more planned for the future. As mentioned above, we anticipate adding new courses and expanding our offerings throughout 2022 and beyond. At present, to be added just in 2022, we have more courses in the Investigation channel, the Tactical channel, and the On The Street channel. We also have courses planned that will go into the Command/HQ channel, created and added to the navigation when we need it. As of this writing, we anticipate the addition of at least ten courses in 2022 with a good possibility of more.
The “academy staff” at launch includes the author of this article, Lt. Frank Borelli along with Sgt. Richard Nance and Detective Hilary Rodela. Taking a quick look at the background of each…
Lt. Frank Borelli has nearly 40 years of experience in law enforcement and has been a certified instructor in several disciplines since 1989. With over 30 years of experience teaching law enforcement professionals at every level and from a wide variety of government entities, Lt. Borelli maintains his certifications and is listed as the Director of the Officer Virtual Academy.
Sgt. Rich Nance is a well known and long experienced law enforcement professional. With a background in patrol, SWAT and training, Rich also is a regular contributor for several gun publications and has starred in television shows about such. In many of the training videos currently available in the academy, you can see Sgt. Nance using Lt. Borelli as a guinea pig for various techniques.
Detective Hilary Rodela is a forensics expert working for the state, county and privately, as well as a licensed investigator in her home state. Her husband works patrol with the local police agency and often helps her with the detective work she’s contracted to perform. Her expertise goes beyond the simplistic identification and collection of evidence to the complete gamut of handling, analyzing, classifying, storing, managing, etc.As mentioned above, the OVA courses are not currently approved for in-service credit. However, we are working toward that goal and anticipate having most of them, if not all of them, approved for such in 2022. This effort is part of our permanent growth initiative for the academy and we’ll send out email updates to all registered users as those successes occur.
Currently each course available takes an hour or less, on average, to complete. That doesn’t include the reading time for the additional resources and the required time will obviously increase when the tests get added in 2022. The longest course, as this is written, is the Active Shooter Response Protocols course, but we anticipate adding several courses in 2022 that will be significantly longer. Some of the courses that we anticipate adding include:
- Active Shooter Scene & Response Management
- Active Shooter Media Management
- Basic Death Investigation (Forensic topics)
- Common Weapons Familiarization
- Forensic Disciplines & Techniques
- Lifting Fingerprints on Unique Surfaces
- Emergency Medical/Trauma Care
As you read through that list, it’s easy to see why the courses will easily exceed an hour in length. That said, each course will be broken down into a series of lessons so that the videos stay about 15 minutes each (roughly). Our goal is to make it easy for officers working a shift to attend this training in their patrol vehicles while it’s safe to do so. In other words, it’s a productive way to fill that slow time on midnight shifts.
So, welcome to the Officer Virtual Academy. Come on in (virtually online) and take a look around. Create your account and start taking the courses at no charge. Complete them and download/print your Certificate of Completion. Look forward to our continued growth and added value in the coming year.