VIRTUAL POLICE CASES: IMPACT ON PERFORMANCE IN PRACTICAL SCENARIO TRAINING
Police students must learn skills to manage different complex situations. Students must master both specific practical techniques and the thinking and decision-making required to use these techniques effectively. This is normally learned through a variety of practical exercises such as drill exercises and practical scenario training where students´ should act as police officers (Söderström, et al, 2014). Practical scenario training, which is in focus in this article, is usually arranged in such a way that students are prepared for the training through a teacher-led lesson before the actual scenario training. However, since practical training generally requires large investments, limiting opportunities for sufficient training, there is a need to raise the students' level of knowing for increasing possibilities to learn through scenario training. Therefore a virtual case was developed that allow students to practice tactical skills, decision making and receive feedback on their actions based on the national basic police tactics manual (Polishögskolan, 2005). This study compares the influence of two learning conditions – a virtual police case and conventional teacher led lesson – that prepare police students for the upcoming practical scenario training. The study focused on a) how the students´ experienced the different learning conditions and how it prepared them for the scenario training and b) how the different learning conditions influenced their task completion in the practical scenarios. The sample consisted of 66 participants and used a comparative group design with 35 participants assigned to a virtual case training group (VCASE) or conventional-training group (CON) with 5-6 students in each group. The VCASE group worked 1.5 hour with a virtual police case to perform two exercises (a stolen car incident and observation of a house with suspects). The CON group had a teacher led lesson with the same content. This was followed by practical scenario training. The objectives with the practical scenario training was that the students should learn to perform various police tasks and acquire an understanding of these tasks based on the national basic police tactics manual (Polishögskolan, 2005). A questionnaire was used to collect the students´ experiences of the both the preparation and practical scenario training. A blind expert assessment, by police officers, was used to collect students´ performance in the practical scenario training. The results showed that a majority of the students in both groups believed that the task they did before the practical training was meaningful and motivating. However, the results showed (independent t-test) that the VCASE group in significantly higher extent thought that the preparation helped them when they conducted the practical training (e.g. confident how to act, sufficient knowledge to solve the situation, a feeling of being sufficiently prepared). The expert assessment of a stolen car incident during practical training showed (independent t-test) that the VCASE group performed better according to three out of five base tactics measurements (stop the car and approach the suspects, reporting and treatment of the arrested). To conclude, the different learning conditions produced different results with respect to how they prepared for practical scenario training.