New Research Brief on Educational Technology in Corrections


The August 19th, 2015 OCTAE CONNECTION has this announcement:

New Research Brief Released: Educational Technology in Corrections 2015
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) recently released Educational Technology in Corrections 2015. This new report details the current status of educational technologies in corrections, existing and emerging approaches to providing such services in facilities, and the successes and challenges of early implementers. The report states that it is designed to inform federal, state, and local corrections officials, and correctional education administrators, of ways to “securely and cost effectively provide advanced technologies in corrections facilities to help strengthen and expand educational and reentry services.”  

Educational Technology in Corrections 2015 is an initial response to the 2014 RAND report, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education.  The new OCTAE report builds upon findings from this earlier report, which laid out the challenges and opportunities that technology presents for correctional education. OCTAE has entered this educational arena with enormous respect for the legitimate security concerns of correctional staff.  But it also has entered with an optimism that advances in electronic communications and educational technology can be safely used to extend higher-quality teaching and learning resources to correctional teachers and students.

Correctional settings create significant barriers for educators, incarcerated students, and program partners that must be accommodated in order to provide an effective teaching and learning environment. The introduction of advanced technologies makes these barriers even more apparent. While other education systems have expanded their use of technology, correctional education has lagged behind. The major reason: security concerns.

This report describes the barriers to integrating technology in correctional education — including state and local policies that prohibit incarcerated individuals from accessing the Internet — and provides examples of ways some states and localities have overcome these barriers. Insights from the report suggest that strengthening correctional education services and using advanced technologies helps correctional education programs reduce recidivism rates and ease the reentry process.

The report details ways in which correctional institutions are cautiously adopting advanced technologies to “help prepare students to join our globally networked society; provide students with access to online assessments; expand the professional development resources available to instructors; support an education continuum for incarcerated individuals; and, expand the reach of correctional education services.”

The report, produced under contract by RTI International, concludes with recommendations for state corrections agencies, facilities, and their education partners to consider as they look for ways to strengthen and expand their correctional education services. The recommendations focus on learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.


David J. Rosen, Moderator

Technology and Learning CoP




You have it exactly right regarding the difficulty of bringing advanced technologies into corrections, but it is not impossible.

Corrections education's current use of technology reminds me of where K-12 schools were at in the 1990's when they began to integrate technology into the classroom. There was a lot of fear about security, kids getting to places that they should not be, and teachers who were good-to-great teachers, but just did not have experience with technology. Now I know I am painting with a broad brush, and there are many great things going on in correctional education around the country as evidenced by this report, but there a lot of correctional locations that are not using technology because of security issues. Also, use of advanced technologies in the corrections classroom requires support staff able to assist with the technology. That is not always available in the correctional environment, or if it is, the staff may not be familiar with the technologies being utilized. This is not trivial issue, as instructors do not need another barrier to classroom success.

The report highlights those who have found ways to work the edges and meaningfully integrate technology into the corrections classroom. I have met and talked with many of those working in those seven highlighted programs, and led the effort in Illinois that is featured in the report. My efforts in Illinois, where we used the internet to deploy the i-Pathways curriculum in 33 correctional facilities and serve 3,000 learners a week, started with finding champions in the correctional education programs we could work with who shared a vision. We provide a logical rational for why it could work, provided the technical and instructional background to show how it could work, and then piloted to show that it did work. It was a rather long process, but once you start, you begin to build momentum.

I think all of the projects highlighted started with educators trying to solve an instructional problem and working the process until they were able to implement a solution. Most of the programs/initiatives highlighted worked within constraints and would have liked to have gone farther, but they used the technology that they were allowed to use; and they also got creative. I know that Brian Walsh in Washington State, Frank Martin in Oregon, Brian Hill at JES are all passionate about meeting students needs, and are willing to explore and take chances.

There is a community of innovators developing in correctional education and we need to share both our successes and our disappointments so that we may all learn from the experience.

Richard Chamberlain