Experts at Your Fingertips: The National Drug Court Online Learning System

The National Drug Court Online Learning System at
offers free training modules on a wide range of topics by national experts. In this podcast, Valerie Raine and Dennis
Reilly, both of the Center for Court Innovation, explain how drug courts can use the system to educate new employees and keep their teams
up to date on developments in the field. (August 2013)

Methamphetamine is not an issue for eastern drug courts. It’s a huge issue for Midwest and Midwestern drug courts.
So we have a session on methamphetamine. That won’t be applicable or probably of much interest to the Manhattan
treatment court, but it will be of enormous interest to treatment courts in Arkansas.

I’m Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Welcome to another New Thinking
podcast. Today we’re going to talk about a new tool to help drug court practitioners. And for people who, perhaps,
don’t know what drug courts are, they work with drug addicted offenders and link them to treatment using rigorous
evidence-based practices. Specifically today we’re going to talk about the National Drug Court Online Learning
System, which is available at It is a new initiative created by staff here at the Center
for Court Innovation with the support of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. I’m speaking
with Valerie Raine, Director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation and Dennis Riley, the Deputy
Director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. But rather than have me explain it, I thought
maybe you guys could just start off talking about, you know, what is the National Drug Court Online Learning System?

DENNIS RILEY: Thanks, Rob. The National Drug Court Online Learning System has been a long time coming. There’s
been plenty of opportunities for remote learning using webinars and conference calls, but this is really the first
time we’ve taken online learning to a new step with drug courts nationally. And the intent is to present information
on adult drug courts, which is able to be replicated on a frequent basis, used with individuals for individual learning,
and also with teams. The elements of the National Drug Court Online Learning System includes an adult drug court
course which has multiple lessons around the critical elements of drug courts. It also includes virtual site visits
of rural, urban, and suburban drug court locations as well as practitioner perspectives on some of the most important
issues to drug court practitioners.

ROB WOLF: And just so people get a sense of how it works,
they visit the website and then they can click on topic choices and what do they get? Videos? PowerPoints?

DENNIS RILEY: Well, first when you go to, you have to create a free account. This is
a free system supported by the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance. Once you’ve created an account,
you receive an email confirming that a password has been created, and you can log directly into the Adult Drug Court
course. From there you see a listing of courses and lessons which include video presentations from national experts
on various drug court topics. You can also see the virtual site visits, practitioner perspectives, there’s also
a resource library that includes all the PowerPoint presentations that the experts are providing, as well as written
resources on drug court issues.

ROB WOLF: And just a sense of what those topics that they might
find address.

DENNIS RILEY: The topics range from psychopharmacology to sanctions and incentives,
confidentiality, constitutional issues.

ROB WOLF: So Valerie, let me ask you how did the National
Drug Court Online Learning System come about? What was the reason, the motivation for creating it?

RAINE: Thanks Rob. Originally, and this goes back several years, as drug courts, established drug courts started
experiencing significant turnover in team members—there’s a new judge, there’s a new prosecutor, there’s
a new treatment provider. And even in the sort of more luxury days of funding, you couldn’t hold a four day
training institute every time a team got one new team member. And so the motivation for it originally was to deal
with transitional team members, so that they could come onto a team, take these courses, and at least have some kind
of foundation in drug court practices, drug court operations, and so forth. And that continues to be one of the systems
primary functions. There are, however, other functions, other audiences that are being served as both federal and
state budgets suffer severe setbacks. State drug court administrators can not afford to send new or established drug
court practitioners to live training. It also takes time away from the operation. People have to travel, they’ve
got to close down the court. The federal agencies who have supported drug court training that was live, and was excellent
training, are increasingly concerned about their budgets, and increasingly interested in the potential of remote
learning to, if not replace, at least ameliorate the sort of downturn in live training.

So it sounds like the initial impetus was there are new people coming on – let’s give kind of a primer in how
drug courts work. But you’re saying now the online learning system really has something for everyone—both the
mature practitioner as well as the new arrival to a drug court.

VALERIE RAINE: Exactly. And we
intend to keep this a very dynamic site. As new developments emerge, new evidence-based practices are realized and
implemented, new changes in the law. We, in fact right now, are concluding the development of a module on veteran’s
tracks that specifically targets those drug court practitioners who want to set up a veteran’s court or a veteran’s

ROB WOLF: I’ll just throw this open to either one of you. Is this the new normal?
Can we expect that trainings going forward for drug court practitioners as well as perhaps in other areas—it’s
gonna be online? Or is this a temporary make-do because budgets are constrained?

Well, Rob, I think that online learning is certainly part of the future and I think it’s here to stay regardless
of budgets, because I think it serves a very important need that live training can’t, because it’s not
immediately accessible and accessible 24/7. That said, there is no real replacement for live training. Live training
offers interpersonal contact, opportunities to network, opportunities to talk with one another about what you’re
learning throughout the day, throughout the week. So I certainly hope that live training is very much a part of the
future, along with the opportunities and benefits that online learning offers.

are some certain benefits to having training online. It’s convenient, it’s self-paced. When people don’t
have a lot of time, they can actually consume potions of the content during a lunch break and then restart at any
time that they have some additional time. But we don’t think that this actually replaces live, in-person training.

ROB WOLF: So this is a national system that anyone in the country can access, but presumably every jurisdiction
has unique needs, unique resources, so I wonder how people can take advantage of what the system has to offer, but
also perhaps adapt it to their local circumstance.

VALERIE RAINE: First of all, in the virtual
site visits we did tours of urban courts, rural courts, a suburban court that’s a DWI court, so that when people
tour a court, they’re not saying oh, well that doesn’t apply to us because we’re rural. The other
area where we’ve tried to address different needs is, for instance, in the actual presentations. So methamphetamine
is not an issue for eastern drug courts. It’s a huge issue for Midwest and Midwestern drug courts. So we have
a session on methamphetamine. That won’t be applicable or probably of much interest to the Manhattan treatment
court, but it will be of enormous interest to treatment courts in Arkansas. The third way is that teams may not need
to review the entire curriculum that we have offered on the online learning system. They may do some kind of self-assessment
or just realize themselves that there are shortcomings in various pieces of their program. They might realize, oh
they’re getting a lot of false positives on their drug tests, the protocols don’t seem to be being followed,
you know, we need to sit down as a team and look at the drug testing module and make sure that we’re actually
following the sort of industry standards when it comes to that. So it can be a—and that could be the same for a session
on cultural competency or team members—a whole bunch of new team members come on and they don’t really seem
to get the concept of addiction as a disease. We need to go look at Steve Hanson talk about the psychopharmacology
of addiction, the affect on the brain, and what it actually does to the body.

ROB WOLF: And if
people are doing this and they have questions?

DENNIS RILEY: Not only is there technical support,
but there’s also a content helpline which goes to our desks so we can either identify an answer to a particularly
difficult question, or reach out to that expert who gave the presentation to get the answers for people.

ROB WOLF: How many drug courts are out there now?

DENNIS RILEY: Well, there’s over
2,700 drug courts across the United States, and typically when I go speak at the National Association of Drug Court
Professionals Conference and ask people how long they’ve been sitting in their drug court, half of the attendees
will often raise their hand and say they’re new to the drug court team. This is our response to that issue.

ROB WOLF: I know how hard you guys have worked on this system. It looks great, it’s amazing, it’s
got so much going on so I hope people do take advantage of it, and do visit I’ve been
speaking with Valerie Raine, director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. Thank you, Valerie.

VALERIE RAINE: Thank you Rob, for this opportunity.

ROB WOLF: And I’ve also been
speaking with Dennis Riley, the deputy director of Drug Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.

DENNIS RILEY: Thanks, Rob. We look forward to this new future of training.

I’m Rob Wolf, director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. To listen to other podcasts you
can visit our website at, and you can also listen to our New Thinking podcasts on iTunes.