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H818 Conference Abstract

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Nicole Capon
24 January 2019

Presentation title: Offender learning: Riding the new digital wave

Presentation focus: How to utilise ‘in cell’ technology for offender learning

Presenter: Nicole Capon

Venue: Open University H818 Online Conference

Contact: Email:, Twitter:@nicolecapon10


Learning digital skills as an offender in prison, traditionally consists of class-based session with a tutor to support and monitor achievement. The sessions themselves were limited to skills about basic packages such as word-processing skills or simulation programmes that enable some interactive elements such as testing and pre-programmed feedback.   


Although there has been success working within these accepted limits, the digital world has moved on at an unprecedented pace. Recently released prisoners are dealing with having to adapt to life in a society dominated by rapid technological changes (Agrawal, 2016). For those offenders serving a long prison sentence, there would be no opportunity to learn now every skills such as using a touch screen, knowing how to find online information or sending a tweet. This lack of opportunity to learn new skills to support integration into the community, is seen in part to increase the risk of recidivism.


Enter ‘through the gates’ software programmes. Selected prisons - Wayland and Berwyn, are trailing ‘going digital’ with improved access to an intranet that is secure and safe to host selected apps and programmes. Virtual Campus, Socrates 360 software and MegaNexus are three such programmes that enable offenders in prisons or secure settings the ability to learn new digital skills as well as access to wider communication tools that support community interaction and engagement.


Through meta-analysis and software trials with offenders, this presentation will provide the background to my project to support other teachers in offender learning, to learn how one of the software programmes - Socrates 360 Software, can support learning in prisons and secure settings. I will discuss the short-term and longer-term benefits of the software; how open course development can improve the opportunities for learning for offenders and concerns around in-cell technology use.


The Governments' 'Transforming Rehabilitation' programme, lists education, training and employment as a key objective, yet 'no prisoners were helped to enter education' (Criminal Justice Joint Inspection, 2017).Providing offenders with the opportunity to access learning through technology in cells and the wider prison estate, provides opportunity for them to gain digital skills as well as other course specific skills, continue learning from a structured in prison class or learn independently and reduce isolation from long periods spent in their cells. Being able to use the software effectively can open a new digital world for offenders. One that is practical, engaging and inclusive.  


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Agrawal, M. 2019. Digital Prisons. 9th May. Berkeleyedu. [Online]. [23 January 2019]. Available from:


Criminal Justice Joint Inspection, (2017), An Inspection of Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Prisoners Serving 12 Months or More, Manchester, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, [Online]. [23 January 2019]. Available from:

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