Friday, February 15, 2019

A decade later, still going strong

About a decade ago, Photoshop officially became a verb in Los Angeles and I began my quest for the tool or tools that would replace my old friend. I stumbled upon a small Italian company with an amazing product - Amped SRL and it's flagship product, FIVE. I was instantly a fan. Becoming a customer was a bit more problematic as I wasn't officially a "forensic analyst" yet. As a surveillance / counter-surveillance operator, I used the fact that FIVE could connect to a Milestone Client (my Axis pole cameras) and do all those wonderful "Photoshoppy" things to the live feed. Thus, I pitched my original purchase request noting that FIVE was an ISR tool needed to add capabilities to our night-time surveillance operations.

I finally received a license, getting quite creative in the acquisition process, and began to sort out training. There was no way that my agency would send me to Italy and it was too cost prohibitive to bring an Italian instructor to Los Angeles. Luckily, the North American reseller of Amped's products was about a half-day's drive from LA. I booked a "training session" and headed down the highway.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a friendly face and an outstretched arm that was holding a rather tasty local brew. We discussed the filters, in no particular order. We discussed use cases, in no particular order. That I had existing expertise in photography and imaging helped me to make sense and contextualize the information. But, it wasn't "training" as I recognized it or as CA POST defined it.

I made my host an offer. I'm a trained and educated curriculum / instructional designer. I'm a CA POST certified instructor. I'll design / create / deliver a curriculum for multi-media analysis, based on Amped FIVE, and deliver it to your customers under contract. Given that I often earned about half-again my income as "comp time " (aka furloughed-in-place), and that I had to use that "comp time" rather frequently, I worked out that I could deliver a training session somewhere in North America about once per month. Agreement was reached and the relationship with Amped Software, Inc. began.

Fast forward to today. I've been all over the US as a contract instructor. I've been to Canada. I've trained agents of more than 50 countries who wanted to come to the US for their training. I've spent an amazing 3 weeks in South Africa working with their police service in modernizing their offerings. A little more than 3 years ago, I retired from the LAPD and joined the staff of Amped Software, Inc, as the Director of Support / Training.

The curriculum that was developed for the North American market is fit for purpose in this market. It's not necessarily applicable for other markets around the world, although there are many similarities. I have found that the modifications made, and the specific curriculum variant created for the US military courts easily accommodates countries with a Magistrate system of jurisprudence. When teaching courses with non-US students, I make every effort to contextualize the offerings to their context.

Whilst the rest of the world moves at a slower pace, the North American market changes quite a bit year-over-year. You might of heard that Amped decided to not continue with Axon as a reseller of it's products in this market last year. What you might not know is how the changes in the latest tax laws (federal and state) have caused significant impact to the market.

To respond to the changes in tax / business law, as well as in response to the economic / market demands, I've made the decision to expand training offerings to the on-line space via a micro-learning model as a separate business entity. Being the rights-holder of my curriculum's IP, I'm able to be flexible in where / how the curriculum is presented.

The Apex Learning portal was launched shortly after the first of this year on the LearnUpon LMS. You can find out more by clicking here. All of the training that I've presented live will eventually be offered on-line via a micro-learning model. The first course is already released - Statistics for Forensic Analysts.

If you're a long-time LEVA member, like me, you might recall my mentioning a "curriculum in a box concept." The "curriculum in box" is an "undergraduate education" in digital multimedia analysis. This will eventually be fully implemented in the Apex Learning portal. The first of these classes, the aforementioned Stats class, is already live. More courses will be released soon. Next up, however, will be a redaction class that is a response to the new laws in California - but applicable to any agency faced with redacting DME under tight budgetary and time constraints.

As budgets tighten, and travel becomes a problem, migrating training and education to the virtual space, facilitated by the micro-learning model, is the logical next step. The cost savings of not having to travel to you, or for you to travel to me, is passed along in significantly lower registration costs. As an example, an undergraduate Stats class offered at Texas A&M University would cost a Texas resident about $1200 (source). This is the base rate for the class. There are also admission fees, the fees to take the pre-requisite courses, and the travel to / from College Station over the semester. Apex is offering the course at $595.

The generic university course in statistics is geared to the academic, interested in the world of objective statistics. This world is entirely different than the statistics that underpin the forensic sciences - subjective statistics. That is why, after a solid introduction, Statistics for Forensic Analysts explores the two types of statistics separately and fairly. This class is for consumers and producers of statistics within the forensic sciences - not for the quants who inhabit the university halls.

Future offerings will be priced in a similar fashion. We're able to pass the savings on to you, and we do.

It's also worth noting that the courses on offer are not "in competition" with the other classes available to analysts. As an example, the Stats class is entirely complimentary to the LEVA Levels courses and serves to further inform these information-dense offerings. The Forensic Photographic Comparison course that will arrive on the portal later this year will similarly serve as an incredible scientific foundation to LEVA's Level 3. There's no way a single vendor can offer everything that you need. We're offering courses not currently present in the market in order to support the community - not to replace offerings from your current vendors.

Finally, I'll be updating the Forensic Photoshop book and the Forensic Photoshop course and offering them via the portal. A complete refresh of the tools and plug-ins will be featured for those who are still using Photoshop. Remember, courses like LEVA Level 3 still feature Photoshop as their platform. If a student is new to Photoshop, they must learn the meat of the course and the platform at the same time. Revamping the Forensic Photoshop course will allow the LEVA student to arrive at that course with competency in the tool, assuring that they can be all-in on the instruction. For those privateers who can't afford expensive tools from government-oriented vendors, tools from companies like Adobe are still popular. DME-specific courses are needed and will be presented in the portal.

It's an exciting time here. I'm thankful that you've been with me for this amazing journey. The next few years will bring so much change to the market. Will you join with me in embracing change and upgrading your knowledge?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Training, training, and more training

With the new year comes new tax laws, new regulations, and new rules that require businesses and individuals to modify their path as they navigate the world of governmental compliance. It's no different here in stormy southern Nevada.

But, with change comes opportunity. 2019 brings change for the better, and more training offerings than ever before.

I've already announced the release of Statistics for Forensic Analysts. This is offered as micro-learning, on-line and on-demand and comes in response to initiatives at the federal and state level. Given that statistics form the foundation of much of opinion based testimony in the digital forensic sciences, as well as the other disciplines that offer photographic comparison evidence (latent print, tool mark, firearms, questioned documents, etc), this class is designed to provide the necessary instruction in statistics - specifically tailored for forensic science practitioners.

With redaction begin the focus of much of the US, as well as being the focus of a new set of laws in California, I've announced a redaction class specific for California agencies to help not only with mastering the technology ... but also navigating complex a legal context. This class comes in four versions, if you will. If you're an Amped Software customer, the hands-on learning will be facilitated with Amped FIVE (video) and Audacity (audio). If you're an Adobe customer, the hands-on learning will be facilitated with the Adobe Creative Suite. If you're a Magix customer, the hands-on learning will be facilitated with Vegas and Sound Forge. And, if you haven't decided on a solution, our general class will provide an overview of all of these solutions, giving you a sense of what may work best for you, your agency, and your legal context. Even if you're not in California, their strict regime's rules help to illustrate the many compliance issues you may not realize apply to you and your agency.

All of these redaction classes will be offered via micro-learning, maximizing your training dollars and offering significant savings over traveling to training. Partnering with LearnUpon for the LMS, these micro-learning sessions are available world-wide with local currency payment options via Square, PayPal, or TransferWise. They will also be offered in Henderson, NV. If you've got a big group, and you'd like a training session at your location, that can be arranged as well. In fact, all of the offerings going forward will be available this way - on-line, in Henderson, or at your location.

It's going to be an exciting year. I'm excited that technology has evolved such that it's becoming easier and more cost effective to offer flexible training options. So stay tuned, it's going to be a fun ride. New offerings will be rolling out each month. In the meantime, head over and sign up for Statistics for Forensic Analysts ...