SJU Distance Learning Center Awarded $795K in Federal Funds

Grant will aid in development of port security simulation

Thursday, April 2, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (April 2, 2009)-- It’s one thing to sit in class or read from an instruction manual, and quite another to actually apply that knowledge. This is especially true for the millions of Americans serving on our many emergency response teams.  Saint Joseph’s University’s Early Responders Distance Learning Center (ERDLC) understands that distinction and has worked closely with the federal government on a number of projects aimed at providing state-of-the-art and accredited training for the nation’s emergency response personnel. Most recently, the ERDLC was awarded $795,000 from the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG), a national interagency program for counter-terrorism, to bring port security to the virtual world through a simulated learning environment.

Users of the simulation will approach it in much the same way as they would a video game, in first person as characters, driving the unfolding scenario.  For example, users will explore a simulated port environment, encounter suspicious persons, engage them in a line of questioning, determine their level of risk and either apprehend the individuals or send them on their way. A built-in scoring system will track each decision point in the game and determine the user’s level of success.

“Simulated learning environments allow users to replicate real world scenarios without the real world consequences,” said Paul DeVito, Ph.D., executive director of ERDLC and SJU associate provost. “Additionally, they allow users to experience situations that would otherwise be too costly, too risky, or nearly impossible to achieve in a real world environment.”

Users of the simulation will run the gamut from military, security and law enforcement personnel to the general emergency response community. According to Brian McCauley, senior director of business operations and development for ERDLC, it’s important to make the training accessible to these many layers.

“Our current security environment assumes that all U.S. forces are vulnerable to attack,” he explained. “In the event of a real emergency, personnel within and outside the port industry will need to respond. It’s imperative that we take a cross-agency approach.”

The ERDLC creates and administers accredited web-based training for the emergency response community on preparing for weapons of mass destruction and terrorist incidents with a specialized focus on psychological consequences. In the past five years, ERDLC has developed online courses that focus on port security, food security and combating agro-terrorism.

Media Contact

Kelly Welsh, Senior Associate Director of University Communications, 610-660-1385,

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