Thursday, March 1, 2012

Have you Considered Fast-Track Programs?

Vol State Fast-Track programs have some important differences from regular courses: a defined group of students taking classes together, extra academic support, ease in registration and of course, as the name implies, they’re quicker than the usual programs. The number of Fast-Track programs at the College has increased in the last year.  Currently, they’re offered in Criminal Justice, Logistics, Office Management Technology and Early-Childhood Education. Students say that while the speed in completion is what initially attracted them, the other characteristics are important to them as well.

“You form a camaraderie with the other people in class,” said student Beth Eaton. “If you have questions or you don’t understand something, the other people in class can help. It’s comforting when you’re sitting in a classroom and you see familiar faces from other classes.”

“I’m very shy and it takes me a bit to get used to people,” said student Mariah Means. “Here I have to participate in activities and that helps.”

Penny Duncan teaches Early-Childhood Education Fast-Track groups. “I have seen a greater degree of participation. With the four hour-long class. We do two to three group activities each class.”

The Early-Childhood classes are hybrid, with part of the work done in class and part online. Each Fast-Track program is a bit different in design and delivery. The common theme is an environment of extra support. Students sign an agreement at the start to make sure they understand what is expected of them. The condensed nature of the courses makes them quite intense and students can’t afford to fall behind. The cohort model helps to keep students engaged.

“The support from each other is huge,” Duncan said. “They’re going through the five weeks together. If they don’t see someone in class they ask about them and even call them.”

Kristi Huffine is the new Fast-Track coordinator at Vol State, helping to organize and promote all of the programs.

“I’m hoping to grow it. I’m hoping to make it more accessible to students who want a faster pace, so they can get out into the workforce.”

Fast-Track programs are not for everyone. The fast pace means students have to be ready to do the work.

“Dedicated, highly motivated and energetic- all of those would be important characteristics for students to work at that pace,” said Huffine. “The speed of the coursework can be intense.”

The certificate programs can lead directly into associate degree programs, giving students a clear path forward. Criminal Justice Fast-Track has a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all-day format, which instructors say lends itself to “out of the box” teaching.

“They have the same class all day,” said James Brown. “I can delve into things and do discussions that can run over an hour. And I can take the students off-campus to do things.”

Those trips include visits to the Metro Nashville Police training facility and then an afternoon trip to the Emergency Communications Center.

Brown provides another example of why the extra time is so important to his classes. In the Legal Procedures class the students watch the movie “Helter Skelter” which covers the Manson family murder investigation and trial. Brown divides the class into half prosecutors and the other half defense attorneys. He gives them mock evidence from the Manson case and holds an evidentiary hearing.

“It’s a lot of fun. You couldn’t do that in an hour-long class. It forces me, as an instructor, to go way outside the traditional lecture format.”

For more information about Vol State Fast-Track programs visit the web page at or call Kristi Huffine at 230-2974.

Volunteer State Community College Fast Track

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