Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Move Towards Fast Forward

 by Chloe West       
        Trident Technical College’s mission has always been to help as many students succeed as possible. They’ve made many changes over the years in order to escalate student success and are now on the brink of another one. Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Pat Robertson, is very excited to introduce their newest project, the move towards Fast Forward.
         For those of you that have never taken/heard of the Fast Forward classes that Trident offers, they are condensed seven-week classes offered twice every semester. Most students are accustomed to the lengthy 14-week semesters, but are not aware that these classes hold the lowest success rate of all lengths. When taking a look at the statistics, faculty was astonished to see how much higher the success rate was in the seven-week Fast Forward format.

        “Once you see that, you can’t not do something,” David Hansen, Director of Public Information explained, and the idea for shorter semesters began rolling. And not only was the success rate higher, the course evaluations showed that student satisfaction in the course was also higher.
         The move to all—or mostly—Fast Forward won’t be taking effect until Fall of 2014, but Trident has already started adding more Fast Forward sections. In fact, all Math 101 Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes have been changed to Fast Forward. Don’t be confused by the name “Fast Forward,” though, as Dr. Robertson has assured that these classes are by no means “accelerated.” It is merely the same amount of class time in a shorter time period. Discussions for a name change are in order and even something as simple as “Fall 1/Fall 2” and “Spring 1/Spring 2” is being considered.
         Although this change is driven by the motive to help students to do better in their classes, there have been many concerns and reservations towards such a drastic movement. First, would these Fast Forward classes still transfer? Since most of Trident’s students move on to four-year universities, this of course is very important. But the answer is yes; the courses would not be looked at any differently, and would look exactly the same on a transcript.
        Second, financial aid was a huge concern. Would outside loans and grants and Veteran’s Assistance still cover semesters that are split in two? Dr. Robertson answered that financial aid may be dispersed differently, but the college is not going to do anything that is going to jeopardize a student’s financial ability to go to school.
        One thing that the school is hoping will be beneficial for students is the ability to “double up” if there are multiple prerequisites they need in order to start their actual college coursework. Cathy Almquist, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, explains that many students arrive at the college and have to begin their math classes with Math 032. If students that placed in Math 032 want to study Engineering Technology, they have to get through Math 032, Math 101, Math 102, and Math 110 before they can even begin their engineering coursework. That’s two years of coursework they have to go through, which Almquist says in the Fast Forward format, they could get done in one year.
        As I said before, not every class will be able to be turned into a Fast Forward class. Clinicals and classes that cannot condense will remain full-length. Seven AM classes may also stay full-length to accommodate full-time workers because they take up a large part of Trident’s student body. Although Trident is trying to help its student succeed, they do not want to cause difficulty for someone trying to go back to school.
        The nursing and automotive programs have already changed to the Fast Forward format and have so far been very successful. There are more sections offered in Fast Forward this coming Spring semester, so if you are going to be a student at Trident in Fall of 2014, you may want to give one of these classes a try.
        Dr. Robertson explained that this change has been discussed at student cabinet meetings and was welcomed. Focus groups and a potential survey are also in the works. There have been many arguments against this move towards Fast Forward, but there are also many benefits. As a college, Trident wants to ensure that its students are getting the best education possible, and Fast Forward classes seem to improve teacher/student relationships. As a student at Trident Technical College, do you feel like the transfer to more condensed classes is a good thing, or do you disagree with it?


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