Fast Path Initiative

Overview

I am currently leading efforts on the Fast Path initiative, a cohort-based guided pathway to the Associate in Arts degree.

Fast Path is blended learning program built around a streamlined general education curriculum (12 courses) and a core of pre-selected electives (7 courses). In addition, students complete an Orientation course as well as a Capstone project. Students enroll in two courses at time in eight-week sessions, attending classes just two days a week for three hours. Textbooks and a laptop computer are bundled into the costs of the program, and students receive extensive academic and technical support from dedicated faculty mentors who serve as advisors, advocates, and tutors throughout the experience. Their faculty mentors also supervise their capstone projects.

Project Scope

The initial idea for Fast Path grew out of a recognition that students at our South Extension Site were not completing degrees due to both a lack of consistent course offerings and scheduling challenges. As we began to explore the feasibility of developing a cohort-based guided pathway, the vision of the project expanded to include cohorts on our main campus as well.

As Project Lead, I’ve worked closely with my colleagues and stakeholders from advising, the registrar’s office, IT, marketing, finance, institutional research, Faculty Association leadership, as well as staff from our Teaching and Learning Center and Online Leadership Committee. These efforts have led to several additional innovations at the college. Indeed, our approach has been to look at this pilot as an opportunity to try out a range of new ideas and approaches.

For example, our marketing team has used Fast Path as an opportunity to test and implement geofencing as part of its broader strategy of updating the college’s social media outreach efforts. Similarly, our student services team is using Fast Path to test the capabilities of KCC’s Student Planning Module, including curriculum mapping and automated registration.

Fast Path is currently enrolling students for Fall 2018 with the goal of running two cohorts of 20 students each at our South Extension and Riverfront campuses.

Outcomes

One of the biggest impacts of this project has been that faculty and administrators have come to agreement about the need to simplify our transfer-level curriculum around what we now call our General Education Core. Guided by our motto, “Start Here, Finish Anywhere!” for many years KCC expanded its curricular offerings in an attempt to provide students an increasingly diverse range of courses they could use to transfer into nearly every conceivable program. But this attempt to maximize the options available to students resulted in a confusing array of courses, as well as competition among faculty seeking to attract a shrinking student population into increasingly specialized “elective” courses.

Less is More

As a guided pathway program, Fast Path has required faculty to come to consensus about our core curriculum–those courses we believe to be most critical to the intellectual, ethical, and cultural development of our students. Thus, rather than 17 different courses that could potentially satisfy our Humanities General Education requirement, we have reduced that number to three: Art Appreciation, Introduction to Philosophy, and Introduction to Humanities. Similarly, rather than 12 different options for satisfying our Social Sciences requirement, we have reduced the number to three: Sociology, Introduction to Psychology, and American Government.

While these efforts were initially focused on creating a streamlined curriculum for Fast Path, we are already applying this same framework to the broader schedule.

Another impact of the Fast Path initiative is that faculty have embraced blended learning/hybrid courses. To that end, we have ramped up our pedagogical training and support efforts around hybrid courses, including creating a formal training option for faculty (the Hybrid Course Development Group), as well as peer-to-peer mentoring and support with the Humanities and Social Sciences division. We have also expanded the number of hybrid courses offered within our traditional course schedule for Fall 2018, including tripling the number of hybrid courses we offer at night.