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Accelerated Programs for Adult Learners: Five Steps to Get Started

The EvoLLLution | Accelerated Programs for Adult Learners: Five Steps to Get Started
Launching accelerated programs requires leaders to work closely with their colleagues institution-wide and to consider the priorities of the wider university.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, adult learners aged 25 and over have grown by 34 percent in the last decade and will grow by another 20 percent this decade.

As educators, we know this to be true. We also know this student population has a range of different demands and expectations, and must be served differently. Offering accelerated programs is one way to serve this group of students in the manner they need while still upholding a quality degree for all students upon graduation.

You may be asking, “How can I start an accelerated program at my college?” There are a few common roadblocks that administrators will run into when they try to launch an accelerated program. Faculty will wonder how they can teach their curriculum in an accelerated format, and staff will wonder how they can serve students completing course work in something other than a semester program.

Below, you will find a list of five steps to help you get started and avoid these issues. It is imperative you begin this journey with enthusiasm and an ability to form community. You must also embed quality along each step of the process—no shortcuts!

1. Assemble Your Team

Build a team of faculty, staff and adult learners already working and studying at your institution. It is important to form community early. Faculty will be developing and assessing the curriculum. Staff will be guiding the changes in policies and procedures. Students will be the voice that keeps all the changes on task to better serve the learner. Students also provide another voice that administration will be thankful to hear.

2. Learn Best Practices

Connect with colleagues offering accelerated programs at other institutions. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. You need your energies to help direct change at your institution. Take advantage of what has already been discovered. This new group of peers will also provide you with invaluable information, especially when you hit a roadblock.

3. Create a Definition

Educate yourselves on how accelerated will be defined at your institution, and why it is important at your college or university. Accelerated is defined in multiple ways. You must define this early and use it as one of your guiding principles during development. You also need to create an elevator speech for accelerated programs at your college or university. The elevator speech must be supported by research.

4. Identify Your Subject Areas

Select up to four majors your college or university already does really well. If you are successfully delivering and assessing these programs, it will be much easier to transition them into a different delivery format. You do not want to be negotiating other challenges while transitioning in to accelerated.

5. Develop courses and go!

Now the pieces are in place, all you need to do is press the big red button and get started!

Although I’ve only identified five steps, there are several tasks within each phase. Keep that enthusiasm and remember to load up on resources. The EvoLLLution offers a variety of topics and authors who can be of assistance, The Council for Accelerated Programs (CAP) is an organization that has developed a set of quality standards necessary for all accelerated programs, and Dr. Raymond J. Wlodkowsky and Dr. Royce Ann Collins have both done research on accelerated programs and adult learners.