“A lot of people refer to adult ed as a second chance,” observes Kathryn Hardman. “But I think for an awful lot of our students, it’s their first chance.”
A 30-year veteran of adult education, Hardman, who recently served as the director of Laurel County’s Adult Education Center, gets emotional when discussing the challenges faced by students — and the work they put in to better themselves by studying for and passing the GED® exam.
“What brings them in?” asks Hardman. “Children they want to set a good example for or an opportunity they don’t want to miss out on. And also, they’ve always felt deficient, or ‘less than.’ They want that validation.”
Each student who enters the London center is immediately given an account with FastForward, KET’s online GED preperation learning system. In addition to several other benefits, it offers students anytime access to study materials on a desktop computer or smartphone.
“FastForward offers a lot of flexibility, and we use it for all four subject areas [of the test,]” said Hardman. “Our students have very fractured lives: their responsibilities, their transportation, so many things. FastForward has that 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week availability.”
Such flexibility is beneficial to students and staff, she notes. With it, students can learn at their own pace, often in different subjects simultaneously, while teachers are available to help individuals when the need occurs — a situation impossible in a traditional classroom environment.
“We want to serve the community, and we give our students every possible tool that we can come up with,” Hardman says. KET’s FastForward is also available to those incarcerated in the Laurel County detention facility. “It gives them something positive to do while they are serving their time,” Hardman said.
“And they’ll have more opportunities when they get out. They can show that they’ve got capabilities — and there’s pride in accomplishment. We’ve had a couple graduations at the jail — and for some, it might be the first positive thing they’ve gone through.”
An important instructional element of FastForward, Hardman says, is that it’s offered online and students must use it on the computer. Therefore, they learn with the same elements that they’ll face on the GED test, which is administered online.
“We want them to be really comfortable with the technology,” Hardman said. “Anything that models that test and that testing environment helps them. Our students have testing anxiety, which is real — and anything you can do to make things more familiar and more comfortable, you’re increasing their chances to succeed.”
Current center director Tina Cook agrees. “It gives them deeper layers of preparation. Our mission is to be accessible to everyone, to make connections and forge relationships with those we serve and guide them.
“Sometimes we’re the only people who support our students,” she continued. “Access to materials like FastForward is the number one game-changer. If they’re not here in the center, then they always have FastForward and access to high-quality material.”