Many of Jim Kerr’s Cisco students at Chaffey College are adult learners who are balancing their studies with full-time jobs and family commitments. Because school competes for attention with so many other things, he is always on the lookout for opportunities to engage them and ensure that the classes are about more than just earning a certification.
Kerr holds most of his classes in the evenings and offers flexible scheduling across sections. For example, if a student enrolled in a Tuesday evening section can’t make it to class that night, they can come to the Wednesday evening section.
He also tries to make the most of his students’ busy schedules by making his lectures as efficient as possible.
“I do a lot of lectures where I summarize things within an hour and give them a lot of study guides,” Kerr said. “We use the curriculum from the Cisco Academy and have access to one of the best labs in the country.”
Kerr utilizes guest speakers from industry partners like Kaiser Permanente and Southern California Edison to supplement what he covers in lectures. He also offers specialty classes in healthcare IT and VOIP technology that are specifically related to industry needs in the area.
Many of Kerr’s students are in lower-level IT jobs and hoping to move up the ladder once they receive their Cisco certification. Hearing from people who’ve done that provides the inspiration they need to keep going and apply for the jobs that Kerr posts on Moodle and Cisco’s NetSpace.
He recalled one student in particular who went from working at McDonald’s to working for the NSA after obtaining a scholarship to attend Stanford.
“I see a lot of students who have changed their lives,” Kerr said. “They come in the first semester and don’t know what they to do or what they like, but they get on the path and take off from there.”