Text: Minna Metsäportti and Kirsi Saarinen
Since autumn 2016 engineering students and health care students have been provided with an alternative way to accomplish their compulsory professional English courses (Technical English for Professionals and Professional English for Nurses). Fast Track English is a Tabula-based web course where students from the fields of engineering and health care study collaboratively. The course attracts students with solid command of English, and a desire to study at an accelerated pace. Those interested in participating in Fast Track are required to send in written applications presenting their backgrounds as users and learners of English.
The five-week Fast Track is wrapped up with final projects designed and presented by multi-professional small groups. Work Safety in Various Working Environments, Healthy Building, Robot Assisted Surgery, and Virtual Reality in Health Care are examples of final projects that the cooperation with students from fields other than one’s own has generated. When contributing to the project, a student utilises and applies the perspective of one’s own special field, alongside with being exposed to a completely new professional field.
The guiding principles of Fast Track are self-directed studying, collaboration, and reflection. Students choose study material by themselves (e.g., educational video clips and scientific articles), and process them in a variety of ways on a shared platform. Self- and peer assessment, as well as mutual feedback are an integral element of the study process. Communication is open – both the contributions submitted and the feedback provided are visible to the entire group.
Among the most significant goals of the course is to practise and reflect upon Successful Professional Communication; what is characteristic of the concept, and how does one communicate successfully as a professional. It can be said without hesitation that the students of the previous two Fast Track courses have indeed succeeded in achieving this goal.
As of the second week of September, the third set of Fast Trackers are studying together again. The added bonus this autumn is the anticipation of cultural exposure thanks to a number of international exchange students whom we were glad to welcome to the course this time.