CST Environment Handout--The CST Guidelines

Mission: To train students for employment as entry-level PC and Network technicians, and to enhance the skills of those already employed in the field.

Vision: To provide flexible, accessible, relevant learning.

Philosophy: As adult learners, we believe our students want responsibility and control.  We believe our role as instructors is to assist you in achieving your career goals by providing you with a path of knowledge and skills, combined with a positive attitude, that will lead to habits that will make you successful.

Program Format: The CST program is a one-year (two-years for part-time), technical diploma program, with two short-term certificates also achievable.  The program format is self-paced using Internet, textbook, hands-on lab and assessment, and instructor interaction as the primary learning components.  

There are no group lectures in this program.  After the first day, people are at many different points in the curriculum.  You need only worry about yourself and how you are doing.  After a few days, we believe you will like this format; if not, or if you find that this program is not what you thought it would be, please see the instructor.  We would rather have you be happy somewhere at BTC than unhappy in CST.

There is a lot of homework in this program, especially reading.  Our suggestion is that you do your reading outside of class if possible.  When in class, you should be working on hands-on work and--very important!--you should be working with your instructor to clarify anything that you need to.  Sometimes you can re-read something ten times and not get it, but ten seconds with your instructor will make it crystal clear.  Please do not hesitate to ask for help.

Keep in mind that we want you to get used to encountering new, ever-changing material.  Sometimes you may have to answer a question that is not found in your reading.  What will you do?  Where will you go to find the answer you need?  We like you to encounter these real-world situations where the answer is not always handed to you, where you have to do some sleuthing to get the solution to your problem.  When you leave our classroom, we want you to be ready to work, not afraid of what you're getting yourself into.

Program Outcome:  The goal of the CST program is to make you a successful entry-level PC or network technician.  If you complete the entire program, you should also be able to successfully pass two industry-standard certification exams, the A+ and Network+ exams.  Passing these exams will make you even more employable.  Please remember, though, that this program is just the first step in an IT career; lifelong learning is crucial to continued success.

Sections: There are three sections of the CST program:  
--Daytime runs from 9:30am-11:50am, and 1:00pm-3:25pm M-F and the instructor is Ed Scoville.  
--Evening runs from 6-9:50pm Tuesday and Thursday, and the instructor is Jeff Ryan.
--Monroe runs from 2-6:50pm Monday and Wednesday, and the instructor is Josh Montgomery.

Note that you are only guaranteed seating and bench space during the section for which you are registered; please consult with the section instructor if you wish to attend a section other than the one you registered for.

Attendance: While the program is a self-paced program, you are still expected to finish in one year (two years for part-time night students).  Attendance is the key to completing your coursework on time.  You must also maintain a steady work pace; if you complete no Assessment Tasks (tests) within any two week period, the instructor may drop you from the program.

Note that for each hour you are in class, you are allowed a 10 minute break.  So, for the full-time sections and Monroe, you have 40 minutes of break time available each day.  You may use this how you wish to.  Night students are allotted a 30 minute break, again to be utilized when you choose to.

Terminology: The CST program is based on a performance-based learning model.  As such, you will know exactly what you must learn, how you will learn it, how you will be tested, and how you will be graded.  There are no secrets or surprise questions (or at least there should not be...).  However, we do use some terminology that can be confusing.  Key terms are:

    To elaborate, a Learning Plan is a section, or module, of a course. 

    A Learning Plan covers a specific skill, called a Competency

    The LP will give you an overview of the section, tell you what the major skill (Competency) is, and tell you what you should do to master the Competency, such as read a book, visit a website, or meet with the instructor; these steps are called Learning Activities

    Every Learning Plan will have a Practice Project, which is an assignment that you will complete and turn in for your instructor to grade and provide feedback on.  The purpose of the Practice Project is learning.

    When you have completed all Learning Activities, then you check the Criteria, which tell you exactly what you should know or what skills you should have to achieve the Competency. 

    The proof that you have achieved the Competency and met the Criteria is shown in the Assessment Task, which is a fancy term for a Test.

    Quite often the Assessment Task will come in the form of Scenarios, which will involve a question that tries to provide a real world feel.

    So, in a nutshell, a Learning Plan provides Learning Activities (such as a Practice Project) that help you learn the Criteria, which in total, lead to the achievement of the Competency, which is measured in the Assessment Task (often with Scenarios).

Grading: Your grade comes from the following sources:

A 97-100%
A- 93-96%
B+ 89-92%
B 85-88%
B- 81-84%
C+ 77-80%
C 73-76%
C- 69-72%
D+ 65-68%
D 61-64%
D- 60%
F Under 60%

The Practice Projects and Assessment Tasks occur in every Learning Plan (so, anywhere from six to eight times a course).

The Capstone Exams occur at the end of each course and might cover any of the Criteria that was introduced in the course.

Test-Outs/Advanced Standing: In examining a course, you may decide that all of the material is a review for you.  Perhaps you have taken a course in a different program or at a different school that covers similar material.  In such a case, you may attempt a Test-Out.  As successful Test-Out gives you Advanced Standing--in other words, you get credit for the course without having to actually take the course (if you have transfer credit, you may not have to re-pay for the class.  If you do not have transfer credit, you must still pay for the credits even if you successfully test-out).  In order to successfully complete a Test-Out, you must receive an A or A- grade on the Capstone Exam for that course.

Required Materials: Tools and books are required, as specified on the CST website.

Website: Speaking of the website, the CST program has its own website.  The URL, or address, of this website is http://instruction.blackhawk.edu/blee We use this site to house on-line course materials, provide links to other useful websites, provide addresses of other students, and several other functions.  You can access this website from anywhere you have Internet access: CST classroom, library, your home PC.   Check out the website and make note of the major sections on the site.

Lab space: We do not assign seats in the lab--first one to the seat gets the seat (accommodations excluded).  However, once you have your network cable installed, your seat is pretty well defined to a specific area.  Each student also gets a mailbox to get assignments back and a shelf to store his/her PC.  We recommend that you keep a locker for your books and tools.

Safety: This is a common sense thing.  We use sharp objects, electricity, and high-heat components.  As an adult, you should understand the inherent dangers of these items.  We will have a section on technician safety before you complete any hardware work, so most questions should be answered then.  Note that you are not required to wear safety glasses though sometimes you might wish to.  We will show you the fire exits and extinguishers during orientation.

ESD: ESD stands for "Electro-Static Discharge" and while it is not harmful to you, it can be very harmful to PC equipment.  When static moves from your body to a PC component, that component may fail immediately, next week, or in a few months.  But the damage done is not visible and so some students forget about ESD precautions.  Do not make this mistake!  The CST instructors try to be vigilant about ESD protection, so keep your ESD strap on your wrist whenever you have the PC opened up.

Food and Drink: We do not generally approve of food in the lab.  Drinks are OK so long as they are in spill-proof containers.

Games, Music and Chats: Increasingly, students in IT fields like to multitask--read, play a game, use internet chat rooms or instant messengers, listen to music.  It is fine to do all of these things in moderation.  However, we have had many students who end up failing classes because they cannot control themselves and end up gaming or chatting the five hours a day in CST away.  We are not your parents, but if we see you are starting to fall behind, we will get on your case.  Games other than those installed as part of the Windows OS (e.g., Solitaire, FreeCell, etc.) are not allowed unless you have specific approval from your instructor.  You will get one warning if you are caught; after that, further violations will result in F grades.  In the case of music, you must use headphones.

Downloads: Some students like to download music and programs to the CST PCs.  It is your responsibility to make sure you are doing this legally.  BTC and CST hold no responsibility for any illegal actions you may take.

Citing Resources:  It is imperative that you cite your resources when using quotes or pieces from all printed and non-printed material.  This is a requirement for all work.  A great source of help for this is the Son of Citation Machine.  It is located here.  Please make sure to use the APA format.  Also, talk to your instructor if you have any questions on how this should look within your work.

Change: To succeed in this program and field, you must accept change as a way of life.  The IT field changes quickly; an institution like BTC changes slowly.  Change is a constant in both arenas.  Embracing change will aid you greatly and will lower your stress level in the classroom and after you graduate.

You Can Succeed: We have heard every excuse for why someone cannot succeed in this program, and we have seen students overcome obstacles that many would not have thought possible on their way to a successful CST career.  We believe in you and we need you to believe in yourself.  You can succeed--believe it.