Santa Rosa County: A Study on AcceleTrain in Action

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Starting in Santa Rosa County

Located in Pensacola, FL, Santa Rosa County is ideally situated in what is known as the “Cyber Gulf Coast” for its proximity to major cybersecurity hubs. Alongside the U.S. Navy’s Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT) and regional offices for both the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the Department of Homeland Security, Pensacola is also home to a thriving student community left largely undeveloped in cyber education. With assets like the University of West Florida and eager local school districts, Santa Rosa County was a prime target for the expansion of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs in cybersecurity topics across the region. 

Locklin Technical College is the primary career education and training center in Santa Rosa County, making it the perfect organization to spearhead AcceleTrain’s launch in the school district. The GBSI AcceleTrain curriculum has been implemented in nearby Escambia County schools, and Locklin Tech found that this same curriculum allowed them to best serve both their adult and high school students with focused course content. Once tested, Locklin Tech brought the AcceleTrain curriculum to Santa Rosa County middle and high schools to be implemented for expanded cybersecurity education. 

Initial Success

Eighth-graders at Sims Middle School began the AcceleTrain curriculum in the 2019-2020 school year with the CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF) program. Because this learning model was designed to serve either experienced IT professionals or classroom teachers with no IT experience, Locklin Tech was able to use their own instructors to teach the AcceleTrain program at Sims Middle School. 

“We have used Acceletrain and the support of GBSI for 3 years. The excitement around our IT Academy at Sims Middle has grown year over year. We have needed to waitlist students during our enrollment process because of the growing demand,”explained Sims Middle School teacher, Miranda Cauldwell. “Since offering the class in 2019, we have seen 31 students earn certifications. We are confident that the number will grow each year with the support of our curriculum and resources through Acceletrain.

The IT Academy offering at Sims Middle School was welcomed with tremendous support from parents. Parents are excited their students can learn more about this growing digital and technology age, while having the opportunity to earn professional, nationally recognized certifications.

While many schools use GBSI materials and instructors to broadcast in the classroom, Locklin Tech found success with an in-person approach and built three additional learning spaces on campus to facilitate in-house learning with AcceleTrain. GBSI provided the school with a suite of classroom tools, alongside smaller-scale equipment for each studio space, including: 

  • Pan-Tilt-Zoom Camera
  • Wide-Angle Web Camera
  • Speaker & Microphone-Equipped Soundbar
  • Four 65” flat-screen HD TVs. 

These tools allowed Locklin Tech to better integrate AcceleTrain curriculum into Sims Middle School’s current setup for a hands-on learning experience. 

Expanding During Covid-19

The first year’s success prompted an extension of AcceleTrain into the Pace community in Santa Rosa County. The ITF program now included seventh-graders and above from Avalon Middle School and Pace High School. In the 2020 school year, the pandemic proved the AcceleTrain model’s adaptability as instructors and students were able to continue learning with GBSI’s remote content studios from the previous year. During this time, the program demonstrated its ability to maintain quality content production and delivery without sacrificing the safety of its participants. 

Breaking New Ground

The third year of expansion introduced AcceleTrain to four more schools throughout Santa Rosa County: Navarre High School, Jay High School, Milton High School, and King Middle School. These schools saw the addition of AcceleTrain Linux Essentials and Python programming courses for eighth-graders, neither of which had previously been available to middle or high school students. 

At Jay High School, GBSI infrastructure led to the development of additional CTE programs that could be shared across the school district. This allowed schools to invest in student interests and learning opportunities by using AcceleTrain content and broadcasting tools to share instructors and content across various schools and classrooms. Doing this enabled Santa Rosa County schools to offset teacher and course development costs for remote learning while maintaining their standard of education. 

The school district is currently considering GBSI AcceleTrain as a possible solution to the ongoing teacher shortage and the need for reliable remote learning infrastructure in Santa Rosa County schools. 

A Fundamental Change in Learning

The pandemic shifted how schools approach teaching and AcceleTrain adapted to the need for a more responsive hybrid model. While Zoom, Google Meet, and MS Teams are sufficient for traditional classroom topics, AcceleTrain caters to the unique needs of cybersecurity education and the essential structure and hands-on experience that cannot be found with traditional web conferencing platforms. 

The AcceleTrain program allows experts to connect with students through a combination of labs, interactive exercises, and real-time lectures to better engage with each class. This method foregoes the passive learning environment of typical remote learning platforms in favor of creating a contemporary and interactive learning environment. With GBSI technology, schools across Santa Rosa County have utilized a small selection of instructors to scale their reach and advance student learning achievements without trading safety or content quality. 

The Future of AcceleTrain

AcceleTrain has helped over 1,000 students across 26 schools develop stronger cybersecurity and IT skills through its expert instructors, wide variety of virtual tools, and broadcast-friendly content plans.

As its expansion into Santa Rosa County has shown, this program can bridge the gap between industry professionals, instructors, and students to develop and sustain cyber education programs. Using this model, schools can develop new programs and tools to raise the next bold generation of cybersecurity professionals. 

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