Virtually every school is now using some form of online or digital platform as part of their careers guidance programme; and there is a growing expectation amongst students that at least part of their careers programme will be accessed digitally.
Last month marked five years since I took my first step in to the world of careers-focused edtech. In that time I’ve visited hundreds of schools and seen what works, as well as the barriers, when it comes to trying to use various online solutions to enhance the careers learning and development taking place.
Very little has ever been proven about the impact of digital technologies generally in careers guidance – mainly because research has tended to focus on user satisfaction rather than any longitudinal outcome measures (and barely any of this has involved young people under the age of 18). There is absolutely more to do to prove the value of digital technologies, not only for students but for everyone in the ecosystem: from the advisers to the recruiters.
So, whilst we leave others to get on with the research, I thought it might help to share some observations from the last five years in the form of a few simple rules for any careers leader looking to make the most of an online platform in their careers provision…
1. Don’t leave it to chance
The golden rule. If you do nothing else, make sure you find a solution that you can take control of and one that lets you know exactly how and when students are accessing it. If your solution doesn’t give you any kind of feedback as to what’s working (or even that it is being used) then it’s not adding any value.
2. Habitual not a ritual
Most platforms will have more functions and features than you’ll know what to do with but don’t be afraid to start small and focus on doing one thing well – it will create buy in from students and staff before you move on and introduce something new. Avoid the annual ritual of dusting off a solution to use one week each year and then packing it away again for 12 months. Make sure it’s seen and used regularly.
“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.” Horace Mann
If you can, also look for a solution that you can customise in some way so that it’s familiar to students and staff. If it can align with something that is already established and understood in school, it will instantly have a place and purpose.
3. Manage the de
You’re busy and resources
Various reports point at today’s students in schools and colleges being more capable and in favour of self-servicing their information needs than any generation before them. Key to any self-service operation is feedback i.e. an indication to the user that the system is responding and changing; that it’s not static. Self assessed activities or modules can be good for this: they provide a student with a feeling of progress and reduce the admin burden on staff.
If you’re following the first and golden rule, you’ll have access to some sort of insight data that shows you which students are making use of the platform and what they’re doing on it. This can be used to inform other parts of your provision, such as which students would benefit most from which activities or services. If you can extend the benefit of your platform to the personal guidance offered to students, you’ll add value to the process, and have a way to prioritise support for those that need it most.
About the author
Jon Arundel is a director at U-Explore – a careers guidance company and the creators of startprofile.com.