College uses online learning to guide student career prep

Online learning may be a way to engage students after graduation, says the president emerita of Kenyon College

Only about half of students attending four-year colleges believe their major will lead to a good job, according to a recent survey by Strada and Gallup. And only a third believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary for success in the workplace.

These sentiments are common among liberal arts students, who often hear the question: "What are you going to do with a degree in that?"

In response, Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of Wesleyan University's Gorden Career Center, launched a "philosophical exploration of career development" MOOC in partnership with Coursera. The course, titled Career Decisions: From Insight to Impact, is meant to help guide students and recent grads who are confused about what kind of work to pursue after graduation or who are dissatisfied with their early jobs, writes Mark Lieberman for Inside Higher Ed.

"I see the biggest need for the content for those within 10 years out, those who may be unhappy with their first jobs or careers," says Castonguay. The course encourages students and young professionals to practice mindfulness when thinking about their career trajectories and to consider what constitutes meaningful work for them, Lieberman writes. Central to the course is taking the "time to do introspection, the self-analysis necessary to make intentional decisions," explains Castonguay.

The course culminates in a final project: a "mind map" or reflection paper. Castonguay says that students thus far have elected to write a reflection paper, and that because the course is ungraded, students get "very deep, very reflective, very personal."

The course is also free for Wesleyan students, Lieberman reports. Students outside the institution can take the full course for $49 to receive a credential or take a free, but abbreviated, version of the course.

After an initial pilot, the course opened to all Wesleyan students in July 2018. Of the 800 first-year students who were offered the course, 300 enrolled, about 150 have engaged with the materials, and 19 have completed the course.

In addition to those, about half of the non-Wesleyan learners who signed up for the course also completed it. The course has received positive feedback from these online learners and boasts an average rating of 4.92 stars on Coursera.

Georgia Nugent, president emerita of Kenyon College, praises the effort to continue serving students after graduation. "If you go to a great college, that should always be a resource for you throughout your life," she says. If you’re thinking about launching a similar course, she recommends making it as interactive and personal as possible. “Especially because this is about personal development and individual learning about one’s own identity,” she says (Lieberman, Inside Higher Ed, 10/17).

How to close the gap between aspiration and achievement after graduation


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