Evaluating FOCUS-2's Effectiveness in Enhancing First-Year College Students' Social Cognitive Career Development

Article excerpt

This study examined the effectiveness of the computer-assisted career guidance system, FOCUS-2, on 1st-year college students' social cognitive career development. Specifically, the authors assessed career decision self-efficacy (CDSE) and assessment of attributions for career decision making (AACDM) using repeated measures analyses of variance with a sample of 1st-year college students (N = 420). Effectiveness was measured as a change in participants' CDSE and AACDM scores from pretest to posttest. Results demonstrated that participants' interaction with FOCUS-2 was associated with increases in participants' CDSE and alteration to a less optimistic style for AACDM. Gender, race, academic major status, and the amount of time using FOCUS-2 were also considered. Implications for practice are explored.

Keywords: FOCUS, computer-assisted career guidance system, social cognitive career

Career services at colleges and universities generally encompass individual and group career counseling, career workshops, and the administration and interpretation of various career-related assessments. Because traditional-age college students are increasingly oriented toward using computers and the Internet as tools for research, recreation, and decision making (Robinson, Meyer, Prince, McLean, & Low, 2000), it is prudent that academic institutions and university career centers offer services congruent with their students1 lifestyles and practices. Evaluating the effectiveness of vocational resources that use technology and are accessible online is not only critical in ensuring effective transmission of well-founded career resources to college students but is also an ethical duty of counselors and psychologists (Davidson, 2001).

Compii fer- Assisted Career Guidance Systems

Within the past 40 years, computer- assisted career guidance (CACG) systems have supported career counselors and university career centers providing high-tech career guidance to interested clients. A meta-analysis of career intervention research by Whiston, Sexton, and Lasoff(1998) revealed that CACG systems are cost-effective interventions. However, a meta-analysis by Whiston, Brecheisen, and Stephens (2003) highlighted how completely self-directed interventions were not nearly as effective as other types of career interventions (e.g., individual, group career counseling). Specifically, Whiston and colleagues found that it was not until a counselor was involved in part of the process that there were better outcomes in comparison with self-directed interventions (including CACG systems). Nevertheless, CACG systems have served consumers since the 1960s ( Harris- Bowlsbey & Sampson, 2001; Watts, 1993) and continue to be an important area of focus for vocational research and career development.

CACG systems are always evolving because of theoretical and technological advances, changing consumer needs, and market competition (Sampson et al., 1990). CACG system users can autonomously engage in tasks designed for career- related self-discovery and exploration at their own time, location, and pace. Other advantages of CACG systems include a centralized location for career information (Davidson, 2001) and an interactive, visually pleasing career-planning experience (Robinson et al., 2000).

Previous limitations identified within the existing CACG system literature include (a) a focus on user satisfaction over career- related gains; (b) failure to examine potential differential effects of CACG systems associated with gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status; and (c) reliance on small, convenient samples (Fowkes & McWhirter, 2007). Hinkelman and Luzzo (1997) urged researchers to gather more diverse samples and consider important multicultural variables (e.g., gender, race). Another glaring omission from the existing CACG system literature is an examination of how the amount of time spent using a system affects the user (Cairo, 1983). In Taber and Luzzo's (1999) review of one CACG system (i. …