Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Integrating Online Career-Development Skills in a Management Course: Findings of Increased Career Confidence and Adult Development

Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Integrating Online Career-Development Skills in a Management Course: Findings of Increased Career Confidence and Adult Development

Article excerpt


Debate about the benefit of a college education is stirring as the efficiency of higher education is increasingly challenged [Powell, Gilleland, & Pearson, 2012] in relation to rising tuition and graduates' employment trends [Abel & Deitz, 2014]. Many universities and colleges have begun to implement best practices for improving student learning, including clear learning goals and outcomes, increased student-faculty contact, active learning opportunities, and other strategies that have uncertain outcomes [Ehrenberg, 2012]. Some colleges of business, in particular, have focused on broader aspects of the traditional liberal arts education [Colby, Ehrlich, Sullivan, & Dolle, 2011], or on the soft skills and behavioral qualities implicit in "professionalism" [Clark, Amer, & Ng, 2014], in order to help graduates better appeal to the needs of employers.

Based on concerns that graduates' employability and placement was limited, in part, by low levels of career-preparation effort during their junior and senior years, this AACSB-accredited college of business developed and piloted an online course called Career Steps. Intended to engage juniors on career topics for about an hour per week during 15-week semesters and spur their utilization of collegeand university-based career resources, the course exposes students to a logical progression of topics intended to build awareness, confidence, and effectiveness in pursuing career opportunities during their senior years. (See Appendix 1 for a list of course modules.) Each week's module requires students to study a topic, usually including self-directed research, then develop personal reflections, engage with peers in online discussion boards, and successfully complete a quiz.

Bringing an online career-development curriculum to students' attention is hypothesized to raise their awareness about these important skills, may increase the likelihood of students seeking out more career-related resources, and may encourage students to seek out those learning and applied experiences that will bolster their career goals. For example, students who come to recognize that a resume needs to describe important work and volunteer activities may be more motivated to seek out such opportunities more proactively.

This paper first explains the purposes and development steps of the course, and then presents findings from a study of participants in the Career Steps course relative to a comparable control group. Results from pre- and post-course surveys from 65 student-participants show significantly larger gains in participants' familiarity and confidence with respect to several elements of career preparation, compared to control-group students. Additionally, psychological aspects of students' development were investigated, and empirical findings provide further evidence that Career Steps is effective at enhancing students' skills and intentions to apply themselves to career launching efforts. The paper concludes with considerations and insights relevant to faculty and administrators of colleges of business and other departments in universities seeking options for improving their graduates' career prospects.

Emerging Adulthood and Readiness for Career Development

Many career-development specialists acknowledge that career-development tasks for college students should be considered "within the broader context of late-adolescent development" [Shultheiss, 2000, p. 43]. Developmentally, college students are at the beginning of a developmental phase called "emerging adulthood" (18-27 years), a phase of life characterized by exploration and change. Chickering has identified important dimensions of college-student psychosocial development that include developing competence, emotion-management skills, connectedness with others, mature interpersonal relationships, purpose and intentionality, and integrity but also specific psychosocial traits that help with this development, including self-regulation and self-efficacy [Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Schwartz, Cote, & Arnett, 2005]. …

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