Students entering the college environment for the first time concentrate on several aspects of undergraduate life. At our large southeastern university (over 26,000 students) in Florida, the freshmen interviewed on the campus stated their primary concerns were about classes, living away from home, campus organizations, or social activities. Not one person mentioned career development as a topic of concern.
Too often, higher education professionals serving in the field of career services encounter students in the final year of study concerned about their lack of foresight in planning for a career or the difficulty of making up for lost time. The question that always arises is how to reduce the number and nature of these concerns.
In response to this perceptual modality, we have developed a dynamic, interactive method to inform students about the services offered at the Career Development Center. This paradigm is simple to understand and can be duplicated and/or adopted at any university across the nation. Each session is divided into two parts over a 50-minute period.
The Formula for Success
The first portion of the session lasts approximately 10-15 minutes and consists of a presentation about the services the Career Center offers and how we can assist university students. The audience views a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation containing colorful graphics and information highlighting the different services and programs available at the Center. The topics listed on the slides are shaped to meet the needs of the specific group in attendance and may include, but are not limited to, choosing a major for first semester freshmen or job search resources for students taking upper division courses. Examples drawn from the experiences of others, illustrating the benefits to students of the Center's services, are integrated into the presentation. The students are asked questions throughout the session, allowing the speaker to address specific topics that are more relevant to the audience. While this method may seem slightly similar to techniques used today in many college classes, the difference involves motivating the group at the outset with the upcoming activities of the second portion of the session, thereby ensuring better retention of the material delivered during the opening phase of the class.
The second part of the session involves hosting an interactive game show format built on the Microsoft PowerPoint platform. At Florida Atlantic University, the game show formats that have been specially modified include Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Students are selected randomly from the audience as contestants. The students answer questions based on information from the previous segment of the lecture, facts about the university and career data from the real world, which may provide a shocking perspective. Students compete against each other over several rounds to win various prizes with at least one champion per class. The objectives of these games are not just limited to assisting with the retention of previously presented material, but also to create a greater awareness of the career center's presence on campus and real time involvement with students.
The Main Screen from the Jeopardy game
The Question Screen from the Jeopardy game
The Answer Screen from the Jeopardy game
As offered at most state universities in Florida and across the nation, freshman introductory courses are the perfect opportunity for career center staff to make contact with students. Our university has over 50 sections of this class with an average of 20 students in each, which prompted us to devise a strategy of grouping these classes together into larger sections over several weeks during the program's second year. The new arrangement made it simpler to communicate with the same number of students with only 19 presentations scheduled compared to 58. On average, we will have 65-70 students (three sections) in attendance. This scheduling system made it easier to reach a large body of students in a short time span and provides a vibrant atmosphere with a live, participating audience during the game show portion of the class.
These presentations have been offered at our university for over two years and reactions from both students and faculty have been extremely positive. This year alone over fifty instructors requested the interactive presentation for their classes. Many requests were received several months prior to the fall semester.
The interactive program has resulted in an increase of first year students visiting the Career Center during the fall semester. Many members of the student audience will utilize the services within a week of the presentation. These students meet with career advisors to learn more about services and develop an understanding of the career development process and/or become aware of the opportunities available to them.
Overall, showcasing a career center using methods that match the learning styles of today's college students will create more awareness and encourage them to utilize career services and programs earlier and more often.
Why This Has Worked: Understanding the Millennial Learning Style
The first step career advisors need to take is to reach out to all first year students. Providing verbal insights with paper handouts is no longer an effective technique to reach today's younger student, especially those who are part of Generation Y (also known as the Millennials). According to a study conducted at California State University (Faust, Ginno, Laherty, & Manuel, 2001) Millennials are holistic learners, responding to graphic and visual presentations and possess short attention spans. This new collegiate group grasps concepts easier when real world examples are integrated with educational material. Generation Y students perceive their elders as peers instead of role models.
Another recent study conducted at the University of New England (Morgan & Pardue, 2008), which observed millennial students in a college setting, concluded that the current student audiences are multi-taskers who will start performing other tasks during lectures if their attention is not held. These collegiate groups do not react enthusiastically to traditional chalkboard instruction. Today's college population is more interested in lesson plans involving hands-on projects and working together with classmates.
According to a third study conducted by The Australian Leadership Foundation (McCrindle, 2008), Millennials are more willing to learn from instructors who communicate in a method perceived as realistic, innovative, caring, and relevant. Students want presenters to be honest and respect their way of thinking. The academic environment should be unstructured and unrehearsed, and an open dialogue with the audience needs to exist. Input and discussion from the audience should be expected during the class. The lesson plan should include the use of graphic examples and other interactive multimedia, a communication method appealing to today's younger audiences.
Showcasing career center services using methods that match the learning styles of today's college students is not only important, it is imperative. The ultimate goal of creating student awareness about the relevance and importance of career center services depends on an epistemology that is both empirical and structured to meet the idiosyncratic needs of today's Millennials.
Faust, J., Ginno E., Laherty J., & Manuel K. (2001). Teaching information literacy to generation Y: Tested strategies for reaching the headphone-wearing, itchy mouse-fingered, and frequently paged. Retrieved 11/21/2008 from: http://www.library.csuhayward.edu/staff/ginno/ACRL/examples.htm
McCrindle M. Understanding Generation Y. The Australian Leadership Foundation (2001). Retrieved 11/24/2008 from: http://www.learningtolearn.sa.edu.au/Colleagues/files/links/UnderstandingGenY.pdf
Morgan P., & Pardue K.T. (2008) Millennials considered: A new generation, new approaches, and implications for nursing education. Nursing Education Perspectives 29(2), 74- 79.
Farley S. Leiriao M.A.C. is a career advisor for Florida Atlantic University's Career Development Center (Boca Raton Campus). He advises students on choosing college majors, job searching, graduate college options, and guides them in other career issues. In addition, Farley designs and presents workshops that assist students in their search for career development resources. He can be reached at 561-297-3533 and/or at email@example.com
Brian M. Montalvo, M.S., Ed.S, NCC is the Assistant Director of Career Development and Career Education at Florida Atlantic University's Career Development Center (Boca Raton Campus). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.