Being tasked with providing remote-based careers and employability support to distance-learning students, whom are based in over 180 countries, is not a walk in the park, as myself and my colleagues in both The Careers Group (TCG) and the Student Experience team of The University of London (UoL) discovered.
However, the project has taught us much about the universality of some career-related issues as well as the distinct employability challenges faced by different cohorts within different global contexts.
Here are some of the key lessons from our experience:
- more in common - students across boundaries and professional settings share similar concerns around self-presentation, confidence and the need for self-reflection
- differences are real - students experience career challenges which are pertinent to their specific cultural and geographical context, around issues of gender and good governance, for example
- education as signpost - many distance-learning students based across the world are using their higher education qualifications as an indicator of their intentions to refocus their career trajectory in a specific direction, both locally, regionally and nationally
- global learners, global workers - many students are keen to gain qualifications from a reputable TNE higher education provider to illustrate their openness to international labour markets.
Careers support provided remotely
The careers and employability support we provided was a blended approach consisting of the following elements:
- individual one to one career consultations – 20-minute appointments are delivered via Skype or telephone and are pre-booked on an online system. These have already been accessed by students from Mongolia to Myanmar, from Austria to Australia
- group webinars – based on a range of careers-related topics including ‘Ramp up your resume’ and ‘Negotiation skills’, these hour-long webinars are highly interactive and incorporate regular live polling and chat functions. To maximise international access, they are also delivered twice a day to cover the widest range of time zones
- online interactive learning resources – many of the students were also keen to access relevant careers resources. To complement the webinar topics and to reflect the common employability issues raised in the one-to-one career consultations, eg interview skills, career decision-making, a series of interactive resources were produced using Articulate software
- employability module of PG Certificate of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education – TCG also produced the specific employability module content for the PG Certificate in Learning and Teaching offered by UoL distance learning programmes.
Teams behind the project
This project involved two teams within the University of London working closely together.
The Careers Group (TCG), founded in 1909 is the largest higher education careers and employability service in Europe. It is widely recognised as a centre of excellence in careers and employability support for HE students and graduates. TCG provides a range of HE careers services to member organisations within and beyond the University of London, including UCL, KCL and many others, supported by a small central team within the University of London. TCG also produced the award-winning Enhance Your Career and Employability Skills MOOC on Coursera in 2014.
The University of London (UoL) is the oldest distance-learning provider in the world and provides distance and flexible learning programmes with member institutions (eg QMUL, LSE) to over 50,000 students based in 180 countries. Many of UoL distance-learning students are studying Law, Finance and Business programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and the Student Experience team have worked closely with TCG to enhance the employability support for the distance-learning cohort.
Initial evaluation data from the students reveals an overwhelmingly positive response to the support provided. For example, the average response of 9.14 (on a scale of one to 10) when asked ‘How likely are you to recommend a one-to-one careers consultant appointment?’ was 9.14 (on a scale of one to 10) whilst 97% of webinar attendees agreed that ‘I’ve learned something that will help me manage my career more effectively in the future’ and 90% reported an increase in confidence in this topic.
Given the success of the project we are now looking to new forms of careers and employability support which will continue to enhance our global classroom. For example, our future plans include the development of an online employability module which will offered to undergraduate students on distance learning programmes offered by the University of London. For more information and detail on the project see our chapter in the forthcoming Advance HE publication Enhancing Graduate Employability: A Case Study Compendium.
Laura Brammar is a Senior Careers Consultant at The Careers Group, University of London where she has worked since 2004. She was also an instructor on the University of London’s award-winning Enhance Your Career and Employability Skills MOOC on Coursera in 2014.
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