Career Development in Online Courses

Aligning with the mission and goals of COLRS to disseminate knowledge and foster innovation in online and blended learning, Tammy Craig, Career Specialist in Online Learning, will be partnering with faculty and provide expert consultation and direction to integrate career and professional development concepts based upon principles of contemporary educational theory and emerging pedagogical research.

In coordination with online program coordinators across, Tammy is developing the My SELFIE Project to help students understand the link between their academic courses and in-demand job skills.

Career & Professional Development Concepts in Online Courses

Why do I need to consider integrating career and professional development concepts when we already have a Career Development Center on campus?

  • This initiative focuses on a partnership with faculty. Faculty work loads can be demanding and there is often not time to develop the great ideas that faculty would like to add to their courses to highlight career pathways for their students.  The CDC provides excellent connections for students and continues to expand their efforts in this area.
  • “Students are increasingly placing a premium on the job-related benefits of going to college. The portion of incoming freshmen that cited “to be able to get a better job” as a very important reason for attending college reached an all-time high of 87.9 percent in 2012, an increase from 85.9 percent in 2011 and considerably higher than the low of 67.8 percent in 1976. In the minds of today’s college students, getting a better job continues to be the most prevalent reason to go to college.”

Higher Education Research Institute (2012). The American freshman: National norms fall.

  • Public scrutiny continues to increase from federal and state governments, prospective students and parents, and employers about the quality, cost and value of a college education.
  • Online learning trends and technology advancements continue to change behaviors of prospective students, resulting in increased competition within higher education.
  • Faculty controls the curriculum and can have the greatest impact on academic AND global workforce preparation enabling student success.
  • “Employers globally declare that educational institutions are not adequately preparing young people with appropriate skills for the jobs they have available. The deficit is greatest in the area of soft skills.  In “Expanding the Leadership Equation,” a Center for Creative Leadership survey on workforce readiness, executives named self-motivation, communication, learning agility, self-awareness, and adaptability as the most essential skills required for success in today’s work environment.”

Stanford Social Innovation Review (2014). Educating a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders.

Creating a Learner-Centered Curriculum with a Career Focus to Foster Student Success

What type of consultation and services can you provide me that assists with creating a learner-centered curriculum with a career focus fostering student success?

  • Partner with faculty to expand online career and professional development services for online students.
  • Consult with faculty in conceptualizing, designing, delivering and evaluating career concepts within the curriculum.
  • Based on faculty requests and feedback, develop career planning modules and authentic learning career/professional development repository, which can be easily accessed, customized and complementary to course subject matter.
  • Provide general and discipline specific information about labor market trends, demands and gaps.
  • Develop a resource to include research, articles, apps, and other tools for faculty use, which supports creating a learner-centered environment with a career focus promoting innovation based on best practice standards.

Why is it important to consider integrating both hard and soft skills into your online course?

From Hart Research Associates. Three in five employers believe that it takes BOTH specific knowledge/skills and broad knowledge/skills to achieve long-term career success. Employers and college students were asked, "Which is more important for recent college graduates to have who want to pursue advancement and long-term career success at your company?” Employers responses: 15% said knowledge and skills that apply to a specific field or position were most important; 25% said a range of knowledge and skills that apply to a range of fields or positions were most important; and 60% said both field-specific and a broad range of knowledge and skills were most important. College student responses: 15% said knowledge and skills that apply to a specific field or position were most important; 22% said a range of knowledge and skills that apply to a range of fields or positions were most important; and 63% said both field-specific and a broad range of knowledge and skills were most important.

Association of American Colleges & Universities (2015).  Falling short? College learning and career success.

Chart from The Chronicle of Higher Education. According to employers, colleges are falling short in preparing graduates in communications skills and decision making. View the whole report at

The Chronicle of Higher Education (2012). The role of higher education in career development:  Employer perceptions.

How can I learn more about integrating soft skills into the curriculum?

Dr. Roderick Nunn,No matter the class, every time one of our faculty requires students to work on group projects, engage in role playing, discuss case studies or engage in collegial debate, effective non-cognitive behaviors are being modeled. The more of these behaviors that are normalized in the classroom, the better the learning environment becomes for honing and reinforcing soft skills. And the longer the student persists in a quality academic program, the more opportunity there is for growth (i.e. two to four year programs as opposed to short term training).  But, while mimicking workplace behaviors in the classroom is an important strategy, nothing is more powerful than the type of experiential learning where students are given well-structured opportunities for direct interaction with employers (internships, service learning projects, job shadowing, field visits).

More on the Soft Skill Deficiencies of College Graduates

What questions should I consider if I want to update or design a new course that supports a learner-centered environment with a career focus?

  1. What is the purpose of this learning activity related to career pathways?
  2. Why is it important for students to link career pathways to academic activity?
  3. What career competencies are developed as a result of participation in the activity?
  4. How can my students apply what (s)he has learned in the workplace?
  5. How can I learn more about the Competency Model and the supplementary resources developed by the U.S. Department of Labor?

The department of labor and statistics model of generic competencies. Read the full report at:

Competency Model Clearing House. Getting Started.