Make future planning fun! Consider these online career learning tips to integrate into your classroom.

As the world’s first digital generation, your students are as connected to technology as they are to each other. (And that’s a lot.) The internet is not just a tool that allows them to socialize, watch and create videos, and play games. It’s a way of life.

Educators have long understood that digital learning options are one of the best ways to engage students. But what about when it comes to post-secondary and career planning? In today’s competitive climate, it’s more important than ever for students to get excited about their future careers early. The sooner they begin thinking about their goals, the easier it will be to determine the post-secondary pathways that help them get there.

The answer? Interactive online career planning programs. These tools empower students to reflect on their skills and interests, learn about the many ways to make a living, research post-secondary options, and even discover admissions, scholarship, and campus information. And it’s all in a digital environment that feels natural to them.

Here are 5 ways these programs can make the job of preparing kids for their future easier and more efficient.

Tap Into Self-Knowledge

It’s a big ask to expect middle and high school students to know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Start smaller by encouraging them to reflect on their interests, skills, and talents. An online tool can bring the task to life, make it more fun, and offer a private, non-judgmental space to put down their ideas. As they work through their self-reflection online, students can digitally store their brainstorming sessions, revisiting and building on their ideas as they think about their life experiences and interests.

While many schools are still using pen and paper for career matching exercises, bringing things online takes the experience to a whole new level of interactivity. In digital form assessments like learning style and personality quizzes become infinitely more engaging and feel less like work. The associated benefits of helping students understand their strengths and interests and prompting them to think about what they’d value in a job—like helping others, being creative, making a large salary, or having a lot of leisure time—become more acute.

Beyond interactivity, going online with your future readiness program ensures that results are centrally stored and easily accessed. This gives students the opportunity to revisit activities as new insights are discovered and skills are learned.

From a personalization standpoint, some online programs like Xello take career matching a step further. Using algorithms to model data these programs narrow down what are otherwise vast and sometimes overwhelming possibilities to suggest a more reasonable sized set of options, that are better matched to student interests.

Make it Real

The “real world” after high school is an abstract concept for many students. With a limited attention span, digitally savvy teenagers respond especially well to narratives that connect them to new ideas. This may explain why “stories” on Instagram and Snapchat are extraordinarily popular.

To make an impact on contemporary students, many online career planning tools offer detailed, first-person accounts of what it’s like to do a specific job. Xello’s extensive career library, for instance, includes day-in-the-life experiences from real people, which offer students a true to life glimpse into the possibilities. Attributes associated with each type of work are broken down into easily digestible bits of information like “working inside,” “working with numbers,” and “on your feet,” so students can consider how any career matches up with their expectations and preferences.

One way to deepen knowledge and encourage reflection and assessment is to ask students to research a series of careers using the program. They can then present to — and even role play with or create YouTube videos for — their classmates about various careers. These presentations may also serve to spark an interest among other students who weren’t aware of certain careers, opening eyes to even more options.

Provide Opportunities for Consultation

Teenagers don’t have to feel alone when making important decisions about their future. Many students are fortunate to have the support and input of not just caring teachers, but parents, coaches, and mentors as well. Even their friends have a role to play in helping them make and follow a career plan.

Online programs allow students to share their research and goals with the influential people in their lives. Xello, for example, offers a storyboard function that offers at-a-glance visual access to their explorations so it’s clear how everything fits together. When they log in with their parents, friends, or teachers, students can easily explain their career plans. With access to their child’s profile at home, parents can stay informed and aligned and provide additional support and encouragement as needed.

This access makes consultations with educators more productive. There’s no more reading between the lines or interpreting vague conversations. You can help students identify patterns that emerge from their choices and set realistic goals, even advising on specialized diplomas and extracurricular activities.

Consider the Big Picture

It’s challenging for parents and educators to impart the lessons associated with the less tangible aspects of adulthood. Concepts like work/life balance (or integration, depending on your values and your job), financial literacy, and the importance of communication and relationship management are often learned through experience. But these skills are increasingly becoming markers for success in the ever-changing workforce and in life. In fact, when looking at 25 common skill sets in use today, researchers at McKinsey studying the impact of automation on the workforce found that demand for social and emotional skills will grow by 26% by 2030.

Online career planning software can augment lesson plans by giving students a clear picture of what their whole life would look like in specific careers. Information like salary range, demand, type of work (physical demands, shifts, etc.), and locations will help them consider the bigger picture. Educators can initiate discussions and set assignments that have students reflect on how their chosen career paths match up with their social and monetary ambitions and, ultimately, their lifestyle goals.

Make a Post-Secondary Plan

Once students have narrowed down their career options, the task of making a plan to get to an end goal becomes less overwhelming. The focus can shift to the important work of preparing for and selecting the post-secondary education or training they need to fulfill their dreams. And this step is crucial. According to the American Enterprise Institute, only half of students who begin college complete their degree. While there are many complex reasons for this statistic, taking the time to find a good fit goes a long way towards ensuring your students are in the half that completes their studies or training.

With filters like location, cost, program types, areas of specialization, campus setting and more, online future readiness programs allow students to conduct highly effective post-secondary exploration. Programs and facilities can be better differentiated, so students are less tempted to simply choose the school that’s easiest to get into or the one their parents want them to attend. Xello even provides SAT/ACT benchmarks for admission for many schools, which helps students understand early what scores they’ll need for their college of choice and prevents a shock at application time.

When it comes to envisioning the possibilities of their post-secondary lives, Xello’s Street View via Google Maps allows students to virtually place themselves in the campus environment. This provides a window into the excitement of college life and can go a long way to helping narrow down choices and keep students focused on their post-secondary plans.

Conclusion: Inspire Students Through Online Career Learning

When we empower the digital generation with tools to which they naturally gravitate, students are more engaged than ever and are often inspired to take primary responsibility for setting realistic goals and establishing plans to achieve them.

Online career planning programs provide that virtual assist. They help students get to know themselves and their interests better, explore all the possibilities, understand what specific careers are like, and take on graduation and post-secondary planning. And in addition to all the great work students can do on their own, these tools provide more meaningful options for collaboration with educators and parents.

Most importantly for them, students are planning for the future on their own terms and in the environment they know best.

Lynda Byrne
ABOUT LYNDA

Lynda Byrne is a seasoned marketing professional in the education technology space, specializing in user engagement and customer retention. When she isn’t working to empower educators to provide world-class future-readiness programs, you can find her traveling, testing out dessert recipes, or playing with her dog Otis.