A university’s secret weapon to measure course effectiveness.
GUEST COLUMN | by Melissa Lang
Career development is an important part of a student’s journey through college, but how do we measure this? How does a student know when she is career-ready? How do we, as higher education professionals, know that we’ve done a sufficient job preparing her? At our university, we’ve leveraged data analytics in order to capture and improve career development in the student experience.
We can easily dissect information, looking at results by instructor, classification, major, advisor, or any other relevant detail that can give us a more accurate picture of what’s working (and what’s not).
Our use of a data analytics tool in our Career Center has helped us answer questions about student engagement and career readiness. Tulane has embarked on a goal of providing career education for all students at the university, and part of this effort includes our Career Development course (CRDV 1090). The course is designed to give students the tools, skills, and resources needed to for their career readiness roadmap, which we develop in three stages during the course:
1) Developing self-awareness (self-assessments, goal setting, career path)
2) Creating a Career Toolkit (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile)
3) Improving interpersonal communication skills (networking and interviewing)
We evaluate the effectiveness of the course’s objectives and assignments through comprehensive initial and final surveys. These surveys capture student growth in the various career-related activities and proficiencies accomplished throughout the semester. Since its a pilot semester, we’ve collected data from 1,600 students.
The primary goal of the surveys is to understand not only how the course was effective in developing students’ skills, but also to evaluate sustainable career knowledge and abilities so that we can help students leave the class with the ability to manage their career development independently. Specifically, the surveys are comprehensive in that they address students’ confidence levels in career knowledge and activities along with their skills and abilities, professional experiences, career interests and accomplishments. As you can imagine, the data set is a bit overwhelming, with many variables and a large amount of quantitative and qualitative data.
Career Development and Data Analytics
To manage this massive amount of data, we started using Salesforce to illustrate the results, as our surveys feed directly into its student profiles and Career Dashboards. We can see in an instant that students who successfully completed the career course increased their confidence in a number of tasks, such as resume writing (54 percent), and interviewing (20 percent). We can easily dissect information, looking at results by instructor, classification, major, advisor, or any other relevant detail that can give us a more accurate picture of what’s working (and what’s not).
This information is also integrated into a student’s profile so we can see specific information about a student, such as his/her career interests, LinkedIn profile, personality/strengths assessment results, if they’re interested in graduate school, if they’ve taken CRDV, how often they’ve met with a career coach, etc. From these snapshots we can make informed and meaningful decisions that better address student engagement and progress, as well as measure the effectiveness of our programs.
The data analytics tool gives us a comprehensive picture of where the student is in his career development as well as his short- and long-term goals. We have bridged the information gap as students transition from one year to the next and meet with various faculty and staff on campus. We’re able to understand small details as well as paint a larger picture of who our students are and what they need. And most importantly, we can take actions that improve the student experience, their likelihood of staying here, and success in their careers when they leave.
A Strategic Imperative
In an area of higher education as complex as a student’s career development, it is imperative that we are strategically working together across the university to build a comprehensive picture of our students as individuals and as a whole. Preparing a student for a career and life after college must be the responsibility of the entire university as it requires more than just creating a resume. In order for this to happen, we need a single space for data that allows us to communicate quickly and understand patterns.
With data analytics, our Career Center staff has been able to bring all the information on our students together to help us take action and best help them succeed at Tulane and beyond.
Melissa Lang is a Senior Career Advisor and Educator at Tulane University where she guides students through internships and job searches, career development and planning, resume writing, and interviewing and networking skills.