ERIC Identifier: ED446328
Publication Date: 2000-05-00
Author: Peterson, Marla P.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Transition of Career Development University Courses to
Electronic Formats. ERIC/CASS Digest.
Preservice counselor education programs usually include two courses on career
development theory, research, information and practice. Often theory and
research are addressed in one course and career information and career
counseling practices are included in another. The World Wide Web (WWW) has
burgeoned with sites devoted to career information. Many groups, including the
Federal government, have turned to the Internet for delivery of career-related
information. It has become apparent that the old didactic "occupational
information" courses need to be transformed into electronically enhanced career
and educational information systems courses. Once electronic enhancement of
face-to-face instruction occurs, it is tempting to move to the delivery of
courses through distance education means.
GUIDANCE FROM TWO STUDIES
Certainly counselor educators are
receiving guidance from within the profession as they determine how technology
can be used to enhance the preparation of counselors. However, sometimes it is
instructive to review statements from other disciplines. Selected findings and
recommendations from two studies are examined in terms of possible implications
for electronically enhanced career development distance education courses.
1. What's the Difference? A Review of Contemporary
Research on the Effectiveness of Distance Learning in Higher Education, (Phipps
and Merisotis, 1999).
Finding. Research has tended to emphasize student outcomes for individual
courses rather than for a total academic program.
Implications. Career development courses which feature didactic rather than
clinical instruction have been the first to be electronically enhanced. As other
counselor education didactic courses make use of interactive technology and, if
clinical instruction is added to this mix, ways must be found to assess the
performance of practicing counselors who are graduates of programs where they
have been prepared by a cluster of electronic courses.
Finding. Research does not take into account differences among students.
Implications. Career development theory and content have long recognized that
individuals differ in their interests, values, skills, and abilities. Much
research remains to be done on preferred ways of acquiring career information
and on career information processing patterns.
Finding. Research does not adequately explain why the dropout rates of
distance learners are higher.
Implications. Counselor educators must be clearly cognizant of dropout-rate
facts if well-intentioned individuals make suggestions to collapse certain
counselor education courses and even entire programs into a distance education
consortia configuration. It may well be, however, that career and educational
information courses could serve as a fertile ground for experimenting with
formats that will decrease dropout rates. If a career development course offered
via distance education was constructed as a personal information journey, it
could be a source of data on whether a course that focuses on personal meaning
has higher retention rates than courses that do not use such an approach.
Finding. Research does not take into consideration how the different learning
styles of students relate to the use of particular technologies and research
focuses mostly on the impact of individual technologies rather than on the
interaction of multiple technologies.
Implications. The newest Web-based courseware programs feature multiple
technologies. Increasingly it will be a question of which technology is the best
for particular content for a particular learner. The courses offered by the
British Open University often include a mix of media and materials and are
expensive to produce. One course was designed by a 40-person course team and
will be among the first seven offered in the United States. The material for
this course "include four books, several study guides, five specially produced
half-hour television shows, and a set of audiotapes" (Blumenstyk, 1999, A 36).
Of the 300+ courses developed by the Open University, only six are designed to
be completely Internet based and these are primarily in the area of computing
and information technology.
Finding. Research does not include a theoretical or conceptual framework.
Implications. The preparation of career counselors requires both didactic and
clinical instruction. It is in the clinical arena that those who prepare
counselors can make a major contribution in building research models. For
example, do research designs adequately address whether didactic instruction
learned through electronically enhanced means contribute to building better
Finding. Research does not adequately address the effectiveness of digital
Implications. This concern is also being addressed by ACA, NCDA, ACES, and
ASCA. The Web is a very open system with no quality control in terms of what
types of career information and career development sites are constructed. Many
sites are developed by self-proclaimed career development experts with little
background in career development theory or experience in working with the target
audience for which the site was developed. Some responsibility rests with
federal and state government offices that have awarded money for the development
of such sites. Counselor educators who develop electronic syllabi should include
links to sites that represent the highest ethical and content standards of the
profession. They should not be reticent to point out shortcomings of sites that
are not based on sound career development theory and which do not reveal the
credentials of the site owner/developer.
Recommendations from The Virtual University & Educational Opportunity,
(Gladieux and Swail, 1999)
Recommendation. Place access at the core of systems design.
Implications. The Gladieux and Swail study reports that a "digital divide" is
being created in that the distribution of computers is "highly stratified by
socioeconomic class" (p. 17) and that there is wide disparities in access to
computers by income, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment. The "digital
divide" grows even greater if counselors do not have access to equipment and the
skills to help clients access job openings, college admissions, financial aid,
and other types of career and educational information. New counselor education
graduates and experienced counselors who do not receive such preparation are at
a serious disadvantage. Further, they may place their clients at a serious
disadvantage. Perhaps there is a "digital divide" in the preparation of
counselors. Some university counselor education programs may have far greater
access to computing resources than others.
Recommendation. Keep the promise of technology in perspective.
Implications. Technology can assist in locating career and educational
information but clients must act on the information. Although technology can
help prompt actions, it often takes face-to-face human interaction to help
clients sort information, rehearse actions and follow through to achieve
Recommendation. Learn from the distance-learning pioneers.
Implications. Faculty members at universities like Virginia Tech where a
distance education career development course is being offered and The University
of Tennessee where the first Web-enhanced career development course was
developed can provide valuable insights in terms of designing instructional
activities that seem to work in graduate courses. British Open University
personnel have valuable information to share in terms of emphasis that is placed
on team approaches to course development, course development costs, and the
proper mix of face-to-face versus remote instruction.
Recommendation. Take action to narrow the digital divide.
Implications. The "digital divide" between trained and untrained counselors
should be a particular focus of university counselor educators. Here are some
straightforward suggestions: Support counselor educator colleagues who want to
learn new technologies. Convert occupational/career information courses to
Web-based courses. Advocate for access to computer classrooms. Ask counselor
education interns to assist practicing counselors in learning how to use the
Recommendation. Monitor progress toward equal access.
Implications. In a time when 40 percent of classrooms in schools with the
highest concentration of poor students (measured by percentage of students
eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) have Internet access, compared to more
than 60 percent of classrooms in schools with the lowest concentration of poor
students (Rowand, 1999), and when half the schools that are connected to the
Internet are connected only at the library/media center or principal's office
(Quality Education Data, 1998), counselors must become advocates for equal
access to technology. Counselors work with all students and they are in a
position to make strong arguments as to why they need technology to help
students enter further education and employment settings.
There is little doubt that advances in technology
have opened many new possibilities for delivering instruction. Even though the
content of courses that deal with career and educational information seem to be
a natural fit for electronically enhanced instruction, those who prepare
counselors need to be aware that there is a lack of quality research on the
effectiveness of distance education and that technology is creating a "digital
Blumenstyk, G. (July 23, 1999). Distance
learning at the Open University. The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A35-A37.
Gladieux, L. E., & Swail, W. S. (1999). The virtual university &
educational opportunity. Washington, D. C.: The College Board. [ED 428 637]
Phipps, R. & Merisotis, J. (1999) What's the difference? A review of
contemporary research on the effectiveness of distance learning in higher
education. Washington, DC: The Institute for Higher Education Policy. [ED 429
Quality Education Data. (1998). Internet usage in public schools 1998 (third
ed). Denver, CO: Quality Education Data.
Rowand, C. (1999). Internet access in public schools and classrooms: 1994-98.
Issue brief (NCES 1999-017). Washington, D. C.: National Center for Education
Statistics. [ED 428 755]