Career placement offices provide valuable services on college campuses: they help students find out about the job market, make the most of a job interview, write eye-catching resumes, and, if students contact the office early enough in their educations, help them choose a career and recommend a relevant course of study. Nonetheless, this service is often accessed as students are leaving the university, sometimes without a job and other times with job opportunities they are not excited to pursue.

At National University, we think the first thing students should do after enrolling is to set a specific goal.Students don’t go to college to get a degree; they go so they can do something meaningful and fulfilling with their lives. Whatever that something is, our job is to design a customized course of study to help them reach that goal, monitor their progress, and provide the support they need to stay on track. Sometimes goals change, but too often students do not reach their goals because they are not fully understood and articulated. That’s one of the starting points underlying the research-based Precision Education initiative, which is exploring new ways to leverage technology,open education resources and predictive analytics to make sure every student has a clear goal, a pathway to reach that goal, and regular feedback on their progress.

A GPS for Education

What we’re really trying to build is a GPS for education. To use a GPS, you need to identify a destination. To help students choose that destination, we’re developing a new online system designed around labor market data which allows students to explore the educational requirements, skills, demand for, and likely compensation for just about any career.

Take, for example, the student who wants to become a nurse. He or she could connect with the digital tool and see how many nursing jobs there are by county, or even within specific hospital groups. They could see that there are several dozen different specializations within nursing. The student could also choose a specialization and learn about the required degree, the required courses, and what each course covers. In addition, the student would learn what clinical experiences and licensing exams are required for each. And, the student could find out what they might  expect to be paid. Or, as the student explores nursing, the tool might open their eyes to other health-related career opportunities.

Alternative Careers

In fact, it was the number of people wanting to get into our highly competitive nursing program that inspired us to start working on our career guidance system. We noticed that many of the students who didn’t get in were nonetheless persistent, and would apply over and over, hoping to beat the odds. They were committed to becoming nurses, but were shy of the competitive requirements and were, meanwhile, running up expenses and debt.

A group of nursing faculty members wanted to help those students weigh other career options in the health field — such as in health informatics, allied health and healthcare administration —   as well as outside of the field. That’s why we’re working hard to figure out how best to provide them with guidance, as well as to help all our students find the career that best matches their interests and job prospects.

As with all the work we’re doing on Precision Education, we will conduct research on students who use the career guidance system to find out how it affects the choices they make as well as whether it increases the likelihood that they will graduate. We need to gather more data and analyze it before we decide whether to roll out the current prototype to all National University students or try out a new one.

But, we are convinced that students will benefit from choosing a goal based on solid information. Only when our students are reaching their goals will we at National University be able to say that we’re reaching ours. That is the focus of all we do.

Blog post written by Dr. David Andrews,President of National University. Precision Education at National University is a research-based initiative that is exploring new ways to leverage technology,open education resources, and predictive data analytics to adapt to student needs and guide them to successful completion of their academic and career goals.Learn more at: https://www.nu.edu/precision/