Teaching Practical Skills for Success in the Job Market

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

This presentation will review an innovative, practical, skills-based online course that is taken in conjunction with an internship experience. We will review the innovative technologies used in the course and demonstrate how traditional tools are being applied in new ways to better prepare adult students for the success after graduation.


Haley Sankey is a faculty member, adviser and Program Coordinator for the online Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy, instructing EGEE 495: Internship Experience, EGEE 299: Foreign Studies, and EM SC 302: Orientation to Energy and Sustainability Policy. She is also an adviser for the World Campus Sustainability Club, an online student-run organization. Haley received her master's degree in project management from the Penn State Black School of Business. She earned her B.S. from Juniata College, where her program of emphasis was environmental practice and policy.

Extended Abstract

The session will provide attendees with an overview of a blended engaged scholarship experience comprising an in-person internship and a concurrent online course. The presentation content will focus on EGEE 495, a course built around internship experiences for online students and will provide an overview of the practical applications of the course for students entering the job market after graduation.

Attendees will learn about the technologies that can be used to build online adult learners' skills in beginning a job search and receive copies of the assessments utilized in this engaged scholarship experience. Additionally, participants will come away with a broader understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for online adult learners embarking on a job search.

The Penn State online Energy and Sustainability Policy (ESP) program enrolls mostly adult learners who study from a distance. Both the B.A. and B.S. version of the program require that students complete several engagement experiences throughout their academic career. One option is an internship that students can personalize by pursuing opportunities in the community of their choice. During their internship, students enroll in a concurrent online course, EGEE 495, built to assess the students’ learning and add depth to the real-world experience. This innovative online internship course incorporates a blended learning scenario by utilizing the in-person experience as the basis of content for the assessments.

Internships provide authentic learning, relevant real-world experiences and allow students to interact in a professional environment and practice the knowledge that they’ve acquired through coursework. However, translating those valuable accomplishments into applicable outcomes for success in a job interview isn’t always easy.

During the internship course, students use technology applications to complete a variety of assessments including a SWOT analysis, resume and cover letter preparation, mock interviews, and portfolio creation. Through the completion of a SWOT analysis, students discover their personal strengths and weaknesses, while also examining the opportunities and threats that exist in today’s marketplace. This analysis is straightforward, yet through the exercise, students realize just how much they bring to the table. The result is that they build confidence in their skills for the job search to come. As part of the course’s curriculum, students are given a job ad for which they submit a resume and cover letter. Both are reviewed and critiqued by the World Campus Career Services team. Then students practice interviewing for the position using an online simulated interview program. The mock interview exercise uses the InterviewStream technology application to mimic a real-world interview scenario. Students are recorded while responding to a chosen set of pre-recorded questions. Interviews are self-assessed as well as assessed by the instructor for body language, gap words, response content, and length. This exercise allows students to cultivate their ability to interview effectively while also relating their experiences to the ESP curriculum.

Throughout the semester, students are guided through journaling assignments with prompts intended to build higher-level learning and synthesis. Journaling exercises help move the students from simply detailing the experience, to thinking and analyzing it, to eventually understanding how it applies in new/different scenarios. Upon completion of the course, the journal may serve as a robust writing sample that could be used while job searching. Additionally, students will have compiled multiple internship-related artifacts and an updated resume they can use during their job search.

OLC session attendees will be asked to participate in an icebreaker for the session by sharing the best or worst interview questions they’ve experienced. Additionally, throughout the presentation, attendees will be asked to participate in the assessments being discussed. For example, when the SWOT analysis is addressed, attendees will be asked to help the presenter fill in the blanks for each area (in the context of an adult learner: what are some strengths or weaknesses our adult learners bring to the table? What opportunities or threats may exist?) Finally, after the presentation, attendees will be engaged in a discussion regarding challenges in preparing adult students for their next big post-graduation step, the job search. Through these discussions, we will identify ways to better serve our online students and give them a leg up in the job market.

Session attendees will be introduced to innovative tools and technologies that can not only assess student learning in engaged scholarship activities, but also enhance the overall learning experience for all online students. Attendees will be familiarized with multiple assessments that can be employed for online adult learners to build their practical skills and abilities for the next step after graduation. Examples of the assignments will be provided, as well as testimonials from students who have completed the course.

Slides and web links will be provided during the presentation and can be provided for distribution to conference attendees.