Reimagining career engagement in a virtual space for online and adult learners

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

Reimagining career services in a digital environment requires key partners, persistent innovations, and scalable solutions to create meaningful change. This session shares strategies for standing up a virtual career platform that increases online learner engagement by curating the most relevant digital resources for an adult and working student population


Kyle Whitehouse is the Assistant Director for Student Success at Oregon State University Ecampus. She leads the student success coaching team and grows OSU Ecampus initiatives through partnerships across campus and institutions. Prior to her work with Ecampus, Kyle's roles have included career counselor, instructor, and academic advisor working with students actively exploring majors and careers.

Extended Abstract

One large 4-year, research and land grant institution serves online students located all over the world, 80% of whom are part-time learners due to professional and family commitments who are primarily seeking to advance their careers. Recognizing these students’ motivations and the countless barriers that can interrupt their progress and aspirations, our leadership team knew we had to overcome long-standing institution obstacles and deliver a high-impact career services experience to our online & adult learners. 

The centralized campus career office - accustomed to supporting more traditional, residential students – hosted a suite of valuable career resources that served the on-campus audience much better than the online learning audience. Very often, events and services were designed for students early in their career development and catered to employers who were not well-prepared to network with and recruit students further along in their careers. In fact, only 14% of our online students were accessing these resources.

Such low engagement with career services was unacceptable. Limiting access to career resources to a residential audience ignored the the unique needs of 25% of our university's students learning across different time zones, for example, who are better described as career shifters and are not captive to on-campus events and services. Our mission promises a transformative educational experience that contributes to meaningful post-college outcomes, and this can only be accomplished by reimagining the student supports in a digital environment. 

Instead of solving this wicked problem by funding new positions and building a separate career services team to support online students, the division of online student success partnered with central career center colleagues to intentionally expand online offerings (such as online career tools, panels, networking events, and career fairs) and then curate these resources into a new virtual career center that was uniquely dedicated to a working adult population. The result dramatically simplified and increased career engagement for online students. The online platform is a highly scalable solution that adds minimal work for university staff, automates continually updated events, advice, and regional job data, and is an undeniable win for online students. 

Join this session to learn strategies for approaching big problems with your campus partners to deliver high-impact career services for your online and adult learners. This presentation will share specific steps and the initial platform design, provide a peek into the virtual career center, and illustrate how student engagement has grown resulting in new key collaborations. 

To draw upon the experience in the room and recognize that we have different preferences for contributing ideas and examples, participants will be able to collaborate anonymously in real time on a virtual white board to supplement the discussion breaks designed to create interaction throughout the presentation. The virtual collaboration will be available as a takeaway from this session.