Retaining Disciplinary Talents as Informal Learning Outcomes in the Digital Age: An Exploratory Framework to Engage Undergraduate Students with Career Decision-Making Processes

Retaining Disciplinary Talents as Informal Learning Outcomes in the Digital Age: An Exploratory Framework to Engage Undergraduate Students with Career Decision-Making Processes

Wen-Hao David Huang (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) and Eunjung Oh (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9577-1.ch018
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Considering the national need for developing a variety of professional talents through higher education, this chapter proposes an exploratory conceptual framework, to allow educators and parents to harness informal learning opportunities afforded by virtually endless resources on the Internet, in order to engage undergraduate students with necessary career decision-making processes early on in their college experience. The thesis of this chapter asserts that we must consider students' career decision-making processes as a relevant higher education learning outcome. The proposed Digital Informal Learning Resources for Career Decision-Making (DILR-CDM) framework is grounded in the Social Cognitive Career Theory and the Self-Determination Theory to identify attributes of informal learning resources manifested by digital game-based environments and social media environments. These attributes, in turn, afford informal learning opportunities to scaffold and facilitate career decision-making processes among undergraduate students.
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Review of Recent Statistics on Un-declared Undergraduates and their Graduation Rates

The number of college students has been increasing; yet, substantial percent of enrolled students do not complete their college education in a timely manner. According to the Digest of Education Statistics’ 2012 report published by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), 21 million students are enrolled in post-secondary school and a further increase of 13 percent is expected by Fall 2021 (Snyder & Dillow, 2013). In a four-year university, the total enrollment of undergraduate students in 2011 was over 10 million. In 2010-2011, more than 1.7 million bachelor’s degrees were conferred; however, only approximately 59 percent of first-time, full time students attending a four-year institution in 2005 had completed a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent at that institution within six years (Snyder & Dillow, 2013). The rate of completion within four years after starting college is even lower, representing approximately 39 percent of the total enrollment.

One of the potential issues causing students’ delay in or lack of completion of college education is that students do not know what a relevant major is for them and what career they would like to pursue when they begin their college education. No matter whether students declare their majors or not as freshmen, they also change their majors. Researchers’ claims are inconclusive regarding the effect of students’ changing their majors on their GPA or retention (persistence to graduation); however, changes in majors do result in delays in their graduation (Cuseo, 2005). In fact, according to a 2012 institutional report (Colorado State University, 2012), it was observed that, compared to older cohorts, an increasing proportion of recent students tend to change their majors more than once before graduation. For example, only 40% of declared students graduate in their original majors. And, approximately 50% of undeclared students seeking (a specific major) and undeclared students only change their majors once. For students, each change in major increases the average time to graduation by over a half semester. In addition, when comparing the average time to graduation by the number of major changes (zero to three times), it takes longer for undeclared students to graduate compared to declared students. Although statistics may differ across institutions, a substantial percent of students enter college without knowing their interests and pursuit of an academic and career direction. Moreover, even declared students do not make decisions on a major based on neither an in-depth reflection about themselves nor research in the field on career they want to pursue (Freedman, 2013, June 28). Accordingly, these changes delay students’ time to graduation at the college where they started, cause students to change institutions, and even result in incompletion of a college education, which is a problem at individual, institutional, and societal levels, considering the enormous amount of time and cost invested in the undergraduate education of a single student during those years. Moreover, increasing number of college graduates has difficulties in finding their first employment. For instance, from 2009 to 2011, less than 50% of college graduates found their first job within one year after their graduation. This is a significantly decreased employment rate of college graduates compared to 2006-2008 data (73%) (Blau & Snell, 2013). Such delay in gaining employment among college graduates has further implications on the sustainability of workforce development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Media Environments: Previously known as “social computing environments”, social media environments refer to online spaces where individuals establish and maintain virtual social interactions with others. The purpose of carrying out such virtual social interactions may vary among participants.

Digital Informal Learning Resources: Digital informal learning resources refer to technology-mediated learning opportunities and environments in informal learning settings. Individuals can access these resources voluntarily without any predetermined learning objectives in mind, and individuals can customize them according to individuals’ learning needs. Being able to access the Internet could broaden individuals’ experiences with digital informal learning resources.

Learning Outcome: Learning outcome indicates the level of educational attainment demonstrated by individuals, academic programs, and education institutions in terms of acquired knowledge bases and developed competencies. Learning outcomes should be derived from both formal and informal learning processes in order to understand the holistic relationship between individuals’ learning activities and the corresponding results across contexts.

Informal Learning: Informal learning encompasses opportunities and environments that can afford informal learning processes. Such processes are not dictated by predetermined learning objectives and are self-directed by learners in incidental situations. Informal learning happens beyond formal schooling and learning settings.

Contextual Influence: Situated in the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT), contextual influence refers to the career-decision effects derived from individuals’ families, peers, friends, and interactions with surrounding people and information sources.

Self-Efficacy: Self-efficacy refers to individuals’ beliefs in being able to successfully complete certain learning and performance tasks. These beliefs are crucial to initiate and sustain individuals’ motivation to engage with intended learning and performance activities.

Game-Based Environments: Supported by technological features, game-based environments reinforce the stimulus-response relationships in order to facilitate the development of desired behaviors. The scope of game-based environments varies from simple gamification to fully developed video games.

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