Building an online launchpad for careers

CEO and founder of Perlego Gauthier Van Malderen delves into the world of online launchpads for graduates

With university attendance growing steadily and learning having shifted online over the past two years, universities are re-evaluating how they can help students launch their careers.

The question is how we, as an edtech community, can ensure that institutions are armed with the tools needed to support students’ post-graduation when most of their educational experience is remote. This is particularly true as the world of work changes, and the workplace of the future is likely to remain hybrid or remote. Thankfully, there are numerous examples of ways in which universities have helped students embark on their careers.

Learning soft skills for the current work environment

In moving online, universities had to think of smart ways to provide students with the same level of teaching and encourage the development of skills that are transferable to work. Through the pandemic, many students have been on the same journey as the workforce, learning how to be productive remotely, conduct themselves on virtual calls and connect with professors and peers through digital means only. In many ways this experience has prepared them for graduating into a remote workforce. 

Some of the technologies universities deployed range from VR classrooms and virtual working spaces to online collaborative and open source-learning platforms. For example, Blackboard brings lectures online and allows instructors and students to work together there, while our business Perlego, an online library of academic textbooks and workspaces, allows students to collect material for studying and then share it with their peers and study groups so they can learn together. Through edtech, tools such as these allows students to continue developing their soft skills, like creativity, research, or problem solving, online. 

Networking for the future

One of the most essential skills in your working life is networking, and an easy yet effective way to introduce students to it is by hosting masterclasses and lectures with industry experts and notable alumni. Through the pandemic, we have seen these initiatives shift online, with guest speakers presenting to students from other parts of the world, resolving the logistical challenges of hosting them. Often, such events are followed by online networking meet-ups where students can gain personal guidance, advice and potentially form long-lasting connections.

A key aspect of many students’ university experience is gaining exposure to the workplace through job placements and work experience. Today, many universities and companies have replicated those experiences online.

Columbia University developed a technologically driven solution through its Virtual Internship Program, which enables students to virtually intern for companies around the US. Students are given the chance to work in virtual teams and participate in skills workshops and challenges, ultimately enabling them to develop the interpersonal skills needed in the workplace. Students are also offered access to ‘one-on-one career counselling’ and the opportunity to work alongside specialist consultants from their chosen industry to glean advice and get a glimpse at life working for a large global company.

Another example comes from University College London, which created virtual career fairs where leading companies had their own ‘virtual stands’ and students could book meeting spaces with hiring teams that would take place via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

These are just a few examples of the various ways in which universities can use tech solutions to set students on the right path for success after university. However, most of these rely on tools that have not been specifically built for edtech but for other applications.

If we in the edtech space can address life’s soft skills, and the transition to the world of work with purpose-built solutions, we can truly enable universities to set their students up for success in the future workplace.

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