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Texas CC Tests Career Exploration VR with Middle Schoolers

Coastal Bend College, a community college serving five counties in the Coastal Bend region of Texas along the Gulf of Mexico, turned to virtual reality to help middle schoolers in the region figure out what careers they should declare for themselves as they enter high school, as well as to promote career and technical education (CTE). The institution piloted the use of a career exploration program that uses VR with local school districts and found the results promising.

The state of Texas requires schools to expose their students to career options in grades 7 and 8. The college worked with TRANSFR, which produces TRANSFRVR, to create a training program local middle schools could use with their students in exploring careers.

TRANSFR's simulations provide an immersive learning environment that places students inside various career paths and allows them to try tasks. Guided by a digital coach, students receive instruction that introduces them to different careers, teaches them how to perform essential tasks, gives feedback based on their specific actions and assesses progress toward mastery of skills in real time. Among the careers featured were manufacturing; architecture and construction; transportation and logistics; and hospitality and tourism.

Based on student surveys and feedback from participating schools, initial results from the pilot with K-12 schools in the region showed that 83% of students could choose a career path upon completion. According to project participants, the use of the program reduced "the strain on district and educator resources" required to address the career readiness requirement.

"In recent years, the growth of good jobs has actually been greatest for workers who have an associate's degree. Against that backdrop, community colleges play an increasingly important role in preparing students for highly skilled roles that offer career and economic stability and advancement," said Braden Becknell, director of Workforce Development & Continuing Education for the college, in a statement. "This collaboration transforms the traditional curriculum and paper-based tests used for career exploration into a more interactive, relevant and meaningful experience. It's helping students experience these career options and fulfill the state career readiness requirements. The initial results are incredibly promising."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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