August 7, 2015

Helping Students Bridge the Experience Gap

If you have found your way here I would love your opinion on an idea I have to start a website that would help give students experience with projects actually performed by entry-level employees in different fields. The idea stems my desire to give my students real job-like experiences in the field I teach - biology.  I then thought everyone could benefit from this website, not just students.  If you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments.  Thank you!

Background: Currently there is a gap between what students learn in school and the capabilities businesses are looking for in new hires. Students who enter the job market are dismayed by their inability to obtain jobs after they have spent years getting an education intended to make them successful. Businesses also struggle to find prospective employees with the abilities they need for their company.

Objective: To give students experience with tasks performed by entry-level employees, and provide businesses a means of screening prospective employees and supporting education by providing entry-level projects for students to complete.

How this will be accomplished:  A website will be created with three sections, one for students, one for teachers, and one for businesses.  Businesses will have an area to post entry-level projects, such as blog posts, presentations, etc. and the information needed for students to complete projects in the project queue on the website. The business section will also have an area to review and accept or reject completed projects, and then provide students with comments that can go in their profile on the website for other prospective employers to view.  Businesses could also look up profiles of prospective employees to read comments provided by other companies, or to view all the work that a person completed for their company.

The student section of the website would be where their profiles are located, and the access point to the project queue where they could reserve a project to complete. The reservation process is important so multiple students are not working on the same project at the same time. Students would be given a set amount of time to complete the project based on its size. If a submission was not completed by the due date the project would be sent back to the queue for other students to complete. Once the project is completed the student would send the project to a reviewer.  This reviewer could approve the project, which would mean the project was well done and abides by the criteria the company provided, and send the project to the company. The reviewer could request revisions to the project and send it back to the student for re-submission. The reviewer could also reject the project and return it to the queue for another student to complete. In the profile students could also upload or write a resume, but most importantly there would be an area to highlight comments and badges, such as a gold badge in blog writing for a blog post that went well beyond expectations, received by businesses after completing their project. If the student did not like a comment received by a company they also have the option to hide specific comments here. 

Finally there would be an instructor section of the website where teachers could log in and review projects posted to the queue. Based on their course objectives, the instructor could then reserve a group of projects for their students to complete for their class. If students do not select all the projects the instructor reserved she could return the ones not in use to the queue for other students to complete. The instructor could then choose whether they want to review the project or if they want someone from the website to review the project prior to submission to the company.

Here are my questions that I would like comments on:
1.  Would businesses use this website?  Are there entry-level projects that your company might give to interns or new hires that could be completed entirely online?
2.  Does this website give students experience that would make them more appealing as a potential employee?  If not, could you give details on how the website could be changed to do that.
3.  How should the website generate an income to keep it running?
      a.  Charge the business for each completed project based on the estimated time to completion so the student could get paid for their work, then the website would take a small percentage.
      b.  Charge the business for certain options, such as making review prior to submission to the business optional.  We could also highlight certain projects or companies and charge for that.  
      c.  Use advertising as the sole means of income, though this will not generate much in the beginning.  
      d.  Other ideas are welcome.

Thanks for your thoughts!  Hopefully we can get this website running and give our students some good experience to help them get jobs after graduation.