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Your Future Is In the Cards: Education and Design

It is our role as designers focused on creating human-centered experiences to imagine and build solutions that use technology to enable positive outcomes. In the case of education, we have the opportunity to deliver positive impact not only to our life today but literally, to the next generation. That is why we chose education as one of the themes of our incubation program, Startefact.

In the Cards

With sky-rocketing student loans and our inability to prepare the next generation for 21st century STEM careers at the forefront of US Education conversations, we know that students face several challenges to find both fulfilling and prosperous careers. Awareness of career and educational opportunities is a barrier within itself. This is particularly acute for certain populations who are underserved by today’s system: girls, those in rural environments, and minorities.

In the Cards is a bite-sized career discovery app that is designed to progressively connect students with appropriate resources over time to help them explore, plan and achieve their career ambitions.

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Teenagers and career choice: dying of thirst in a river of information

Upon entering high school, students are expected to start planning for “what they want to be when they grow up.” However, their awareness of career and educational opportunities beyond high school are limited by the culture that surrounds them:

  • Minorities may not pursue particular careers because of explicit or implicit social and institutional discrimination.
  • Girls are less likely to believe that they will succeed in STEM fields and this perceived lack of agency becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Students in rural areas do not have access to the same resources as their peers in cities. For instance, college recruiters focus almost exclusively on urban areas.

Existing solutions that attempt to provide a wide range of information to inform career choice are impersonal and static, drowning students with a fire hose of information.

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U.S employers: facing a shortage of qualified workers

At the same time, U.S. employers are having trouble identify qualified applicants, impeding their businesses from growth or expansion. In addition, the understanding that more diverse workforces have clear business benefits is glaringly obvious.

We began our exploration by asking ourselves these two key questions:

  • How might we help students discover and pursue careers in a way that is personal and engaging?
  • How might we connect students with industry and educational resources to better match the emerging workforce with demand?

Information that matters: personalization and engagement

Meet Hannah, our fictional freshman student who lives in a small town an hour away from the city. Like many of her peers, she doesn’t know what she wants to be. She likes helping others, so she has the vague idea that healthcare might be an interesting field, but she does not really know anyone who works in healthcare. Sites with college rankings and academic opinions don’t help her much to decide if healthcare is something that would be good for her. Nor does the career counselor at her school whom she meets with infrequently.

In the Cards is designed with students like Hannah in mind.

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Bite sized interactions: In the Cards surfaces short snippets of information that help you get to know what you’re drawn to, mimicking the way teens interact with their favorite apps: Snapchat, Instagram, Vine. It’s a mobile centric experience that can be used anytime, anywhere.

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Always moving forward: Every interaction allows you to discover a path, narrow a path, or provide you with an opportunity that is either hard to access or you might not be aware of. Access to real mentors and local activities are revealed to help you explore.

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Personalized engagement: In the Cards adapts to you and learns with you over time. Based on where you are in your high school career, and how you have already engaged with the app, it will feed you different kinds of information and next steps. Featured professionals, their paths, and mentors are surfaced that have characteristics and backgrounds similar to yours.

What is in the cards for In the Cards?

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Creating something that can be embraced by teenagers is not easy, but there are quite a few social networking apps that know how to do it extremely well. Others, with a more professional bend, like LinkedIn, are looking for ways to provide their current users with more meaningful interactions and matching them with high school kids for coaching and mentoring could bring new life and increased engagement, while helping them sign up the next generation of members.

In the Cards is a concept we designed to provoke the industry to think about the access gap between students and their fulfillment of meaningful and prosperous careers. It’s a call to action to recognize that this gap is dire for groups of underserved girls, minorities and rural students who together comprise more than half of our future workforce. And, it’s a demonstration that we should create technology experiences specifically for these students, leveraging their unique ways of interacting with social technology to keep them engaged in exploring what’s in the cards for their future.