KeyTrain© Career Ready 101 is a comprehensive, self-paced Internet-based system for developing and improving career readiness skills. The curriculum is specifically designed for work readiness and is used by those preparing for work for the first time and also by incumbent workers, including those in company-sponsored workplace basic skills classes. Career Ready 101 is a component of KeyTrain©, an online computer-assisted program developed for North Americans (high school and adults) who need skills and knowledge to prepare for and pass the ACT, Inc., Work Keys National Career Readiness Certificate assessment that is used by some employers in hiring new employees. The program is also used internationally in Africa and Latin America.
Career Ready 101 includes the KeyTrain© Workplace Skills (Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, Applied Technology, Business Writing, Teamwork, Observation, Writing, Listening) Career Exploration and Preparation, Financial Literacy, and Career Skills (e.g. Job Search, Communication, Work Ethics, Workplace Effectiveness, Business Etiquette). The system Includes pre- and post-tests to measure learning gains, extensive reporting options, and other tools for administrators and teachers. Different competency levels for students are established, ranging from level 1 through level 7, and users can progressively work up through each level. The units of instruction are self-contained, with Overview, Learning, Practice, and Quiz sections.
The lessons in Career Ready 101 are designed to be assigned by a teacher, tutor, or counselor. Many of the Internet-based courses include complete materials for traditional classroom instruction in teaching situations where Internet access and/or computer availability is limited. The learner can choose to have the text in the lessons read aloud by a human voice, so although the lessons are not necessarily written at a beginning reading level, they may still be useful to low-literacy adults.
Organizations interested in using Career Ready 101 may purchase site licenses and then create their own student/client accounts. Other features include individual and class calendars, a résumé builder, and links to U.S. Department of Labor O*NET interest inventories, the results of which can be used in O*NET career exploration. Computer-assisted instruction and familiarity with the software is required for facilitators.
The KeyTrain© curriculum has been reviewed by ACT, Inc., the creator and publisher of the WorkKeys job skills assessment system and has been determined to meet ACT standards for quality. KeyTrain is listed by ACT as a Level One Publisher of the WorkKeys curriculum. For more information, please see the ACT website: http://www.act.org/workkeys/sktrain/index.html
KeyTrain Career Ready 101 offers a wide range of high quality instructional modules related to developing career readiness skills. The material is most suitable for use either prior to or at the time of specific skill development. The various instructional units are self-paced with students progressing through different content areas and levels of instruction. The flexibility provided is a strength of the material; the material can accommodate differences in interest, background, achievement and career goals. Students also can progress at different rates. The instructional path is easy to follow, the material is clearly presented and the format attractive. There is ample material for teacher use, including a system for tracking student progress. While some technical areas are examined in relation to career readiness skills, such as mechanics and hydraulics, the majority of the instructional material relates to applied math writing skills and work habits and attitudes.
Overall, the presentation is basic and “conventional,” with little innovation and creativity. But it is solid. Students basically complete exercises. Like all IT based instructional material, however, there are challenges to consider. Students need to have appropriate reading and computer skills. There are also hardware requirements that need an up-front and on-going investment. The maintenance of hardware will be a continuing challenge. Economies of scale are required to offset what can be a high unit cost of instruction if the user base is not large. System as well as content obsolescence is a fact that will inevitably arise. Typically the use life of this kind of instructional material is five years.
The courses appear to be well organized. The content I reviewed was accurate (at least, for many North American work situations). The sound feature, that allows you to choose to have the text read out loud, is attractive and potentially useful, although it did not always work for me on a Macintosh computer. If someone's goal is to prepare for the National Career Readiness Certificate these courses would be especially useful.
However, there are several serious drawbacks: 1) the materials are not written for low-literate or limited English adults. 2) They are contextualized materials, a strength for North Americans, but possibly inappropriate for some other countries and cultures. (Note: I only looked at the English, not the Spanish version.) 3) The lesson organization is predictable but relies heavily on multiple choice practice and testing, not unlike many existing print career readiness workbooks. In the courses I reviewed I did not see particularly creative, highly interactive or constructivist uses of the technology. 4) This is relatively expensive for poor or developing countries ($4,500 for a site license). 5) Good (possibly high bandwidth) computer access is required to benefit from this online curriculum.
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