“But I can find all that online!” Self-guidance and media competency as a challenge for education and careers guidance (part two)

Author of the original article in German: Wolfang Bliem

Challenges and developments
Although digitalisation is easy to recognise on the surface level through the many online applications that can be used as tools for guidance (information websites, databases, online tests and so on), there are associated challenges from a guidance point of view at a much deeper level. As more and more guidance tools are made available and become easier to access, people can soon find themselves dealing with an information overload that is nothing short of confusing. This could make it much more difficult to align what's on offer with their personal expectations, interests and suitability. Some of the online tests intended for self-assessment can actually leave the user with more questions unanswered than answered. Or the issue of applicants not knowing how to express their individuality within the framework of a standard online form might come up.

A selection of developments and challenges are collated under three headings below:
Changing customer structure
The tension between having easy access to information and being overloaded with the diversity of information available may lead to further differentiation between target groups within education and careers guidance. This places greater focus on the level of existing knowledge. For example, people can be divided up into the following ‘types’ based on how informed they are (please note that this categorisation is the result of observing developments and changes within society rather than being based on empirical research):

‘Mature users’: Well-informed with fixed ideas and high expectations of guidance; mainly looking for confirmation that the decision they have already made is the right one.
‘Uncertain users’: Equally well-informed with high expectations and yet only vague ideas owing to the extensive options available; mainly looking for someone to help them make a decision.
‘Overwhelmed users’: Overloaded by the high volume of information available; not very well-informed as a result with only vague ideas, if any at all, yet equally high expectations; mainly looking for someone to guide them and point them in the right direction.
Other types of people: undecided, internet conscientious objectors, ill-informed, indifferent and unreachable. In reality, the boundaries between the different types are often blurred and the way in which guidance services are planned and organised as well as the skills the advisor will need to be able to demonstrate are affected.

Evolving guidance services
Communication between advisors and people looking for advice is evolving through digital means. ‘Blended counselling’ involves a mixture of one-to-one contact and phases of self-guidance. And yet these new options mean that the expectations placed on the availability and visibility of guidance services are rising. As people expect to be able to access services from mobile devices wherever they are and at any time of day, without having to reveal their identity, we are seeing the focus shift to online guidance and other forms of e-counselling. This can only improve the accessibility of guidance services. And yet we also need to avoid a situation in which people who are not familiar with technology or do not have sufficient digital know-how get left out as a result of more and more services being provided digitally. This will only put groups of people who are already at a disadvantage in an even less favourable position.

Advisors' knowledge
When it comes to self-guidance and media competency, advisors need to have in-depth knowledge of IT applications that extends to information and knowledge management as well as being comfortable using the tools that are available for guidance. Having the experience to determine which applications are most suitable for a particular target group in a particular situation and for a particular purpose (information and research, communication, advice, testing, networking and so on) is part of this, as is recognising when applications are limited in their usage.

Aspects relating to information research (smart search strategies, etc.), assessment (information being up-to-date, reliable, available, etc.) and usage taking into account copyright, usage rights, individual rights and data protection all fall, alongside others, within the scope of media competency.

In terms of technical approaches, developments within education and careers guidance will continue to be defined by the fact that new ways of reaching customers are being created by new means of communication and online services. The need for strong media competency will result in increased requirements, but will only work on the basis of excellent guidance skills and careers expertise.

The growing trend towards self-guidance will not mean that fewer people looking for advice will be requesting guidance, but rather the number of guidance contacts will increase because visibility of guidance services will be boosted on the whole. People seeking advice will also start to have higher expectations, as a certain proportion of them at least will be better prepared for the guidance process.