By Sam Young

For our “disruptive ideas” issue, we replaced our usual book review with a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) review

As far as I am aware, Stevenson University’s Career Architecture MOOC is the first MOOC for career development professionals on the planet. It ran from August 4 to September 8, but Stevenson has left the materials online for viewing. As they explain, “Stevenson University’s Career ArchitectureSM MOOC is designed to provide career practitioners with an introduction to our unique development model. Participants will acquire an understanding of the Career ArchitectureSM model through an introduction to the three components: Personal Direction; Discipline Expertise; and Professional Know-How.

As I worked through the materials, I realized that what Stevenson, a private liberal arts college in Maryland with approximately 4,400 graduate and undergraduate students, was proposing was a wrap-around service from the student’s point of view. In New Zealand we might call this a Whānau Ora approach – a package that supports body, spirit, mind and family, focused on health and well-being. Beginning at Orientation, Stevenson University spends time determining the student’s core values, and considering what this value-base means in relation to the course path that this student wishes to take, and then logically considering what potential careers might work for each student. After the selection process of determining a career, the student is guided in developing the technical aspects of what they might need for work in their chosen field: technical materials, advice, networking and preparation. The process starts in their first year, and continues as a thread through to their graduation year.

The focus in the introduction is on the Stevenson story. It has a logical flow, with each successive resource building upon the preceding one. Taken together, the materials told a clear story about Stevenson’s journey in developing a highly successful campus career service. It told a story of engagement; for example, of 785 graduates for the 2010-11 year, 735 responded to a graduate survey. It told a story of success; only 8% of the 2010-11 graduates was not in work, or not seeking work after a year. It told a story of innovation; the Stevenson Career Connections website allows students to upload their personal marketing materials – resumes and application letters – for critique throughout their degree so they are very well prepared before they graduate to apply for positions commencing as they complete their final papers. There is truth in the saying that the first cab off the rank usually gets the fare. Stevenson’s students appear career-ready, prior to graduation, and very employable.

Following the Introduction section, there is a section on each of the three aspects of the Stevenson’s Career Architecture approach: Personal Direction, Discipline Expertise; and Professional Know-How; followed lastly by a course summary.

The Personal Direction area contained an introductory clip explaining a little more about what personal direction was, two fairly populist articles on what drives employee engagement, and some reflection questions. The student is then taken to some information about strengths, and we get the first taste of some career theory, using Haldane’s Dependable Strength Articulation Process (DSAP) model. This model has the students tell stories of experiences they are proud of to others, who then identify the students’ strengths which arise from the stories. The students then reflects on this, validating or tweaking those external perceptions to fit their self-story. The students then “know” their strengths and can factor these into their career planning and development.

Stevenson provides some worksheets for students of the MOOC to document their success stories. This section left me with two slightly troubling thoughts: the possibility of the strengths analysis being done completely without a career professional to assist the student to avoid developing a fixed mindset (the “I am what I am” state which may prevent development); and that Haldane’s work is old theory, which – as far as I know – is not well underpinned by research. (I would be really grateful if anyone has any recent research exploring this model!)

The MOOC pages of the course are not well designed. There’s little use of graphics, a lack of lead-ins to why each item is important, and no explanation as to the purpose each resource serves for the reader. The course layout does not smooth the path for a student new to the online environment: the student needs to guess where to go next. If Stevenson were able to layout their materials using better quality and more consistent formatting and features, it would make course navigation less tentative for the student.

The video clips that Stevenson has used throughout are of high quality and are very well crafted. They tell the Career Architecture story well. The articles used throughout are accessible and only slightly academic.

There are some materials for mentors and supervisors in the Discipline Expertise and Professional Know-How sections, but these appear pitched to fit lecturers or non-career experts in assisting students in determining their career direction. Which brings me to my next point: If you are a career practitioner, this course is probably not for you. You might use it for your clients or students, to introduce them to Haldane’s model and as a structure for self-guidance through determining their own strengths.

Finally, while this MOOC is not ideally suited to career professionals, it contains excellent materials and a sound structure for students and [non-career] mentors to learn about themselves and what a wrap-around service needs. I was fascinated by how clearly presented Stevenson’s career architecture was, and how transportable this concept would be to any institution wanting to adopt this type of service. It provides a clear “how to” to ensure your students are career-ready when they graduate.

That, on its own, has immense value.


Sam Young is an Executive Member of the Career Development Association of New Zealand (CDANZ), a career practitioner, a lecturer and a business consultant. She is the editor of the CDANZ ezine, which can be viewed on You can reach her at and on LinkedIn at

MOOCs (massive open online courses) are a recent development in distance education, and started as recently as 2012. They are online courses that are open to unlimited participation and available to everyone who has access to the web. While every MOOC is built differently, they generally include an interactive forum where students and professors can build a sense of community, as well as online course materials such as video lectures.