Manufacturing Environment

Exploring Careers while Learning at Home

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.

Websites listed in this post are listed as examples because they are already in common use in Illinois. There is no endorsement of these companies or their services by the P-20 Network or Northern Illinois University.

Along with the physical closure of schools, work-based learning experiences have also been stopped for students. From its March 16, 2020, guidance document, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) clarified that students cannot participate in work-based learning experiences in the field with workplace partners.

ISBE - No Internships - 03162020

Does this mean that students cannot meaningfully engage in exploring careers while learning at home? Actually, E-Learning presents a wonderful opportunity to engage in further career exploration for students. Ideas for learning more about careers while learning at home include:

  • Using online tools to conduct their own research about careers about which they would like to learn more, including what type of postsecondary education to obtain a position in the career, what the workplace environment looks and feels like, how much money one is able to earn both when new in the career and later with more experience, and most importantly, how the career matches with the students’ personal and career interests as well as with regional occupational needs. If your school district uses a tool like Xello or YouScience, now is a great time to have students dive into their results and do some additional exploration.

Xello - Explore Careers

  • Students can also conduct interviews or do additional research into the more behind-the-scenes elements of different careers in which they might be interested to fully understand what those careers entail on a daily basis. In many cases, students have a deeper understanding of the careers of their parents or other adult family members as well as teachers. Beyond that, most students do not see the daily inner-workings of most careers. Movies and television not only leave out most careers and focus on specifically high-profile careers in very dramatic ways, such as law enforcement, paramedics, and frontline medical professions, such as doctors and nurses. Even with the large number of movies and television shows focused on these careers, large portions of the daily work routine in those fields are typically left out. Hours of documentation and paperwork each day is part of real life, but it does not make for dramatic viewing. Even when other careers are highlighted in movies and television, such as the scene below from Apollo 13 that shows engineers tackling a life-threatening problem, leave out the years of detailed, mundane creation and testing that these same engineers did prior to the launch of Apollo 13.
  • Use the curriculum of your course as a jump-off for career exploration – As we replace some of the face-to-face collaborative activities, labs, and other lessons that we would have been doing with in-person teaching that we have not yet figured out how to effectively move online or to students’ homes, take advantage of this opportunity to use your curriculum as a jumping off point for further exploration. Certainly, it is a great opportunity to explore the curriculum further and/or in unique personalized ways with independent research and creative, original products. It is also a great opportunity for students to explore careers related to this curriculum. While this may be a teacher-initiated career exploration, there is a great deal of room for individual student choice within this work as well as for students to create a wide range of products that can inform other students in other places and in the future about career options. This also a great opportunity for community partners of local school districts to provide information about their careers via video chats using tools like YouTube Live. (It takes 24 hours for YouTube to verify an account to allow it to broadcast live, so one does need to plan in advance).


  • Remote College & Career Counseling – Despite the fact that nearly all teachers and staff and counselors and advisors are working from home, in some ways, this is a better opportunity than a normal March or April to provide students with during-the-day college and career counseling. In many cases, engaging with students and parents together may be easier than it would normally be, as well. Remote college and career counseling can certainly take advantage of today’s technological tools, live video chat through Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams, or some other tool, but it can also take place via a phone call, enabling nearly all students and families to take advantage of this opportunity. In the example below from Maine West High School, Maine Township High School District 207 staff members walk students and families through the steps that they have created, and which others can replicate, to provide remote college and career counseling. (It is important to note that, in addition to the video here, the slide deck is publicly available and has been widely shared on social media to engage students, such as this Instagram post from Maine East High School.)

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