Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Virtual Career Expo: Improving Equity, Connecting Communities, and Increasing PSE Awareness

Lindsey Link, Alex Holmes, Jami Henson, Ayanna Wheeler, Will Markham, Ayanna Wheeler | Published: September 13th, 2021 by K20 Center


In this interactive session, participants will explore a career roadmap and experience a mini-virtual career expo. Participants will leave with a variety of ideas about implementing virtual career experiences in their own GEAR UP programs.

Essential Question

How can your community help support your goal in improving equity among the students while increasing Post-Secondary Education (PSE) awareness?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will engage in a virtual career experience.

  • Participants will envision implementation of the virtual experience into their program

  • Participants will assess the value of virtual career experiences

Materials List

  • Presentation Slides (attached)

  • Helpful Resources (attached; one per participant)

  • Collective Brain Dump (attached; if used digitally, one for the entire group; if to be printed, one per small group)

  • Pass the Problem (attached; one per pair)

  • Career Exploration—A Review and Future Research Agenda (Optional)

  • Computer

  • Projector

  • Wifi

  • Pencils or pens


Begin with the slide 2 to introduce the title, yourself, and the topic.

Display slide 3 and share the Career Roadmap with your participants.

Career Roadmap

Ask participants the following questions and allow them to share out their responses with the group:

  1. When should career exploration be introduced to students? (slide 4)

  2. When were you introduced to career exploration? (slide 5)

  3. When did you learn about the career you currently hold? (slide 6)

Move to slide 7 and share the following research with your participants. "According to recent research found in the February 2019 publication of The Journal of Vocational Behavior, empirical studies show that many individual factors can foster or inhibit adolescents' career exploration. The studies show that individual beliefs affect career exploration. For example, (click next on the presentation slides to display a star over "High School") among high school students, there is growing evidence of a positive relationship between career exploration and students’ capability to decide on a career. Additionally, researchers found growing empirical evidence that contextual support—which is social, interpersonal, and instrumental support—acts as a key facilitator in adolescent career exploration. For example, (click next on the presentation slides to display a star over "Middle School") social support from family, peers, friends, and educators promotes career exploration among middle and high school students."

Use slides 8-10 and share your GEAR UP grant's goals. Hide the grant goals for the GEAR UP grants you are not a part of.

GEAR UP for the FUTURE (slide 8)

  1. Increase cohort academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education (PSE)

  2. Increase high school graduation and PSE participation

  3. Increase student educational expectations and increase student and family knowledge of PSE options, preparation, and financing

GEAR UP OKC (slide 9)

  1. Increase students’ engagement in learning

  2. Increase students’ academic preparation for PSE upon graduation

  3. Increase schools’ high school graduation and PSE enrollment rates

  4. Increase students’ and their families’ knowledge of PSE options, preparation, and financing

GEAR UP for MY SUCCESS (slide 10)

  1. Increase cohort academic performance and preparation for PSE

  2. Increase High School graduation and PSE participation

  3. Increase student educational expectations and increase student and family knowledge of PSE options, preparation, and financing

Move to slide 11 and share the essential question with the participants: How can your community help support your goal in improving equity among the students while increasing Post-Secondary Education (PSE) awareness?

Move to slide 12 and share the learning objectives with the participants. Let them know that you will be revisiting these at the end of the session to see how well they have met them.

  • Engage in a virtual career experience

  • Envision implementation of the virtual experience into their program

  • Assess the value of virtual career experiences


Transition to slide 13 and inform participants that they will be participating in an activity called Collaborative Word Cloud as they watch a video. A word cloud is an effective way to collect feedback from your virtual expo because it allows you to hone in on the points of most significance.

Display slide 14 and share Zoom Into Your Career with participants.

Display slide 15 and have participants get together in small groups. Instruct the groups to first discuss the list of keywords each person wrote down, why they chose the words they did, and then to create a collaborative word cloud using markers and chart paper.

Once the groups have completed their word clouds, have them share out with everyone. Are there words or phrases that stood out as significant across all of the groups?

Pass out the Helpful Resources handout and share, "As you saw in the video, virtual career talks can be a great way to connect your students to a larger community, and it’s a great way to help them gain more understanding of the postsecondary education opportunities they will have. Of course, virtual career talks take time to plan—to help you pass these opportunities along to your students, we have created a combination of resources for you to use. Included in these resources is a list of tips and tricks for what details to consider as you plan your event."


Transition to slide 16 and share Ayanna Wheeler NCCEP 2020 Presentation, in which Mentoring Coordinator, Ayanna Wheeler, explains how K20's Career Expos have evolved over the last couple of years.

Display slide 17, which has a list of five speakers that have been used in the past. Ask participants the following questions:

  1. Thinking of your students and community needs, which of our speakers, if any, could be a good fit for your students? You may want to select more than one.

  2. Why did you select the speaker(s) you chose?

Move to slide 18 and inform participants that, together, they are going to participate in an instructional strategy called Collective Brain Dump. To do this, share the "Collective Brain Dump" handout with participants using an online collaborative working space such as Google Doc or One Notes.

In the handout, instruct participants to drop in any and all ideas for speakers within the community they have. This does not have to be a specific individual, rather, this could be a career within one of the career clusters.


Transition to slide 19 and share Will Markham NCCEP 2020 Presentation, in which Mentoring Coordinator Will Markham explains how K20's Mentoring Team made critical adjustments to how they approached the technology use mid year and it's impact on the participating school staff.

Move to slide 20 and share with your participants that together you are going to participate in an instructional strategy called Pass the Problem.

In pairs, participants should receive a question/problem statement. Together, have them come up with a solution to the problem. Provide participants with three minutes to work on the problem in front of them.

  1. What can I do about technology barriers?

  2. What do I do if a speaker cancels?

  3. What if my school doesn’t allow us to use Zoom?

  4. What if we don't have a lot of people in our community who want to be a speaker?

At the conclusion of the first three minutes, move to slide 21 and instruct participants to find a pair who has a different problem statement and switch papers. Have pairs read the new problem and presented solution. Display slide 22 and provide participants the next five minutes to build on the current solution or present an alternate solution.

Repeat this procedure until all participants have had a chance to read and present a problem for each of the four problem statements. Once they have completed the activity, have pairs review their original paper and the included solutions. Ask for volunteers to share out what they have. Would these be viable solutions to real problems you may face?


Transition to slide 23 and inform the participants that you are going to take a moment to reflect with a quick instructional strategy called POMS: Point of Most Significance. Instruct them to think about all of the new information they've learned, the conversations we have had through discussions, participant feedback, and the highlight reel that you saw. Have participants share out their POMS.

Return to the objectives on slide 24, read aloud, or refer to them again and ask participants to evaluate the professional development on the rapid feedback form based upon these objectives.

Research Rationale

Research shows that teenagers engaging in multiple opportunities to speak with professionals through career talks statistically earn higher salaries in adulthood (Kashefpakdel & Percy, 2017). However, often youth from low-income, or rural, isolated communities do not have access to professionals from a variety of career fields. To improve accessibility and ensure sustainability, GEAR UP programs can capitalize on virtual communication applications, such as Zoom, to implement virtual career expos. Through these expos, students from under-resourced communities can engage with professionals representing a wide range of career fields from around the world (Nikolic et al., 2016). Virtual career expos are attractive for educators and school administrators because of the low cost of implementation and relative ease of planning. Students enjoy career expos because they can interact with professionals, ask questions about college and careers, and connect online with students from across the state. Virtual career expos promote a student-centered, global community and have the potential to build a network of communication between GEAR UP schools and the larger college and career context. This Excel and Mobilize-Session is designed to support GEAR UP programs and partners in improving accessibility to services and strengthening sustainability of college and career awareness for students.