Empowering Indian Youth to Craft Fulfilling Futures
With more than half its population under the age of 25, India's growth story will be written by the employability of its youth. However, a fractured education system and disconnected employment sector leaves many youth unemployed, under-employed or unsatisfactorily employed. According to NCAER (National Council for Applied Economic Research) reports, only 61% of chief wage earners in India are working in occupations of their choice. This number is higher in the massive lower socio-economic segment, for whom work choices are largely circumstantial and career planning and development are non-existent concepts. The result is an unhappy work-force, unable to realise their true potential.
Quest Alliance (India) is a not-for-profit trust that equips young people with 21st century skills by enabling self-learning. Our project with them, Career Conquest is a set of 36 interactive 'mobisodes' (mobile-episodes) that equip young people with the mindset, skills and knowledge to craft fulfilling careers for themselves. They empower the learners to own their professional journeys by developing a foundational understanding of their own self and work possibilities of the future. The target user group for this project are 15-21 year olds from the lower socio-economic segments, preparing to enter the workstream.
Career Conquest is based on the design principle of giving learners agency over their own learning and empowering them to 'learn to learn'. Such agency acts as a pull factor for many as they can choose to learn whatever is relevant to them. By cultivating a self-learning attitude, the course ensures that the students stay in the learning and growing loop, even after the completion of this course.
The course imparts career development concepts like self-awareness, networking, career research and planning, along with crucial 21st century skills like communication, critical thinking, reflection, negotiation and initiative. Mobisodes are interspersed with animations, quizzes and activities that immerse learners in the content and encourage them to apply their learning to situations around them.
To give shape to the course, first a content strategy was created to organise and interpret a vast pool of learning material. Product design included scriptwriting, activity design, illustration, interaction design, animations and sound design. Prototype based testing was done to ensure that textual and visual language was being understood by various users. Design guides and templates were created so that multiple designers and illustrators could work collaboratively and deliver to the project's tight timelines.
Career Conquest will be used by a large part of Quest's 60,000 learners over this year. Additionally, it will be made available to the millions of Indian youth who cant access formal education. After going through some mobisodes, Kuldeep, 15, said that, "Through this I can learn from others and they can learn from me. We will all grow together." Surbhi, 18, surmised that, "Only a job isn't enough. We can create a career out of things we love. And we can convince our parents to support us."
This course has set the bar for digital translation of multiple other courses at Quest Alliance.
6 monochromatic colour schemes for 6 modules
Illustrations for the course
Module and mobisode break-up
A glimpse at the process
A multiple choice question with feedback cards
Kuldeep doing an activity to reflect on the benefits of having a digital professional identity
Watching a mobisode called 'Beliefs and Us' that helps them delve deeper into how belief systems can have an influence on our career decisions.
Aasma lives in Tughlaqabad in New Delhi. She is the neighbourhood's go-to-person for repairing appliances. She has been helping her father in running his sweet shop for the past year. It has never occurred to her that her innate ability could be a possible career avenue.
Moinder has been a bread-winner for his family for 10 years now. He took his first job as a handyman in a factory when he was 14 years old. He has changed 8 jobs since, in a bid to earn more. He wants to become a floor supervisor, but gets rejected each time he tries for a promotion.
Sonali's house is on the outskirts of the tech park in Hyderabad. She is about to finish school and aspires to be like the IT professionals she sees everyday. She has innumerable questions - Does she have the abilities needed? What course to take up? Where? How long will it take? Her father, a tea-stall owner, is on the lookout for a groom for her.
India is a country of 1.3 billion people. Of this, 85% earns less than $2100 annually, and 58% earn less than $1100. There are innumerable stories like Aasma, Moinder and Sonali's where absence of career concepts leads to unfulfilling work-lives and unrealised human potential. Such individuals and their families are caught in a web of poverty, struggling to plug the holes in the fabric of their survival by grabbing at the first earning opportunity that comes their way.
In these lower income groups, 15-21 year olds are often the active breadwinners of their families. At an age when they should be exposed to education and training that lays a foundation for future success, they are either inducted into the family's profession, married off or forced to take up unfulfilling jobs. They remain ignorant of the world of work and the opportunities of a growing employment sector.
In this scenario, Career Conquest is a digital learning course that imparts critical career development skills to these young people, irrespective of their association with classrooms. For an audience that has no prior concept of a career, this course takes them through different nuances of career planning and guides them to create their own career plan.
The course design and structure is intended at taking learners through a journey of self-discovery that leads them to professional clarity. Going through such an experience creates an attitudinal shift in how learners make career decisions. It helps in developing self-learning skills and warrants higher levels of engagement. The course content has been designed to be both, sensitive and pragmatic - directly relating with the learners' lifescapes and providing inputs for change-oriented action.
The course is made up of 6 modules, which are further broken into 36 mobisodes, each 3-5 minutes long.
The module on 'Understanding Your-Self' takes learners on a journey of self awareness. Interactive activities help them understand themselves - their interests and abilities, what they are good at versus what they like to do. It also talks about the importance of family & friends, and how their support can be won to achieve career goals.
The 'Self-Expression' module explains the importance and techniques of expressing one's thoughts, intentions and ideas effectively to the people important to them. It drives the learner to understand the art of negotiation and its relevance in personal and professional relationships.
The mobisodes within 'Gender and Career' nudge learners to recognise gender stereotypes and their impact on career choices and decisions. They also help learners realise how gender biases affect workplaces and how they can be challenged.
The module- 'Your Professional Identity' helps learners identify and define their professional selves and abilities. They also learn about platforms like LinkedIn and how the latter can be leveraged to achieve career goals.
'Career Research' introduces them to a constantly changing world-of-work and techniques to scan it for identifying suitable careers. They learn how to find information about potential career options and study their various aspects before pursuing any one of them.
In the 'Career Plan' module, learners bring together all their learning to chalk out a well-rounded plan - with details like short term and long term goals, timelines, action areas and resources needed. It also encourages them to plan for career alternatives, just in case Plan A fails.
Additionally, each module has a minute long summary animation that acts as a recap just before the learner attempts a summative assessment. Such reinforcement of concepts helps in increasing the retention of ideas that are fairly new and also create opportunities for reflection. The animations can be revisited by the learner anytime they want to.
'Career Conquest' is based on the principles of self-learning. Keeping the learner motivated and engaged has been an underlying thought throughout.
Complex ideas have been broken into smaller nuggets and storytelling has been adopted as a predominant approach for their dissemination. To ensure wholesome immersion and relatability, stories - their situations and characters, have been extrapolated from the average learners' socio-economic context.
To meaningfully move from a facilitated to an un-facilitated experience, in-class activities, experiences and anecdotes have been reimagined to suit a self-learning curriculum. Peer dependent collaboration and communication activities like sharing circles and group-work have been translated to forms that nudge learners to involve people in their immediate environment. Triggers for reflection and cross-mobisode connections have been built in to close learning loops. An online community of learners provide a rich space for exchange and sharing.
To enable self evaluation, formative assessments have been scattered throughout the mobisodes and constructive feedback content is integrated in them to reinforce pre-introduced concepts.
A conversational and friendly narrative tone makes the overall experience interactive and inclusive. The bite-sized mobisodes have been designed to make sense individually and each one goes through all steps of the learning cycle - absorb, reflect, retain and apply. Moreover they have all been treated as modular units without a fixed sequence. No mobisode makes an assumption that another one has been done before. This modularity empowers learners to choose their own flow and exercise more agency over their learning, increasing the likelihood of extended learner engagement.
Design considerations are based around the knowledge that most of Career Conquest learners are new to digital interactions, have sporadic access to internet, possess a beginner's command over the English language and prefer a non-abstract visual style.
Keeping in mind the learners' tech prowess, the interactions have been kept simple and come with explicit instructions. Action buttons with phrases like 'I am ready' 'Continue' and 'Go Back' talk directly to the learners and give them navigational control.
To make the course accessible, removing data dependency was important. The visuals, sounds, videos and animations were all designed such that each mobisode's size is under 12 megabytes. This makes them easy to download, even with average internet connectivity, and easy to save, even on phones with low internal storage.
For ensuring a high level of understanding and retention, very simple and direct English has been used to communicate complex ideas with the visual style also following the same intent. Supportive text has been used abundantly to help learners read and internalise the narrated content at their own pace.
To visually connect all modules, yet differentiate them from one another, monochromatic palettes have been chosen. All design decisions regarding the font sizes and layouts keep in mind the most basic range of Indian smartphones, their screen sizes and resolution.
An analysis of the course's target audience led to the creation of the fundamental design principles for the course. A content strategy was created by reorganising and reinterpreting the client's 10-year old content pool. This led to the course's skeletal structure - 6 modules and 36 mobisodes.
Mobisode design included steps like creating content outlines, writing scripts, simplifying language, illustration, activity design, interaction design, voiceover recording and visual design. They went through multiple rounds of audit to ensure that learning objectives were being met. Product usability was also tested by 2 different teams.
The process included a prototyping phase where one module was completely designed and tested with learners to take decisions regarding the visual style, level of language complexity and nature of digital interactions. It helped us ensure that the abstraction of ideas into visuals was understandable and visual interpretations of recurring words like 'interests' 'abilities' 'self' were relatable.
After going through the Career Conquest course –
Aasma did some research and enrolled into an Electronics Course at an Industrial Training Institute. She has also enlisted as a service provider on a digital marketplace for home services.
Moinder realised that he lacks the soft-skills that are necessary for his career to grow. He is doing online courses that are helping him with his communication and problem solving skills. He also keeps taking professional development tips from his workplace seniors.
Sonali convinced her parents that she needed to become self-reliant and that she would work really hard to become a good engineer. She helped her father procure an education loan for her and is now preparing for the Engineering entrance exams.