New Zealand company Graduate Factory (based in Otago) has come up with a smart solution to one of the most important decisions in a person’s life: What should I major (specialise) in at university (or ‘college’ as it’s usually known in the US)?
In what the company says is “the first and only software of its kind in the world” No Major Drama (www.nomajordrama.com) (NMD) offers an internet-based tool that enables users to create personalised rankings of majors available for Bachelor (under-graduate) degrees in the US and Canada. Each user’s ranking of majors is based on their own personal selection criteria, related to their skills and interest and their own personal weights on the criteria.
NMD also provides summaries of what each major is about and links to carefully chosen Wikipedia articles, career opportunities and general information about going to college.
NMD is already finding fans among students and student counsellors in the US.
“Finally a tool that is quick, easy and useful for students and provides counsellors with valuable data,” says Steve Barnes, guidance counsellor of William Henry Harrison High in Cincinnati, the first US school to trial No Major Drama. “Usually, I am frustrated by computer applications and wonder why they can’t do the things I want them to do. Instead, with nomajordrama.com I’m asking ‘what can’t it do?”
Keith Klinefelter, principal of William Henry Harrison High School, says it’s “a world-beater” and that he has “never seen anything like it” in his career. Teachers involved in pre-launch product trials have been particularly impressed with NMD’s ability to capture data on students’ preferences, allowing for more effective academic counselling.
NMD is quick and easy to use (it takes about 5 minutes), and users can share their results with school counsellors and friends on Facebook. The software is designed to engage with ‘Gen Z’ or the ‘Net Generation’ in particular – famous for short attention spans and reliance on social media and the Internet.
Education costs in the US can be very high. College students face tuition bills of $10,000 to $50,000 a year – making what to major in for a four-year Bachelor degree, literally a $200,000 decision, and there are thousands of possible majors to choose from. Somewhat disturbingly, 80% of students entering college are unsure of their major, according to research from Penn State and other US educational institutions; and 50% of students will change their major at least once before they graduate.
With over 5000 colleges and 18 million students in the US in any one year, NMD’s creators are hoping to help lots of people to maximise their academic (and career) prospects, and in the process ‘save the world’. “Education’s social and economic importance cannot be underestimated,” says Dr Paul Hansen, one of NMD’s inventors. “And given the scarcity of educational resources, the decision of what to major in has great national significance.”
No Major Drama is completely free for individual users and schools. Each school can easily create customised versions of NMD including the school logo, motto and colours. In the long term, the inventors would like it to be used by all schools in the US and Canada.
No Major Drama is even attracting New Zealand users. Dunedin-based student Jamie Parkinson-Wisely from John McGlashan College describes NMD as “really awesome, incredibly easy to use and fun as well. The results I got were mostly things I wanted to do with a couple of new ideas worth considering.”
No Major Drama has been created by the Graduate Factory Ltd, an EdTech company associated with The Distiller Lab at the Centre for Innovation, University of Otago, Dunedin. Graduate Factory’s collaborators hail from diverse backgrounds, including design, economics, business and computer science.
NMD was inspired by the success of Otago Choice (www.otago.ac.nz/otagochoice), which is software to help students choose from the 106 majors available at the University of Otago. Since going live in 2008, Otago Choice has been used over 50,000 times (60 uses per day, on average). Based on this experience, Graduate Factory created No Major Drama for the US and Canada.