Jones, W. P., Harbach, R. L., Coker, J. K., & Staples, P. A. (2002, September). Web-
assisted vocational test interpretation. Journal of Employment Counseling, 39,
A recent study which tested various types of increasingly popular online counseling services served as the first study of its kind. It explored the use of new ways to deliver online counseling services and had the subjects answer a questionnaire as to which style of counseling was of higher preference. Various means of conducting online counseling included computer use, video cues, and face to face counseling.
There are many new ways of delivering counseling services with recent technological advances. It was expected that some people may prefer to be counseled through video cues or and instant messaging system on the computer as opposed to face-to-face interviews (Jones, Harbach, Coker, & Staples, 2002). The reasons for these assumptions were that these resources help reach those who normally would not have access to them, and that some individuals may prefer a more private style of counseling. Further motivation for this study was to investigate if video cues significantly enhance the perceived quality of an online interpretive session.
The subjects were 36 students enrolled in Harbach’s educational psychology class; nine of the students were used for data in field test trials and 27 were used for the actual study. The age range was from 20 to 37, with a mean of 26.7 and a standard deviation of 5.63. 81% of the subjects were female. All subjects received extra credit for participating in the experiment. The counselors of the study were nine students enrolled in a beginning practicum class taught by Harbach. The subjects’ counselors consisted of eight women and one man. Each of the counselors received extra credit for participation as well.
The instrumentation of the test consisted of a Vocational Preference Inventory (VPI) and a Session Evaluation Questionnaire (SEQ). The VPI consisted of 160 occupational titles to which the subject responded if they liked or disliked the title. The scores were classified as to which personality characteristics the subjects were most similar to on a 6-dimension model, which comprised of the following categories: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. The SEQ is a self-reporting rating scale for the counseling sessions that rated the following summary scores: Depth, Smoothness, Positivity, and Arousal. The students rated these on a seven point semantic scale answering how they felt about each category (7 being most receptive).
The procedure was carried out as follows. The participants took the VPI during a regular class session. The authors of the study trained the counselors in three sessions, a total training period of approximately 90 minutes. Each counselor conducted each of the three delivery modalities, counterbalanced. The three modalities were a standard face-to-face counseling session, a chat session in which the counselor used a computer in a faculty office of one of the authors to talk communicate to the participant, and a chat/video in which each computer had a camera that allowed for visual contact between the participant and counselor. The counselor was instructed to look over the VPI profile before the participant arrived. Upon arrival of the participant, rapport was established. Counselors were given a detailed script to minimize effects of extraneous variables. The counselor then briefed the participants about the various personality dimensions of the VPI and asked the participant which three dimensions he/she identified with most, followed by the VPI questions. Participants were cautioned that the results might not have reflected typical interest patterns because they came from just one survey, and participants were not given the results. The session ended with the completion of the SEQ.
Statistically significant results for the SEQ were found in the Depth dimension in two of the different counseling methods. The difference between face-to-face (M = 5.4) and chat conditions (M = 4.4) was significant (p = .02), and the difference between chat and chat/video conditions (M = 5.2) was significant (p = .04). Statistically significant results were also discovered in the Smoothness dimension between face-to-face (M = 6.8) and chat/video (M = 6.0) (p = .01). The results did suggest that video clues significantly enhanced the perceived quality of an online counseling session, but that this manner of counseling was not conducted as smoothly as a typical face-to-face counseling session.
It is important to note that this was only a preliminary study and there is a demand for further studies to be carried out in order to make important inferences from the findings. No generalizations have been made from this study, and this study offers no definite answers. The authors state that the level of confidence may have been greater than it would be in a random sample. There are many methodological limitations that important to take note of. First the number of participants (36) was very low. Secondly, the counselors were inexperienced. Furthermore, all participants were students of the researchers, which might have served as an extraneous variable. These results seem to have immediate practical implications for online vocational testing and the potential of computer usage, however it would be presumptuous to generalize this and therefore more studies are needed. The importance of this study is that it did investigate the possibility of using computers for assistance in career counseling and encourages more studies to be done to make practical and important conclusions.
I. New ways of delivering counseling services.
A. Many resources are available on-line, which helps reach those who normally
would not be able to have these services.
B. This study wishes to be a preliminary source of data to find:
1. “Is there a significant difference in client satisfaction when vocational
test interpretation is provided online as contrasted with traditional face-
2. Do video cues significantly enhance the perceived quality of an online
1. 36 students enrolled in authors’ educational psych classes.
a. 9 used for data in field test trials.
b. 27 used for actual data for study
2. Age range 20-37; M=26.7, SD=5.63
3. 81% female
4. Received extra credit
B. Counselors in study
1. 9 students also in one of the author's begging practica classes.
2. 1 man, 8 women
3. Received credit toward course.
A. SEQ – Session Evaluation Questionnaire
1. 4 summary score
B. VPI – Vocational Preference Inventory
1. Vocational personality characteristics on a 6-dimension model
A. Participants took the VPI during a regular class session
B. Authors trained the counselors, 3 sessions
C. Each counselor conducted each of the 3 delivery models, counterbalanced.
D. Typical session overview
1. Counselor looks over VPI Profile before client arrives.
2. When participant arrives, rapport established.
3. Used the career party exercise (detailed script)
4. Counselor then went into more detail about test and consistency of VPI
with party exercise
5. Questions and Answers
6. Then counselor asks participant to fill out SEQ
A. Research questions addressed with SEQ
B. Statistically significant
a. Between face-to-face and chat
b. Between chat and chat/video
a. Between face-to-face and chat/video
VI. Discussion and Implications
A. Important: This is just a preliminary study. Not suggesting study shows
definitive answers, no generalations being made yet.
B. Many problems
1. Low number of participants
2. Inexperienced counselors
3. Computer confidence in people
4. All participants were students of researchers
C. Most important scale was Depth
1. Both face-to-face and chat/video scored much higher then chat alone
D. Results show that for on-line interpretations, chat/video is better then
E. Also, with the smoothness score, chat/video had lower in comfort level when
the participant was being viewed so more interaction between client and
counselor will be needed.