Abstract: Employment and Implementation Outcomes for Delivering a School-Based Virtual Reality Job Interview Training Tool to Transition-Age Youth with Educational Disabilities (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Employment and Implementation Outcomes for Delivering a School-Based Virtual Reality Job Interview Training Tool to Transition-Age Youth with Educational Disabilities

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Capitol, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Matthew Smith, PhD, MSW, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Kari Sherwood, MEd, Research Assistant, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Jd Smith, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University
Neil Jordan, PhD, Associate Professor, Northwestern University
Marc Atkins, Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
Background and Purpose: Virtual reality job interview training (VR-JIT) is an efficacious internet-based intervention designed for adults with severe mental illness to improve interview skills through repetitive practice and feedback. We evaluated the effectiveness and implementation of VR-JIT within school-based transition programming for transition age youth with disabilities (TAY-D). This presentation will focus on TAY-D employment outcomes and implementation outcomes. 

Methods: School partners (n=9) were recruited from a network of schools in Illinois or Michigan receiving state support to implement federally-mandated transition services. School administration partnered with the research team to implement VR-JIT within the transition curriculum and teachers completed surveys using school records and individualized education plans to provide background and employment status data on TAY-D (n=279). In addition, TAY-D (n=211) reported on VR-JIT acceptability and usability via surveys. Lastly, n=28 teachers and n=13 school administrators reported on VR-JIT implementation and sustainability via surveys and focus groups.

Results: TAY-D (ages 16 to 22) were primarily diagnosed with learning disability, autism, emotional disability, or other health impairment. 64% of TAY-D were male and 46% of TAY-D were minority students (e.g., African-American, Latinx). Regarding VR-JIT dosage, 25% of TAY-D completed a low-dose, 46% completed a medium-dose, and 31% completed a high-dose. By six-month follow-up, 29.0% of TAY-D obtained a competitive job (compared to the national average of 16% for TAY-D). Meanwhile, 22.2% of low-dose TAY-D, 31.7% of medium-dose TAY-D, and 39.5% of high-dose TAY-D obtained competitive employment. Logistic regression revealed that VR-JIT use predicted employment by 6-months at OR=1.51, p<.05; CI: 1.15, 2.00 after covarying for age, diagnosis, reading level, grade level, and baseline employment.

Regarding implementation, administrators planned for 86% of TAY-D to use computers in their regular transition classroom, while 14% were planned to use computers in another setting (e.g., homeroom, study hall). Teachers reported that 9% of TAY-D used VR-JIT in unplanned settings (e.g., free period, after school). Overall, teachers reported that 18% of TAY-D needed a lot of guidance with VR-JIT. 84% of teachers reported they are motivated to continue delivering VR-JIT. Teacher focus groups reported that VR-JIT was well-organized, easy-to-navigate, and enjoyed by most TAY-D. That said, teachers noted that some challenges to VR-JIT delivery and sustainability included start-up costs, reviewing feedback with TAY-D, and adding additional tools to their curriculum.

Regarding TAY-D acceptability and usability, more than 70% of TAY-D reported VR-JIT was enjoyable, helpful, and improved their skills. In turn these variables correlated with VR-JIT use (i.e., total completed trials, high score, minutes engaged in elearning, minutes engaged with virtual interviewer) (all r>.20, p<.05).

Conclusions and Implications: These promising findings suggest that using VR-JIT to enhance transition services may lead to higher rates of competitive employment. Also, the more TAY-D used VR-JIT, the more they found it to be enjoyable and helpful. Teachers and administrators reported that VR-JIT is consistent with the values of transition services and that despite barriers associated with start-up costs for some districts, highly motivated teachers and administrators were eager to support the sustained delivery of VR-JIT in their curriculums.