Guest Author - Susan D. Bates
I interviewed Paul Hansen, PhD, about No Major Drama (NMD), an Internet-based tool that is designed to help prospective college students select a college major (field of study). Dr. Hansen is an associate professor of Economics at the University of Otago in New Zealand and the co-founder/head of research for Graduate Factory, Ltd., the educational technology company that developed NMD.
No Major Drama was inspired by the success of Otago Choice, a major selection program used at the University of Otago. Otago Choice was created to assist students select a major at the University of Otago. Otago Choice's popularity prompted Graduate Factory to create NMD for the United States and Canada.
According to Dr. Hansen, NMD will help students with one of their most important decisions: selecting a college major. He also believes it will engage the current generation of high school students because it is quick and easy to use (taking only about 5 minutes), and students can easily share their results with school counselors and friends on Facebook. He explained that it allows students to rank possible college majors based on personal criteria and it provides summaries about each college major, potential related career opportunities, and links to carefully chosen Wikipedia articles.
Dr. Hansen explained that NMD was based on a methodology from mathematical psychology, called Conjoint Analysis, for determining students' criteria and their relative importance for selecting majors. Students are asked to select areas of interest related to possible majors. They are then asked a series of simple questions requiring them to make decisions based on tradeoffs between their interest areas. For example, a student who is interested in studying both plants and animals may be asked to choose between a major with a heavy focus on plants and a major with a heavy focus on animals. The student would continue to answer more probing questions until a ranking among interested areas is uncovered. Dr. Hansen stated that by confronting these tradeoffs, users reveal the relative importance of their major selection criteria.
No Major Drama was just launched in North America by Graduate Factory. Everyone is able to access NMD online at no cost. The company allows high schools to sign up for their students to use the software at no cost to the schools or students. According to Dr. Hansen, each school can easily create customized versions of NMD using their schools' logos, mottos and colors. Dr. Hansen explained that the project is currently self-funded; they plan to eventually earn revenue through selling advertising space on their website.
High schools and individual students interested in trying out NMD can visit the No Major Drama website at http://www.nomajordrama.com. The first high school to sign up, according to Dr. Hansen, is William Henry Harrison High in Cincinnati, Ohio. He explained they are encouraging other high schools to sign up as well. High schools can sign up by clicking on the "Customize No Major Drama" button at the top of the website's homepage.