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Virtual Reality Job Interview Training in the Illinois Secondary Transitional Experience Program

April 2017 - April 2022

The Illinois Department of Human Services' (IDHS) Division of Rehabilitation Services is the coordinating agency for the statewide Secondary Transitional Experience Program (STEP) that provides vocational services to reduce barriers and enhance employment opportunities for 10,000 students with physical, emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disabilities across 635 schools. Job interviewing is a particularly challenging barrier to employment for these students because STEP does not provide evidence-based job interview training. We propose to implement the evidence-based Virtual Reality Job Interview Training (VR) in 20 rural, 20 suburban, and 20 urban high schools using STEP to support 1000 students with disabilities ages 17-21 to obtain integrated, competitive employment by enhancing their job interviewing skills. STEP teachers will learn to administer VR by attending a live training webinar led by the project team. The teachers will integrate VR into their STEP curriculum, which will require 11 one-hour sessions over 3-4 weeks (students receive 2 hours of STEP per day). We will use a roll-out design to guide the implementation of VR at the schools by piloting VR implementation at 6 rural schools during the first month of implementation; while subsequently piloting VR implementation at 6 suburban and 6 urban schools the following two months. This pilot implementation will allow us to collect and analyze feedback from students, teachers, and leaders regarding potential barriers and facilitators that contribute to the adoption of VR by each school type. Subsequently, we will use this feedback to optimize the implementation process for VR at 6 schools per month (regardless of school type) for the remaining seven academic months of the project. We will continue to interview students, teachers, and leadership during the project to complete our evaluation of VR implementation. The project's success will be measured using employment, implementation, and cost-effectiveness outcomes. To evaluate the employment outcomes, we will compare STEP school with VR to STEP schools without VR (and by school type) regarding: the rate of integrated, competitive employment, the number of hours worked, and total number of days employed. To evaluate implementation outcomes, we will evaluate barriers and facilitators of VR implementation as well as the appropriateness, feasibility, and sustainability of VR within STEP. To evaluate the cost effectiveness outcomes we will assess VR costs (licensing, teacher time administering VR) and fixed costs (costs supporting training and coordinating STEP delivery) and evaluate these costs in the context of employment outcomes. STEP contracts are annually renegotiated between the districts and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) depending on the number of students who obtain outcomes. Thus, VR will be financially self-sustaining if it successfully increases the number of employment outcomes as the districts can use the increased funding to sustain and scale-up VR. This project is a multidisciplinary collaborative effort between the project team at Northwestern University that includes expertise in behavioral interventions, intervention implementation, and economics; leadership of IDHS' Division of Rehabilitation (DRS); and leadership of DRS' Secondary Transition Experience Program.

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