The University of Michigan’s Level Up: Employment Skills Simulation Lab is currently seeking participants for an online study aimed at evaluating the impact of WorkChat: A Virtual Workday on improving workplace conversations. The study has been reviewed and approved by the University of Michigan Institutional Review Board. Since 2012, Dr. Matthew Smith, the Director of the Level Up Lab, has been collaborating with the autism and Asperger communities to develop and assess virtual job interview training. This successful job interview training received praise from autistic individuals, service providers, and families, who asked Dr. Smith to develop an app to support conversations at work for those who obtained employment.
In 2019, Dr. Smith and his team, along with a community advisory board and a diversity advisory board, joined forces to design and create a WorkChat prototype. This prototype was then evaluated by 18 autistic young adults/young adults on the spectrum, as well as 12 service providers. The valuable feedback gathered from these individuals played a crucial role in refining the final design of WorkChat, which enables trainees to practice conversations with virtual customers, coworkers, and supervisors as they navigate through a simulated workday.
The study is accessible through a web browser, and participants will be compensated up to $215 for their involvement. They will be asked to complete various research assessments, learn how to use WorkChat (either immediately or later if assigned to a waitlist control group), undertake additional assessments after completing the WorkChat training, and participate in periodic check-ins over the following months. The goal of these check-ins is to assess the impact of WorkChat on various employment outcomes, such as workplace interactions, job acquisition, increased working hours, and income growth.
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