Definition

Work-integrated learning (WIL) is an approach to education that allows students to obtain work experiences related to what they are learning in a classroom setting (International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, n.d; Jackson 2016). Ferns, Campbell, and Zegwaard (2014) describe WIL as “a diverse concept designed to blend theoretical concepts with practice-based learning” (p. 2). This includes a variety of pedagogies:

  • Internships allow students to be supervised by a professional in their field of study and are typically one-term work agreements that resemble what a traditional job might look like (Cooper et al. 2010; International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, n.d.; Virginia Tech 2019).
  • Apprenticeships often allow students to engage in work before they begin their academics, and the institution might not be involved in the placement or the assessment of the student (Arnold 2011).
  • Service-learning is an opportunity for students to carry out a service to a community while applying what they have learned in a classroom (Knight-McKenna, n.d.). Service-learning differs from volunteering as students are intentionally integrating course content.
  • Practicums place students in a work setting to gain skills and competencies that are evaluated by a supervisor within that setting (Cooper et al. 2010). Students are required to have some form of training before completing the experience and often are required to take a specific course simultaneously with the experience (Cooper et al. 2010; International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, n.d.).
  • Cooperative education is a work experience used for course credit, is specifically aligned with a student’s career goals, and maintains a focus on theory and practice (Cooper et al. 2010; International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, n.d.).
  • Fieldwork allows students to observe and participate in work settings and has a focus on enhancing what the student is currently learning in the classroom (Bleakney 2019; Cooper et al. 2010).

The definitions and characteristics that constitute WIL include not only in-person WIL, but also non-physical, non-placement, online placement, or simulated WIL. This variety is particularly important when local, regional, or global factors limit students’, employers’, and employees’ access to regular workplace environments.

WIL experiences within higher education enable students to have opportunities to actively participate in their desired careers, ultimately preparing for professional employment. WIL programs and experiences initially catered to a handful of disciplines, specifically professional degree programs that spanned across education, law, and medicine (Brown 2010). With an emerging breadth of applicability within WIL, the academic and degree-oriented parameters have opened up opportunities for participation across disciplines. However, work-integrated learning experiences do not only have to be professional in nature. Students may opt to engage in service-learning opportunities, work with community-based learning organizations, or participate in other fieldwork, practicums or simulations (Cooper et al. 2010) within the context of their field of study (Kay et al. 2019; Papakonstantinou and Rayner 2015; Reid and Trigwell 1998). The variety in WIL placements allows for students to develop various skills and capacities, such as civic engagement, which can serve them well in society.

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What makes it a high-impact practice?

WIL, as a field of knowledge, sees students as creative, social, and scholarly beings. In WIL, learning can be recognized as situated because what students learn depends on where they are and what tools are available for them to act and reflect on their experiences (Pennbrant and Svensson 2018). Students can understand the relevance of academic content, the emphasis on critical reflection, and the need for theoretical and practical learning, all while developing as professionals (Hay 2020).

However, these positive results can only be achieved when the WIL experience is a positive and high-quality one. Focusing on some of the eight identified key characteristics of high-impact practices (HIPs) (Kuh et al. 2017) and the six practices that foster student engagement (Moore 2021) makes it possible to observe where WIL is being done well, positively impacting students and their futures:

Fostering significant student investment and effort. WIL experiences generally require participating students to invest quite a large amount of their time and effort into the experience, taking initiative to develop their own expertise (Jackson 2016).

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Facilitating relationships and building networks. WIL experiences create opportunities for students to make connections with professionals in their industry of interest. These connections allow students to establish professional networks from which they can draw resources, connections, and feedback (Jackson 2016; Moore 2021).

Offering connections to broader contexts and real-world applications of learning. Creating connections through WIL experiences justifies their learning and education (Kuh et al. 2017) and also helps students build faith in their own expertise (Jackson 2016; Zegwaard and McCurdy 2014). Students gain a broad insight into their chosen industry as well as a better understanding of attitudes, roles, and responsibilities of professional working environments (Jackson 2016).

Including opportunities for reflection and feedback. WIL experiences positively impact students the most when they are given opportunities to reflect on what they learned and how they will apply that new knowledge to their future (Hughes et al. 2013; Jackson 2015; Papakonstantinou and Rayner 2015; ​​Zegwaard and McCurdy 2014).

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Research-Informed Practices

Effective WIL design requires careful consideration of many factors and is widely acknowledged as both difficult and costly to implement for higher education institutions (Jackson 2015). Nevertheless, the following shared understandings/practices commonly found in successful work-integrated learning practices lead to meaningful learning opportunities:

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  • Preparation: Emphasis should be placed on preparing WIL partners and students by addressing administrative tasks, ensuring smooth communication, and creating awareness of requirements and expectations of both sides (Edwards et al. 2015; Fleming et al. 2018; Martin et al. 2011; Orrell 2011; Smith 2012).
  • Curriculum: The curriculum must integrate with the needs of an industry and vice-versa, as well as identify learning outcomes, utilize assessment, and incorporate feedback to be effective (Bates 2005; Council on Higher Education 2011; McRae and Johnston 2016).
  • Learning: The alignment of teaching and student activities with experiential components is necessary, so that students can apply academic learning to real-world settings and gain important industry and behavioral skills (Council on Higher Education 2011; Martin et al. 2011; Sachs et al. 2016; Smith 2012).
  • Authenticity: Authenticity calls for ensuring that students be involved in an experience that replicates a real workplace setting, with equivalent requirements and expectations, appropriate levels of autonomy and responsibility, and meaningful consequences (Sachs et al. 2016; Smith et al. 2016).
  • Flexibility: Institutions must seek diverse relationships with local employers to have opportunities for multiple fields of study, allow student some choice in the location and scope of the placement to best fit their daily lives, and support students’ professional development (Reid and Trigwell 1998; Kay et al. 2019).
  • Broaden/advance skill set: Professional skills, effective communication, cooperation and teamwork, time management, and problem-solving are all skills that are considered essential to any profession and should be taught in WIL programs (Reid and Trigwell 1998; Papakonstantinou and Rayner 2015; Hughes et al. 2013). By broadening and advancing students’ skill sets, WILs set students up to be successful in any professional setting.
  • Partnerships: Industry partners often are responsible for the workplace environment and introducing disciplinary innovations; institutions maintain accreditation and provide access to resources; and students negotiate intended outcomes for their work, particularly in “learner-led” partnerships (Reid and Trigwell 1998). Maintaining interaction among members in the three-way partnership ultimately allows for support and growth of students to be central.
  • Supervision: Each WIL experience should have some sort of supervision from both the university and the workplace (Martin et al. 2011; Smith et al. 2016). Supervision provides a point of reference for the student at the university where they can turn for advice, support, and oversight (Martin et al. 2011), as well as a way to gain a responsive, nurturing, and educational relationship (Fleming et al. 2018; Smith 2012).
  • Assessment: Assessments should reflect the complexity of the learning outcomes within an authentic workplace environment that promotes theory to practice learning (Jackson 2015; Martin et al. 2011).
  • Reflection: Reflection is a vital practice that should be incorporated before, during (through learning circles and journaling), and after the experience, ideally in formats that allows students to look back and make sense of their journey (Jackson 2015; Smith et al. 2016).

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Embedded and Emerging Questions for Research, Practice, and Theory

Boundaries and Intersections

There is no standard definition or model of WIL that is used across institutions. Common definitions for WIL may be useful within particular academic disciplines or industries to ensure that necessary learning objectives and skills are being obtained. Studies, such as Stewart and Chen (2009), note that without a standardized model for WIL, it is difficult to ensure students have a worthwhile experience. For instance, supervisors who are not given guidelines for hosting an intern or apprentice may not provide an opportunity that enables the student to thrive or develop a sense of professional self. Therefore, research should continue to explore ideal outcomes or skills gained through WIL, whether for disciplinary WIL experiences or cross-disciplinary WIL, even if the approach taken varies.

WIL both intersects with and is challenged by other high-impact practices (HIPs). Completing research with a faculty member could be considered WIL if it is treated as a job, but it could also be viewed as a barrier to engaging in other WIL opportunities. For instance, degree programs, HIPs, and other educational experiences that can take a great deal of time can limit opportunities for internships or other forms of professional practice (Schnoes et al. 2018). It is important to acknowledge that lack of participation in WIL does not mean that a student is not having a fully enriching experience. How can institutions balance the need for professional preparation (often through WIL) with undergraduate research experiences and other academic demands? A common goal exists between these various HIPs, that of strengthening the skill set of students and adding real-world application, so all should be considered in relation to one another.

Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for all programs to adapt their offerings to make them more accessible and equitable for learners and employers. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Kay et al. (2019) explored emerging models of WIL that are grounded in expanding engagement with the community, establishing flexibility in the programs, and creating equitable experiences for students by using technology.

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A few of the adapted models that are considered to be more equitable for students are programs such as micro-placements (placements in a workplace that last two to ten days where students work on a highly focused project), virtual options, and working in incubators (places that support start-ups and emerging businesses and where students can support the new business as they begin their venture).

Scholars and practitioners agree that WIL experiences benefit all students, and underserved and underrepresented students often experience even greater gains from these opportunities (Brown 2010; Dean et al. 2021; Ferns et al. 2014; Jackson 2015; Kay et al. 2019; Lester and Costley 2010). Some student populations are more likely to encounter barriers to participating in WIL, though. For example, students with families often are not only balancing student and worker roles, but also extra family-care responsibilities. Income is a frequent barrier for participation in WIL; some programs tackle this with financial aid (Wake Technical Community College 2021), but there is still work to be done to minimize financial barriers.

Many universities have begun to search for more equitable means for providing WIL opportunities. Many of the adaptations and expansions seen so far have been focused on addressing two areas for students: time and access to locations. Virtual experiences and remote-work have become common-place alternatives to going to a workplace, especially as the pandemic endures. Schools need to consider the strain on students and resources as they carry out certain WIL programs, such as co-ops.

Another potential limitation may be the reason a program is created; while the goal is for WIL opportunities to be created for the benefit of the students, companies or organizations that register for or implement WIL programs often need the labor (Ferns et al. 2014; Cantor 1995; Kellogg Community College 2020) and sometimes may not prioritize professional development and learning for the student over their need to produce or function at low costs. This situation can result in interns or apprentices–often unpaid–being overworked for little personal gain or professional development.

Unpaid opportunities for students to engage in WIL are common but inherently inequitable. Itano-Bosse et al. (2021) suggested one mechanism for creating more accessibility within WIL is to provide funding for companies to take on students. One such challenge of sustaining WIL practices is funding—both for the work experiences and institutional support offered to each student. Unfortunately, there is not a singular solution for this challenge in any research conducted thus far. However, institutions are working individually to find solutions that allows students the opportunity to engage in WIL while also being fiscally responsible.

It is evident that much work needs to be done in order to provide WIL experiences that are accessible and sustainable.

Additional Future Research

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WIL scholars and practitioners should continue to explore questions like:

  • How does a student’s socioeconomic status impact their experience of WIL?
  • What role does the quality and degree of mentorship and supervision play in the results of a WIL experience?
  • What could a longitudinal study of students who took part in WIL illustrate about long-term impacts of WIL?
  • How does when a student participates in WIL (e.g., class year) influence their access to and experience of WIL experiences?

Increasingly diverse student populations highlight the need for more research with specific student groups and identities—what are best practices for equity and access for all students, not just those with privilege and resources? Does—or should—effective WIL look different in minority-serving institutions than in predominantly white institutions? Does WIL look different for students with families, students with disabilities, students learning the local language, or students who are continuing their education after starting a career?

Ultimately, how can colleges best serve the students enrolled in their programs, acknowledging that those populations are changing?

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Key Scholarship

  • Alanson, Erik R., Erin M. Alanson, Brittany Arthur, Aaron Burdette, Christopher Cooper, and Michael Sharp. 2020. “Re-envisioning Work-Integrated Learning During a Pandemic: Cincinnati’s Experiential Explorations Program.” International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning 21 (5): 505-519.

    About this Journal Article:

    This study examines the array of WIL opportunities offered and how they were reimagined and adapted to fit the needs of the people involved during the COVID-19 global health crisis. The flexible and innovative measures taken by the University of Cincinnati to continue and improve upon their offerings show that, for UC, student well-being and the health and success of faculty-scholars, administrators, and students is of the utmost importance to them. While it is still too early to have conclusive evidence on the success of the newer programs, the fact that we can see how well-adapted these programs can be shows that Work-Integrated Learning can survive and thrive in the most turbulent times.

  • Batholmeus, Petrina, and Carver Pop. 2019. “Enablers of Work-Integrated Learning in Technical Vocational Education and Training Teacher Education.” International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning 20 (2): 147-159.

    About this Journal Article:

    This qualitative study defines and examines enabling factors in industry-based work-integrated learning (WIL) integration into technical-vocational education and training (TVET) teacher education in South African universities. The initiative is specifically designed for TVET lecturers because the WIL that schoolteachers would typically undertake in school placements is not relevant to preparing technical-vocational students for an industry workplace.

  • Brown, Natalie. 2010. “WIL [ling] to Share: An Institutional Conversation to Guide Policy and Practice in Work-Integrated Learning.” Higher Education Research & Development 29 (5): 507-518. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2010.502219.

    About this Journal Article:

    Through the implementation of a roundtable discussion of staff from various disciplines, Natalie Brown aimed to provide a space for University of Tasmania (UTAS) staff to recognize the potential and challenges of the practice of WIL. Understood as a way to provide students with an experience that integrates industry learning and academic coursework, WIL has been seen as beneficial to both students and industry members. While students can experience learning in context and enhance their employability, industry can participate in preparing graduates for a career. Yet, the absence of a general structure and collaboration in curriculum development allows gaps to remain within WIL opportunities.

  • Cantor, Jeffrey A. 1995. “Apprenticeships Link Community‐Technical Colleges and Business and Industry for Workforce Training.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice 19 (1): 47-71. https://doi.org/10.1080/1066892950190105.

    About this Journal Article:

    This article focuses on how apprenticeships build relationships between community/technical colleges and the workforce. Cantor completed a research study that examines how effective cooperative apprenticeships are and how they have successful outcomes for linking employers and the community college system. This study was a 2-year case study in which Cantor studied multiple apprenticeship programs that produced interesting findings about collaboration and why employers and community colleges work with each other. According to Cantor, collaborations occur mostly when partnerships derive mutual exchanges, partnerships access monies and resources, partnerships can mediate conflicts, and contractual relationships exist (p. 53). Cantor notes that the intentionality of apprenticeships is really valuable and doesn’t just benefit the student but also the stakeholders involved with the apprenticeship. Cantor closes the article with suggestions and recommendations for developing and expanding successful apprenticeship programs.

  • Christman, Scott. 2012. “Preparing for Success Through Apprenticeship.” Technology and Engineering Teacher 72 (1): 22-28.

    About this Journal Article:

    This source provides a historical perspective of apprenticeships and then uses the Newport News Shipbuilding Company’s apprentice school as a case study, to look at the modern apprenticeship model and how students can benefit from these styles of programs. Christman wrote the article through the lens of a labor shortage in technical jobs within the engineering industry. The article provides an understanding of the apprenticeship system in the 21st century and recommends rethinking the current educational model to provide a complementary blend of college academic courses and career training with relevant work experiences.

  • Cooper, Lesley, Janice Orrell, and Margaret Bowden. 2010. Work Integrated Learning: A Guide to Effective Practice. Routledge.

    About this Book:

    Chapter 2 of Cooper, Orell, and Bowden’s book provides a definition of WIL, specifically defining some of the specific experiences of WIL. These terms include WIL experiences such as internships, practicums, and fieldwork. This definition is important given the fact that certain WIL experiences often overlap in terminology and can be confusing to differentiate at times. Additionally, the authors focus on specifically defining professional learning, service-learning, and cooperative learning as the three different models of WIL. Lastly, the authors describe the benefits and outcomes of WIL experiences for students. The most critical benefit of a WIL experience is that it allows students to put theory learned in the classroom setting into practice in the workplace. Upon reflection after completing a WIL experience, the integration of theory to practice is deepened and allows for tremendous professional growth within a student.

  • Dean, Bonnie A, Michelle J. Eady, and Hannah Milliken. 2021. “The Value of Embedding Work-Integrated Learning and Other Transitionary Supports into the First Year Curriculum: Perspectives of First Year Subject Coordinators.” Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability 12 (2): 51-64.

    About this Journal Article:

    The authors sought to determine how WIL can be integrated into students’ experiences of transitioning to college during their first year. Ten Subject Coordinators were interviewed, and each participant was asked to explain how their subject supported first-year students’ transition into college and then asked about WIL. They found that most important experiences fall into either an academic or social category. Results show that the academic experience supports the first transition, social experiences support the second, and WIL can and should be implemented in the third transition, a student’s transition into becoming a professional.

  • Hughes, Karen, Aliisa Mylonas, and Pierre Benckendorff. 2013. “Students’ Reflections on Industry Placement: Comparing Four Undergraduate Work-Integrated Learning Streams.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education 14 (4): 265-279.

    About this Journal Article:

    Through the review of student reflections after the completion of their WIL program, Hughes et al. conclude that these opportunities for application-based professional development provide graduates with “a range of transferable skills and informed industry perspectives” (277). Students emphasized in their reflections the ability to put their coursework and subject knowledge into practice, recognizing the skills they held and potential areas of improvement. The immersion allowed students to recognize what industry professionals expected of their employees and understand what is needed to be successful in their discipline. Further, WIL students reflected upon their career choice as a whole, utilizing program experience to confirm the professional path they had selected and to recognize the culture surrounding the industry.

  • Jackson, Denise, and Nicholas Wilton. 2016. “Developing Career Management Competencies Among Undergraduates and the Role of Work-Integrated Learning.” Teaching in Higher Education 21 (3): 266-286.

    About this Journal Article:

    Denise Jackson and Nicholas Wilton’s research determines and evaluates the impact of WIL on the development of undergraduate students’ career management competencies. As a result of their research, the authors claim that work placements and other variations of WIL positively impact the development of opportunity awareness, decision-making learning, and transition learning. The research in this study was conducted by gathering data through self-assessment with an online survey.

  • Jackson, Denise. 2016. “Developing Pre-Professional Identity in Undergraduates Through Work-Integrated Learning.” Higher Education 74 (5): 833-853. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-016-0080-2.

    About this Journal Article:

    Jackson examines how work-integrated learning (WIL) enhances pre-professional identity in undergraduate students. Jackson finds that work placements positively affected the evolution of pre-professional identities. Students reported that personal reflection of their experience and appraisal were the most critical aspects of their WIL experience that strongly affected their pre-professional identities. Based on the triggers that were identified to progress pre-professional identities, Jackson also offers a variety of ways that practitioners can additionally enhance pre-professional identities in students. The author highlights that WIL allows students to understand expectations, attitudes, and responsibilities that are associated with their aspired profession, and progresses students professionally while they are still in college so that they are better prepared for their careers upon graduation.

  • Jackson, Denise. 2015. “Employability Skill Development in Work-Integrated Learning: Barriers and Best Practice.” Studies in Higher Education 40 (2): 350-367. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2013.842221.

    About this Journal Article:

    Jackson defines WIL as “the practice of combining traditional academic study, or formal learning, with student exposure to the world-of-work in their chosen profession, has a core aim of better preparing undergraduates for entry into the workforce” (350). In this paper, Jackson explores the influence that the work placement design, content, and coordination had on the student’s development of employability skills. Facilitating WIL effectively, in a way that will benefit the future career of the student, requires careful planning to ensure that the student has the best possible experience while also learning from challenges. Jackson found that the students’ perceptions as to what was most important in their learning aligned with the principles for best practice for WIL design.

  • Kay, Judie, Sonia Ferns, Leoni Russell, Judith Smith, and Theresa Winchester-Seeto. 2019. “The Emerging Future: Innovative Models of Work-Integrated Learning.” International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning 20 (4): 401-413.

    About this Journal Article:

    WIL is becoming foundational to higher education experiences across various Australian universities. In order to develop a breadth of industry partners and implementation of this practice in various disciplines, Kay et al. examine how institutions are seeking to abide by shifting work cultures and making WIL programs more adaptable. By reviewing current literature and exploring emerging models alongside university WIL facilitators through semi-structured interviews, the researchers seek to understand new approaches to WIL. This reflection on WIL emphasizes the efforts of institutions to expand opportunities for engaged learning experiences for students.

  • O’Banion, Terry U. 2019. “A Brief History of Workforce Education in Community Colleges.” Community College Journal of Research and Practice 43 (3): 216-223. https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2018.1547668.

    About this Journal Article:

    O’Banion’s article provides the history of workforce education in community colleges. Additionally, he highlights the issues and four current developments of workforce education. Workforce education is very much embedded in community colleges, as many higher education leaders indicate that workforce education may be the primary purpose of a student even attending college, and especially in community college. O’Banion notes that vocational education became very prevalent in 2003, and has evolved through apprenticeship training, trade school, and career and technical education for the past one hundred years.

  • Papakonstantinou, Theo, and Gerry Rayner. 2015. “Student Perception of Their Workplace Preparedness: Making Work-Integrated Learning More Effective.” Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education 16 (1): 23-24.

    About this Journal Article:

    Wanting to learn more about how students in WIL placements felt about their employability and application of coursework once completing their program, Papkonstantinou and Rayner sought to gauge student perspectives through various surveys. Utilizing a Likert scale, a sample of Monash University students reflected upon their WIL experience and the obtained skills and value immediately after completing their placement through the survey, then completing a follow-up at least six months after.

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Model Programs

Community College of Philadelphia

The Community College of Philadelphia has worked with the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund and local government to create a work-integrated learning program for their Early Childhood Education degree program. This program was created to support high-quality, accelerated career pathways for daycare and other early childhood workers. The apprenticeship program allows full-time childcare workers who hold a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate to earn an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. This is a two-year program in which employees in local childcare centers receive 18 college credits for prior on-the-job learning along with wage increases and mentors.

The program has reported a 30% increase in overall wages for students who complete their apprenticeship. It also provides funding that covers students’ tuition costs and requires employers to offer fair wages with regular raises to correlate with the increasing skill development.

Delaware County Community College

The Delaware County Community College in Pennsylvania offers a plumbing apprenticeship certificate for individuals who are interested in gaining essential skills that would prepare them for an occupation in the field. Students who participate in this certificate program learn basic skills and the knowledge necessary for practicing in the area.

This certificate program allows flexibility for students by being a part-time program. Although some courses require prerequisites, students are able to complete the program at their own pace. Also, by requiring that students work with a master plumber, this community college is ensuring that students are exposed a diverse range of skills and knowledge. This program is a model for other initiatives because of its integration of HIP characteristics; master plumbers will be able to provide more constructive feedback and expect high performance, and they will ensure that their employees demonstrate competence through their work.

Wake Technical Community College

Wake Technical Community College’s WakeWorks Program allows students to earn a paycheck and professional training while earning a degree or professional credential in classes. Apprenticeship placements include apartment maintenance technicians, automotive system technicians, carpenters, electrical contractors, EMT/paramedics, HVAC technicians, plumbers, and tower technicians. The program, funded by the county, includes up to $1,000 in scholarship for tuition, fees, books, and tools; on-the-job training alongside classroom education; and a paycheck. The end result is the nationally recognized Journeyworker’s Certificate.

Since this program is not limited to degree-seeking students and provides both financial aid and income to participants, it is more accessible to diverse student populations. It also does not limit participation to students who live in Wake County, further extending its impact. The WakeWorks program aims to support local businesses as well by helping them meet staffing requirements with highly skilled employees when participants of the program graduate.

Kellogg Community College

Kellogg Community College offers a variety of apprenticeships for all the industrial trades curricula at the institution, including Industrial Electricity and Electronics, Industrial Machining Technology, Industrial Pipefitting, Renewable Energy, and Industrial Welding. Students participating in the apprenticeship programs are employed by locally registered companies. Students are typically enrolled in their apprenticeships for four years and are able to obtain over 8,000 hours of real work experience.

This program is especially notable because it is personalized to the student. Students are not required to obtain an apprenticeship, so if they would prefer to solely focus on their coursework, they are able to do so. Overall, students are able to leave the institution with an education that is debt-free and applicable experience that is valuable for their future careers.

The University of Cincinnati (UC)

The university has twelve types of WIL across its colleges and programs. UC set four markers of quality WIL: “Intentional (experiences are structured with trained educators as facilitators); Learner-centered and holistic (concerned with learning and growth of the student as a whole); Collaborative with the learner’s community or communities (contextualized to include real-world complexities, situated within real-world contexts); and Dependent on the inclusion of rigorous preflexive, reflexive, and reflective pedagogic strategies” (p. 507).

When the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, UC was able to reexamine their long history of WIL and rebuild it in a framework that fits within the constraints of the pandemic. This adjustment brought to light new ventures such as virtual experiences, micro-co-ops, and upskilling (teaching employees additional skills to expand their capabilities).

For more information regarding all of the individual programs and the university’s response to COVID-19 as it relates to work-integrated learning, read Re-envisioning work-integrated learning during a pandemic: Cincinnati’s experiential explorations program.

University of Waikato

Researchers interviewed 18 students pursuing postgraduate degrees after having graduated from University of Waikato and found that students who took part in a work-integrated learning (WIL) degree reported that their experience positively influenced their decision to go on to postgraduate degrees. The students reported that the biggest influence was the opportunity to see the job they wanted in an authentic environment. As they learned the “hierarchy” of the lab environment, the students perceived that the more education a person had received, the more influence and credit they had in the research being done.

The practice of hands-on experience, mentorship, and reflectivity all make the University of Waikato’s WIL program a great example of WIL as a high-impact practice. For more information go to the University of Waikato’s WIL website.

The University of California at San Francisco

The Graduate Student Internships for Career Exploration (GSICE) program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) offers hands-on work experiences in the form of three-month internships. These work opportunities are often outside a doctoral student’s specialized research area, as the program is intended to expose students to a variety of PhD-level careers beyond the traditional research postdoctoral position (postdoc).

The GSICE centers student needs in a two-part approach: (1) an eight-week course designed to build career-exploration and decision-making skills, and (2) the internship program. Numerous students cited that the course itself provided enough perspective to determine their career goals, so they opted not to complete an internship (Schnoes et al. 2018).

UCSF supports students taking full-time internships by providing leaves of absence, during which students do not have to pay tuition but still maintain health insurance and requiring that these full-time positions include remuneration. The GSICE also allows for students to complete part-time internships while enrolled or participate in post-graduation internships.

Australian Work-Integrated Research Higher Degree (WIRHD)

Within the realm of Australian higher education programs in engineering, the push towards work-integrated learning as an integral part of degree programs is due to the increased belief that PhD students are trained too narrowly and are not prepared to work in their industry outside of academia (Stewart and Chen 2009). The WIRHD enables students to spend a substantive amount of time with their industrial partner, learning from and working with professionals in their field of interest who are not pursuing academic research as a career.

Students serve as full-time research candidates instead of direct employees of their partners. This flexibility allows them to be a student first, and an employee second. On the other hand, challenges of the WIRHD program include increased isolation, lack of supervision, and time management. As the program develops, researchers hope a more normalized introductory course will set the standard so that company assignments are fair, and expectations are uniform for all students.

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Immersion, High-Impact Practices, and the Power of Combinations

We can thank George Kuh and colleagues at the Association of American Colleges & Universities for initially proposing the idea of “high-impact practices” (HIPs) as exemplar components of a college student’s learning experience in the AA&U publication, High-Impact Educational Practices: What…

How We Describe Immersive Learning Experiences

Interviewing teaching faculty about the pedagogies they use in their courses has been one of my primary methods of collecting data for my exploration of immersive learning practices in higher education. With each interview, I learn more about the range…

A Snapshot of Employers’ Expectations of Graduates’ Skills and Abilities in Technical Communications

In a previous blog post, Julia Bleakney discussed some of the methods and documents that researchers have used to “capture employers’ expectations for the communication skills and abilities of college graduates in technical and engineering fields.” In this blog, I’ll…

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Mentoring Internships Online or in Hybrid/Flex Models

In response to shifts to online learning due to COVID-19 in spring 2020 and in anticipation of alternate models for higher education in fall 2020 and beyond, we have curated publications and online resources that can help inform programmatic and…

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References

Alanson, Erik R., Erin M. Alanson, Brittany Arthur, Aaron Burdette, Christopher Cooper, and Michael Sharp. 2020. “Re-envisioning Work-Integrated Learning During a Pandemic: Cincinnati’s Experiential Explorations Program.” International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning 21 (5): 505–519.

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The Center thanks the members of the 2023 cohort of the Elon University Masters of Arts in Higher Education program for contributing the initial content for this resource: Jordan Ballantyne, Kelsey Baron, Ivy Breivogel, Toni Formato, Mackenzie Hahn, Cotrayia Hardison, Martha Lopez Lavias, Charlie Presar, Sadie Richey, Odaly Rivas, Amy Smith, and Rebecca Wiles. The initial content was edited by Sophie Winston, the Center’s 2021-2022 Publishing Intern.