Case Studies of Successful WIL

The following case studies have been prepared by The Lighthouse Projects which were sponsored by the ACDS WIL in Science project (2015 – 2016) and funded by the Office of the Chief Scientist.

Intention & Planning: Setting up Faculty WIL programs

PROJECT: Unifying WIL in Science at the University of Tasmania

Assoc. Prof. Tina Acuña, Lead, The University of Tasmania, School of Land and Food

This project created a generic WIL program for Science courses leveraging experience from allied disciplines (engineering, ICT, agriculture) and developed a faculty-level approach to industry engagement via an Advisory Board that fosters cross-disciplinary links. The project illustrates determination of current state in staff perceptions and curriculum mapping as initial steps required to embed WIL in a Science curriculum. The project describes factors to consider in development of a generic program for on and off-campus WIL in Science and related disciplines.

Key findings: Design and delivery

  • Design of a generic (Faculty-wide) WIL placement subject must cater for student preferences. Teaching staff and students noted many students either undertake or prefer placement over summer
  • Industry partners appreciate flexibility in placement/project structure to accommodate capacity and available supervision in the workplace and also seek flexibility in placement timing
  • Science WIL programs can be successfully modelled on professional degree WIL subjects and experiences from partner Universities

Key findings: Implementation

  • The project found significant variation between science teaching staff in orientation to and understanding of WIL. Poor understanding and skepticism was more apparent in disciplines with little previous exposure to WIL.
  • A defined project is effective at generating interest within the Science Faculty and creates a point of linkage with other Faculties and with the University.
  • Industry engagement requires considerable consultation and an open view of how relationships such as Industry Advisory Boards operate.

PROJECT: Providing WIL across complex interconnected science degrees at Western Sydney University

Dr Jo-Anne Chuck, Lead, Western Sydney University, School of Science and Health (Parramatta Campus)

This project mapped WIL activities in order to develop opportunities to embed WIL in the curriculum of an entire suite of Science courses. The project identified, categorized, and compiled current activities in the science degrees that constitute WIL and used the analysis to identify where new/existing activities could be explicitly incorporated into the BSc programs. The project worked individually with teaching teams to plan development of WIL activities appropriate to the discipline, course, student development and intended WIL learning outcomes, and to create space for students to complete placements/volunteer opportunities with academic credit. The project also initiated design of a generic WIL placement subject that could be embedded into multiple courses.

Key findings: Design and delivery

  • Definitions of WIL need to be developed in the local context and with consideration of disciplinary variation
  • Detailed mapping of existing curricula identified considerable ‘hidden’ WIL where teachers address graduate employability although the connection may not be apparent to students
  • Mapping should identify type and mode of WIL activity, explicit vs hidden, authenticity of the activity, scaffolding, skill transferability and alignment with learning outcomes

Key findings: Implementation

  • Direct linkage of the Faculty WIL strategy to a University strategy creates strong impetus for engagement and action
  • Individual conversations with course and subject co-ordinators are a very effective way of building engagement, capability and confidence, although this is time-consuming
  • Mapping provides the basis for gap analysis and course-level thinking and dispels the perception that WIL is only achieved through industry placement
  • Partnership with University Careers Services creates valuable resources for Faculty implementation
  • A visible project at Faculty level provides a mechanism to influence University strategy, support and systems

Build & Trial: Developing alternative approaches to WIL

PROJECT: Exploring alternate models for WIL in Science: Linking Work with Learning at the University of Queensland

Assoc. Prof Susan Rowland, co-Lead and Prof. Peter Adams, co-Lead, The University of Queensland, Faculty of Science and Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation

This project developed an innovative model for WIL that academically expands on extant student work experience, that is, the current paid work in which students engage outside of their study, with the aim of broadening opportunities for engaging with WIL. The project tested a prototype curriculum with volunteer students, prior to 2017 implementation of a formal elective course (unit of study) in multiple Faculty of Science degrees. The project also provided an opportunity to identify and build relationships with community and industry work placement sites in order to expand formal WIL placements in the future.

Key findings: Design and delivery

  • Transferable skills derived from existing paid work can be successfully embedded in an academic program to support graduate employment
  • Transferable employability skills can be successfully applied to science career education through critical investigation and reflection
  • Science students may have had little opportunity or encouragement to reflect on their own skills but are engaged and enthusiastic when supported to present themselves as professionals

Key findings: Implementation

  • Academics’ reactions to generic skills programs (including career education) are mixed with some concerned that WIL programs will not achieve academic appropriate academic rigour or that career education skills should be co-curricular

PROJECT: Development of professional skills in science students through a work integrated learning honours stream at Monash University

Dr Rowan Brookes, Lead, Monash University, School of Biological Sciences

This project has developed materials and supported the curriculum design for a WIL honours year in a selective-entry undergraduate science program. The Faculty of Science is using this model to trial as a model for future implementation in the Bachelor of Science. The selective-entry degree, Bachelor of Science Advanced – Global Challenges (Honours), has commenced its inaugural WIL-focused honours stream in 2017. The students will collaborate in teams to deliver a project that addresses an authentic workplace challenge provided by the partner organisations; the outcomes of which will form the students’ honours projects. This project has refined the curriculum design and resourcing for the WIL honours year and created three online skill development modules, specifically targeted to areas that employers and students have identified as important for science graduates.

Key findings: Design and delivery

  • Skill development modules for WIL should be co-designed with industry partners and students to ensure relevance and future engagement
  • Where possible, learning activities for employability skills should be designed to for re-use in multiple programs
  • Alumni are an important resource for universities to model transition to employment

Key findings: Implementation of WIL programs

  • Co-supervision of a WIL honours year by industry and academic supervisors is complex and requires negotiation of learning outcomes and assessment
  • Dedicated resources and expertise are needed to build and maintain effective industry relationships

Expand & Refine: Extending WIL and building capacity for the future

PROJECT: Scaling-up Professional Experience Programs: developing a framework to support broad-based WIL at the University of Technology, Sydney

Prof. Peter C Meier, Lead, University of Technology, Sydney, Faculty of Science

This project developed an integrated Faculty strategy to extend WIL activities in science and related degrees through curriculum renewal, scaling and development of individual placement programs, and the creation of administrative processes to streamline and support internship activities. The aim of the project was to create a flexible and responsive Faculty environment that could accommodate internship or internship-like experience for all students as required by the University. The project included (1) restructure of degree programs to ensure there was capacity for students to take a session (semester) free block in programs to allow for a minimum 12-week internship placement, (2) construction of a suite of Faculty internship units of variable length to suit employer needs and (3) mapping and curriculum design to embed authentic assessment linked to WIL. These initiatives will be further developed in 2017.

Key findings: Design and delivery

  • Large-scale industry placements (internships) require a flexible timing to accommodate varying employer needs
  • Mapping of WIL activity across Faculty programs identified both explicit (directly linked and assessed) and implicit (indirectly linked and possibly assessed) WIL systems curriculum mapping and design
  • Making WIL available to all students will require innovative approaches such as placements outside conventional science workplaces or online placements

Implementation of WIL programs

  • Faculty-level strategy and authoritative leadership is crucial to remove organizational and structural blocks to broad-scale WIL
  • Development of WIL programs is tightly linked to other forms of curriculum renewal and must be aligned with curriculum development initiatives
  • Large-scale placement (internship) WIL requires consistent systems and processes to manage organizational issues such as insurance, voluntary vs paid placements, academic assessment by host organisations, work health and safety requirements etc
  • National standards for WIL implementation would enable faculties to benchmark their progress

PROJECT: Learning to Work, Working to Learn: Curriculum design and teaching practice for WIL in the Natural and Physical Sciences at Deakin University

Prof. Malcolm Campbell, Lead, Deakin University, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment

This project created resources, exemplars and workshops for course directors in order to build leadership for WIL and achieve a coordinated and broader approach to employment opportunities for students. The project established a Faculty WIL Steering Group that worked with course directors to create shared definitions of WIL, how WIL should be scaffolded within courses and what constitutes appropriate assessment of WIL. These interactions have created a WIL community of practice and have identified and recognized WIL leaders within the Faculty.

Key findings: Design and delivery

  • Mapping of WIL in courses records intentions rather than outcomes which are the true measure of success, however mapping is a useful activity to initiate discussion
  • WIL can be described by authenticity (how closely the learning activity aligns to tasks within the workplace) or proximity (the closeness of students to existing practitioners)
  • Individual WIL activities may not achieve both authenticity and proximity so WIL activities should be planned across each degree and scaffolded to ensure value for students

Key findings: Implementation

  • Recognition of expertise and leadership of WIL encourages champions to invest in further activity
  • Communities of practice are powerful and self-sustaining mechanisms to embed WIL for the long-term and spread good practice
  • Creation of development resources for course leaders provides prompts for discussion and a focus for action