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Teaching and Learning

Models of WIL

Models of WIL

Models of WIL partly reflect disciplinary traditions. Practicums, placements and simulations are usual in Education and Health Sciences. In Business, internships and cooperative education are more typical. WIL program structures may also vary. For example, WIL can be organised as solid 'blocks' of time, or a day a week over a set period, either spread out over a course, or in a 'capstone' unit at the end of a degree.

A key difference is whether the aim is to prepare students for paid work after a tertiary course, or to support learners who are already working in a field and studying concurrently in the same field.

The table below expands on these distinctions in types of WIL programs by providing some common examples.

WIL Programs: for 'learners' or 'workers'

Models - participants are primarily learnersModels - participants are primarily workers

Project: a project completed in a workplace which is designed by and for that employer.

Project: a project completed in the learner's workplace.

Practicum/ placement: practical experience in a workplace relevant to a learners degree field, inclusive of simulated work environments.

Workplace/Enterprise learning: delivery of a tailored course of study to a group in a workplace.

Apprenticeship/ traineeship: a combination of work for an employer in a workplace and structured training in accredited courses.

Work-based learning: workers in an organisation complete a course of study for which the curriculum is defined by their work.

Cooperative education/internship: usually, but not always, paid work that offers experience in a field of practice. This too may be via simulations.

The Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) citation winning WIL program is part of the Tourism degrees at SCU. Many of the internships offered through the program attract award wages but some students enter unpaid positions.

Common Issues in WIL


Some issues that complicate workplace-based assessment of students include:

  • Alignment between learning outcomes and assessment tasks requires authentic options (like reports, or portfolios) which may be less familiar than essays or exams.
  • Student tasks and settings will often vary across multiple workplaces.
  • The role of workplace assessors in WIL is under-researched, but support from university staff is clearly required.

Generally accepted solutions to these and other WIL concerns include:

  • Use of Portfolio based assessment, in which a range of evidence can demonstrate student mastery of a few well defined competencies or learning outcomes. This is often combined with a reflective journal.
  • Careful planning, integration and ongoing management of WIL by an academic coordinator.

Academics and industry partners can collaborate on defining the performance criteria used to assess students (which supports workplace assessors, and contributes to managing off campus assessment effectively). Careful integration of WIL into the curriculum (for example, use of 'pre' and 'post' WIL assessments) is also advised.

Resource Intensive

The solutions to common issues in WIL can be effective but be aware that they are also resource intensive. In particular, establishing a WIL program is more time consuming than for a traditional unit. For example, tasks include: preparing students for quality WIL experiences, embedding WIL into existing curricula, supporting students and hosts off campus, and building and maintaining relationships with partners.

Some ways of managing the time demands involved in delivering quality WIL include:

  • Using available technologies, such as Collaborate™ and Skype™, to effectively support students, to plan and work with hosts, and to prepare and debrief students.
  • Designing units of study to prepare students for WIL, or integrating WIL preparation into existing units.
  • Assigning some WIL responsibilities to administrative staff such as an industry liaison partner.
  • Forming WIL partnerships with existing industry, community and research partners.