Types of WIL

WIL activities can take many forms and vary in their length, degree of engagement with industry and community and where they are situated.

Work Integrated Learning

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is an umbrella term that describes a range of models and approaches to learning and assessment, which integrate discipline theory, knowledge and skills with the practice of work as an integral part of program design.

WIL activities may fall under the following broad categories:

1. Placements

Common terminology for WIL placement activities include: practical placement, practicum, co-operative education, clinical placements, fieldwork, internship, traineeships, apprenticeships. These activities are generally on-site placements in a workplace or community setting and maybe paid or not paid.

Practicum

A practicum refers to extended periods of time in an organisation to develop skills and competencies associated with professional training. Students have theoretical training before commencing their practical experiences. Classroom teaching is often concurrent with practice. Practicums maybe paid or not paid.

Internships

The term ‘internship’ is commonly used interchangeably with ‘practicum’ and has similar characteristics. It extends over a long period of time, with practice supervised by more experienced practitioners. It is commonly part of a course of study and taken as credit. Sometimes an internship refers to study after a course is completed. Internships maybe paid or not paid.

Fieldwork

Fieldwork refers to short periods of time in a workplace where students are able to observe and participate in work. In some professions and disciplines, ‘fieldwork’ is used interchangeably with ‘practicum’. Students are commonly not paid for fieldwork experiences. Fieldwork is linked to students’ field of study and may include visits to industry worksites and places of business or overseas trips.

Cooperative education

Cooperative education refers to periods of work activities which are integrated into course studies. There is a strong emphasis on the integration of theory and practice in the curriculum, and on partnerships with employers and industry. Some students are paid to undertake cooperative education experiences.

Online WIL placements

In addition to physical WIL placements, WIL activities may take place online. This is where real projects with industry or community partners are undertaken with students engaging with the partner organisation through online communication technologies.

2. WIL projects

WIL projects include industry or community projects, work-based projects, research projects in a workplace that are designed for and with industry and community partners. They may take place on or off campus, or online. These projects commonly require teams or individual students to undertake a real project that is based on real problems or address needs of industry or community. WIL projects may be paid or unpaid.

3. Blended WIL

Blended WIL involves the use of technology to support and enable WIL online activities. These WIL activities may vary on a continuum of some face-to-face and some online engagement to fully online.

Technology may be utilised:

  • To support the preparation of students and industry/community partners for WIL activities
  • For communication, collaboration and supervision during the WIL activity
  • For presentations, evaluation, debriefing and reflection of the WIL activity

WIL online activities provide opportunities for students from anywhere in the world to complete a work placement or a project for an industry/community partner using technology. Industry partners can engage in project work with an individual student or with a team of students.

4. WIL in simulated workplace environments

WIL activities in simulated workplace environments are sometimes necessary for ethical, safety or professional reasons or when other forms of WIL are unavailable. These environments are designed to simulate real workplaces in their function, equipment and mode of operation, so that students can experience a variety of scenarios and inter-related activities similar to real work experience in the industry or profession. Partner organisations are involved in the design of the simulated workplace environment and/or provide feedback to students during WIL activities. Examples include engineering labs with real-world equipment, mock hospital wards, radio and TV studios, moot courts, chemistry laboratories, etc. WIL in simulated workplace environments may take place on or off campus.

Service learning

This approach is commonly called community based learning and is an engaged model that integrates meaningful community service with active student participation, learning and reflection. These community based activities are designed so the activity benefits the community and increases the learner’s personal development and engagement with their community.

Work-based learning

Training and Learning programs are commonly delivered in the workplace to meet industry/organisations’ needs. Many organisations work with educational institutions to contextualise curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning to professionally develop staff and/or recognise existing skills and knowledge.

Emerging models of WIL

A range of innovative approaches to WIL are emerging that reflect the world of work and the need for flexible and scalable WIL activities. Micro-internships, WIL in start-ups and incubators, consulting/advising models and event based WIL such as competitions and hackathons are becoming more prevalent.