Work integrated learning (WIL) experiences such as placements, apprenticeships or internships offer great opportunities. They develop relevant skills and knowledge, while providing experience in a real working environment. These opportunities form part of the solution in raising the employability of young people. For students, WIL fosters both personal and professional growth, while enhancing educational experience.
Universities, colleges and educational institutions are increasingly offering these opportunities to students. Work placements are a big part of the modern student experience. They are mandatory in many professional accreditation courses for licensed industries, and more frequently they are an option offered by universities as part of their programs. This brings modern challenges and overheads.
There is a significant compliance element to the success of WIL opportunities. This is particularly true for professional accreditation in healthcare, education and social care programs. This creates a lot of administration, compliance and stakeholder reporting overhead.
WIL can be time and resource heavy considering their administrative requirements. Mostly taking place off-campus, WIL management differs from traditional on-campus management. Their systems need to focus on student management, monitoring and compliance. Conventional monitoring methods such as workplace visits are unpractical and resource intense.
Recent research from ‘The International Journal of Higher Education Research’ outlines the risks associated with WIL opportunities. Some of these risks include poor student performance and student emotional distress. With student drop-out rates rising in many countries, student wellbeing and reaching out in time are a critical focus. Research into WIL shows that retention rates can be disappointing and fall below traditional undergraduate programs.
Predicting and mitigating these risks is key to the management of WIL. Better supervision and better communication with students can have a massive impact.
Benefits from implementing cost and time effective risk management include:
- reducing staff administrative time
- enhancing student performance
- improving wellbeing
- boosting engagement
The good news is that modern technology can address the challenges of work integrated learning. Educators and administrators need tech that offers visibility of student progress and attendance. Better supervision and monitoring can help off-set the risks identified in recent research. The fast-paced nature of WIL programs means that actionable insights and early alerts are critical to student success and to keeping students on track. This applies to college foundation courses, vocational training, adult skills for the modern workplace, or certificates and degrees for specific trades or professions.
Students need to be able to reach out and ask for help, keep track of their attendance and avail of hybrid learning. Staff need to open cases, track student wellbeing and supervise adherence. HEIs and FEIs should invest in education technology that uses data science and analytics to address these challenges and improve student success. These actionable insights free up invaluable time for teaching and learning delivery and improving student outcomes.