Theme 3: Work-based Learning & Teaching

Why is Work-based Learning & Teaching a precondition for a successful collaboration for institutions?

The workplace is a powerful location for learning.

There are many different types of work-based learning (WBL), and these types can differ in terms of attendance, organisation, teacher/instructor involvement, assessment regime, duration and accreditation. WBL can be significantly improved by collaborations between employers, providers and students. This is considerably enriched when there is a close linkage between learning that takes place in the classroom and in the workplace. To achieve this aim, fora needs to be established that facilitates providers to understand from employers industrial and commercial practices; employers to gain recognition of the educational processes and framework; and students to be co-producers of knowledge. Work-based learning facilitates this exchange of knowledge, ideas and experience.

Work-based learning is more successful when there is joint working between providers and employers at strategic as well as operational levels. Employers can play a crucial role in making learning relevant to the workplace and they can do so through their involvement in the design and development of the curriculum, learning and assessment. Likewise, providers can play a vital role in making work-based learning successful through flexible learning, supportive tutoring and innovative assessment.

Research Results

Results from our 6-country quantitative survey

91% of Employers in question provide places for work based learning (data), but in contrast to the response of HEIs, employers see their own involvement in defining and organizing wbl at their company together with HEIs as very limited (data). The same trend is visible between employers and students, as students have relatively low influence in defining tasks to be performed during wbl, or aligning learning goals during wbl with their own needs (data). Even with relatively low involvement of students in all processes, employers do recognize the need to have clear agreements between the three stakeholder groups (data). Good communication between company and HEI is seen as the necessary factor for proper coordination of WBL activities.

90% of HEIs in question, offer work-based-learning in their study programmes (data), on average lasting 3 to 6 months (data). For WBL to be properly implemented, HEIs consider good communication between institutions and company’s trainers as most important, and to almost same extent clear agreements between employer-institution-student and clear goal setting (data).

What Works

Success factors and best practice for collaboration

Good mentors not only have a wealth of professional experience in their field, they also know how to impart this experience to the next generation. For this reason, the most successful internships are supported by staff who have received explicit training in mentoring, either by the company or the educational institution.

Similarly, when students’ transition from education to work is facilitated by teachers who have previous experience in industry, outcomes are improved.

By applying Quality Management Systems such as ISO 9001, ISO 21001 or the Apprenticeship Quality Toolkit, educational institutions can implement systems to:

  • define the processes involved at every stage of the work-based learning from definition of the placement through to assessment;
  • define the roles of every person in the process, and the resources required;
  • gather information from students about their internship experiences;
  • measure the needs, expectations and satisfaction of companies and organisations concerning internships and work based learning.

Work-based learning functions best as a tri-party agreement between the educational organization, the employer and student. For this reason, many apprenticeships are set up through a contract signed by all three, which specifies:

  • duration of the placement;
  • programme objectives;
  • learning activities;
  • conditions of employment;
  • the identity of the mentors as well as their roles and responsibilities;
  • a description of those roles and responsibilities;
  • the responsibilities of the student;
  • requirements for student reporting;
  • modes of communication;
  • methods of assessment; and
  • monitoring arrangements.

Properly defined learning objectives are an important part of the contract: they specify what student wants to achieve in practice. These goals are formulated by the student in co-operation with his/her tutor and consulted with his/her mentor. Learning objectives should:

  • be described in terms of knowledge, skills, responsibility and autonomybe
  • define the level of accomplishment which is expected;
  • be connected to specific learning and assessment activities within the WBL experience.

The best WBL positions match the learning outcomes required by students with the skills required by compabnies. This requires companies and organizations to have systems in place to communicate clearly what competences they need and at what level.