Special issue


Work-integrated learning (WIL) is a well-established educational strategy with acknowledged benefits for student learning and employability. This paper explores and documents Intensive WIL, where students undertake short or condensed WIL experiences, ranging from 35 to 400 hours. Four case studies from different universities, designed for different purposes, using either placement or project approaches, and with different student cohorts, showcase the flexibility and adaptability of this model of WIL. Drawing on existing quality frameworks developed for WIL, a new, dedicated set of quality indicators was developed to evaluate examples of intensive WIL, as demonstrated in the case studies. This new framework places greater emphasis on the WIL experience itself, which has had little previous attention. The study confirms that given the right conditions, and used for the right purposes, Intensive WIL delivers quality experiences for students. Unique challenges of Intensive WIL include: sourcing projects with appropriate scope and complexity that are achievable and from which students will learn; ensuring students have command of previous theoretical concepts, as there may be little time to get them up to speed during Intensive WIL; ensuring all stakeholders understand their roles and responsibilities for smooth operation; and effective communication between workplace and university staff, as there is less time to recover from any difficult situations that may arise.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Intensive WIL offers a viable, quality WIL model that can be tailored to meet the needs of students and partner organisations.
  2. Intensive WIL can help overcome some of the issues students find difficult with longer WIL experiences and can thus help improve accessibility for different student groups. It may also provide access to a wider range of partner organisations who cannot support long WIL options.
  3. It is essential to map course design and delivery against quality frameworks to identify gaps or problems in practice and inform improvement. Ascertain the purpose for which the framework was designed to confirm relevance to your specific context. Some degree of interpretation might be necessary for the particular cohort, context, and circumstances of the course being evaluated.
  4. As Intensive WIL brings some challenges due to the short duration, ensure student preparation is carefully considered so they have all they need to undertake this shorter experience. Similarly, implement supporting activities after Intensive WIL (e.g., reflection, assessment, debriefing, etc.) to enable students to gain maximum benefit from their WIL experience.
  5. Ensure clear, regular communication and close cooperation between workplace supervisors and university staff, including: negotiation of placement or project activities; clear scoping of any deliverables; and any day-to-day issues that arise, in particular any concerns about student progress or wellbeing. These are more acute in Intensive WIL, as there is less time to recover from a situation than experiences of longer duration.