Toward sustainability: a typology for non-placement work-based learning

Publication Name

Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning


Purpose: Students experience a range of benefits by participating in work-based learning (WBL) including increased employability skills, career development learning and enhanced industry networks. However, some approaches to WBL are not easily accessed by all students, with placement-based models placing demands on students to attend a physical worksite over a sustained period of time. This paper explores the emergence of non-placement WBL (NPWBL) as a global solution to broadening access to work-related activities. This approach is arguably a more sustainable model that enables students to engage in meaningful work-learning opportunities without the need for extended, physical proximity in a workplace. Design/methodology/approach: Through a review of the literature, a typology of NPWBL is offered that organizes activities around the degree to which a student practices work and engages with an industry partner. Findings: New and different NPWBL activities are continuing to emerge due to placement activities being described as resource intensive and in some cases unable to meet the demands of industry, specifically small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large student cohorts, international students and those with disabilities. The NPWBL typology presented here has been developed to meet these challenges, while ensuring the authenticity of WBL is maintained. Research limitations/implications: This paper highlights the need for rich discussions around the sustainability of WBL activities to ensure relationships between institutions and industry continue to thrive. Practical implications: NPWBL is less-resource intensive and offers a sustainable option for universities without compromising on quality, meaningful experiences for students. The typology can be a useful prompt for educators to consider their objectives for student learning when embedding a NPWBL activity in curriculum. Originality/value: The NPWBL typology is unique and valuable as it organizes NPWBL activities around the learning practices of the external partner (industry or community) and the learning practices of the student. This enables the typology to be transferrable across disciplines. The paper closes with reflective questions for educators when designing NPWBL activities.

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