Realizing Learning in the Workplace in an Undergraduate IT Program
Journal of Information Technology Education Innovations in Practice
Executive Summary Higher education programs need to prepare their graduates for the practical challenges they can expect to face upon entering the workforce. Students can be better prepared if their academic learning is reinforced through authentic workplace experience, where the link between theory and professional practice can be realized. Increasingly, such learning in the workplace is being seen as an integral part of the university curricula as evidenced through the implementation of the
... ementation of the Learning the Workplace & Community (LiWC) Policy at Victoria University, Australia. This policy mandates a minimum of 25% content and assessment of all academic programs be related to work-integrated learning. Recognizing the need for authentic workplace experience in the IT undergraduate program, a review found that the existing work-related learning component accounted for only half the required 25% LiWC commitment. Currently, the LiWC component is an industry-based capstone project that spans two semesters in the final year of study. These projects allow students to work on real-life software development tasks where they experience the practical challenges of building software systems whilst appreciating the needs of a business client. In a search of the literature, campus-located industry projects were identified as one of the two most common workrelated learning experiences in IT programs, the other being internships sited in the workplace. By retaining the current project-based component, it was decided to add an internship to the program to further bolster the student learning experience and graduate outcomes. This paper details the existing program structure and explores two possible implementations for the achievement of the LiWC policy. The first approach necessitates the addition of one academic year of cooperative education internship to be placed strategically between the current second and third years. Alternatively, the second proposal sacrifices several elective units to accommodate a final semester internship experience. The paper discusses both alternatives against various issues under consideration: staffing and administration, assessment, industry partnerships, professional accreditation and its impact upon differing cohorts of students.