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Work Integrated Learning

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) refers to “a range of approaches and strategies that integrate theory with the practice of work within a purposefully designed curriculum” (Patrick et al., 2009, p.4).

WIL is closely aligned with the concepts of experiential and authentic learning. In the university context WIL focuses on “higher education level knowledge, skill acquisition and application” (Garnett, 2012, p.165) and often has an expectation that students engage in reflective practice for learning through and from their WIL experience.

You will find many disciplines and professions have an established practice of WIL but may use different terms such as:

  • field work
  • internship
  • cadetship
  • clinical placement
  • practicum
  • cooperative education
  • service learning
  • capstone course
  • industry project
  • workplace learning
  • work-based learning
  • experience-based learning (and see Billett, 2011).

Reflection point

Does your department or faculty offer any WIL courses? What term is used in your own discipline?

Good WIL design

Good design of WIL courses requires:

  • an alignment between learning outcomes, workplace activities (which equate with learning and teaching activities) and assessment
  • students to have the opportunity to integrate theoretical knowledge and practice, to connect university or disciplinary learning with workplace application
  • processes to administer aspects of the curriculum that indirectly support a student’s learning in the workplace

Benefits of WIL

There are benefits of WIL for student learning, for example students may:

  • gain extended experience in developing ‘soft’ graduate capabilities such as communication, team working, leadership and career development
  • develop awareness and understanding of workplace culture and the differing expectations of them
  • obtain practical assistance and skills in developing career attributes put their acquired knowledge into practice.

Talking point

Watch this UNSW Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences video (3:07) to hear from students talk about the benefits of WIL. Note if they have identified any additional benefits to those listed above.

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about work integrated learning there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf for this step.


Billett, S. (2011). Curriculum and pedagogic bases for effectively integrating practice-based experiences. Final report. Strawberry Hills: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Garnett, J. (2012). Authentic work-integrated learning. In l. Hunt and d. Chalmers (Eds), University teaching in focus, a learner-centred approach. Camberwell: ACER Press, pp.164-179.

Patrick, C-J., Peach, D., Pocknee, C., Webb, F., Fletcher, M., Pretto, G. (2008, December). The WIL [Work Integrated Learning] report: A national scoping study [Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Final report]. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.

UNSW (2015). Assessing Work-Integrated Learning

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Educational Design in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney