A Systematic Review of Work Integrated Learning for the Digital Economy

A Systematic Review of Work Integrated Learning for the Digital Economy

Worawit Janchai (Chiang Mai University, Thailand), Veeraporn Siddoo (Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus, Thailand) and Jinda Sawattawee (Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus, Thailand)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2019010105


This article presents the research related to the work integrated learning (WIL) model. The objectives were to explore their characteristics and the techniques associated with them. The focus is models linked to the IT industry or IT department in non-IT industries. A systematic literature review (SLR) was applied as the methodology. The authors collected data reported from 2006 to 2016 from eight databases. There were 24 articles which matched their search criteria. The WIL models reported can be separated into four groups. The two key features are activities created by universities, and activities offered by industry. The model techniques are knowledge, methods, and tools for acquiring research problems and developing solutions. The authors found that the models offered are very broad and need to be narrowed down so that prospective careers and the needs of the digital workforce are prioritized. They suggest future trends in WIL models in the digital economy.
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The digital economy refers to the economy using information and communication technology (ICT) to help improve productivity in all organizational perspectives (Atkinson & McKay, 2007). The application of ICT has transformed the workplace very quickly and within a relatively short period. The growth of technology and changes in human behavior in technology consumption have affected business management, and computers and technology play a significant role in the business-driven economy (Spremic, Zmirak, & Kraljevic, 2008). The use of technology in its various forms is widely prevalent and has become cheaper, effective and easy to use (Malecki & Moriset, 2007). In particular, human behavior in the consumption of technology is driving organizations and businesses to adapt themselves in order to survive in the digital era. From a business perspective, entrepreneurs have to hire qualified workers who meet their requirements (Handel, 2003). Firms expect their workforce, and especially those engaged in IT/digital work, to work in a dynamic environment, constantly developing their understanding of the technology and trends in customer behavior.

Universities play an important role in developing quality workers and have a responsibility for producing suitably-qualified graduates to enter the labor market. Entering the digital economy forces universities to adapt their curricula and teaching approaches. But many studies have noted that teaching theory alone is not sufficient to enable students to go on to work in the IT industry (Macklin, 2008; Sivananda, Sathyanarayana, & Pati, 2009; Fan, Liu, Su, Yu, & Li, 2011). Therefore, to produce graduates who have work-ready skills, universities need to change, and integrate their traditional approaches.

According to Kolb’s experiential learning model, learning is caused by the accumulation of experience, both theoretical and practical (Kolb, 1984). The IT/digital industry is composed of firms in which graduates have to apply their skills and what they have learned about their jobs. The industry needs graduates who have a deep understanding of the technology and can integrate that knowledge with business skills relevant to the job (Brookshire, Yin, Hunt, & Crews, 2007). Hence, information technology competencies have been defined, for instance by IT competency models (ETA, 2016), a Competency Dictionary (ITPA, 2015), the SFIA framework (SFIA Foundation, 2015), and IT competency (Tippins & Sohi, 2003). Workers in the IT industry need behavior skills, academic and IT knowledge, working skills, and industry/business skills. Moreover, they must possess job-specific skills and management ability. There is therefore a need for a form of cooperative study which enables students to learn job-related experience.

WIL is a study program based on collaborations between universities and industry (WACE, 2013). WIL has been adopted and applied as a model or framework followed within academic curricula. The goal of such programs is for the student to achieve the maximum benefit from a course of study (Eames & Cates, 2011). There is evidence from many studies of the benefits of WIL from the perspective of the university, the employer and the student (Raymond, McNabb, & Matthaei, 1993; Staehr, Martin, & Chan, 2014). The positive results of WIL led us to conduct this Systematic literature review (SLR) and to investigate whether there is a credible model for preparing students to work in the digital economy. The objective of this paper is therefore to explore WIL models related to the IT/digital industry. The four objectives of this study are:

  • OJ1: To investigate WIL models associated with the information technology sector.

  • OJ2: To identify and categorize those WIL models.

  • OJ3: To describe the characteristics of those WIL models.

  • OJ4: To describe the techniques or knowledge that are applied in those WIL models.

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