Online Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Community

Online Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Community

Michelle W.L. Fong (Victoria University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3.ch024
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Abstract

This chapter presents a case study in which Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) and mobile telephone technologies were used to liberate Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) from the constraints of location and time, and to promote inclusive practices under a blended learning environment in a particular university subject. It was found that the use of mobile devices by the students was conservative because of technological limitations and affordability issues associated with mobile technology. Although mobile technology is still not powerful or practical enough for WIL, the use of CMC technology has provided rich collaborative online WIL for students, and there are still grounds for optimism that mobile technology will become a powerful cognitive tool in the future for enhancing student learning outcomes. This case study also affirms that such technologies will only become effective educational tools if there is a stable focus on pedagogy within the curriculum and if the needs and technology skills of users are taken into consideration when integrating the technologies into the curriculum.
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Introduction

Advances in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) are offering new teaching and learning techniques and expanding the education horizon to embrace new possibilities. In particular, the technical potential associated with the advent of technology can be harnessed to enable and enhance an increasingly popular teaching pedagogy in higher education – Work-Integrated Learning (WIL). Universities are increasingly under scrutiny for their role in preparing graduates for the demands of the workplace, and WIL is one of the strategies they adopt to fulfill that role as educator and agent of government in producing “work-ready” graduates with social skills to communicate and work collaboratively in groups.

The common approaches for WIL, such as internship, industry-based learning and cooperative education, tend to be workplace-bound and occur during non-teaching semester periods. These approaches can pose a challenge for some of the programs in terms of making WIL accessible and inclusive for all students. For example, they may not be readily available to every student particularly when these placements are highly competitive and limited, and host organisations tend to prefer students with strong academic achievement. Computer-mediated communications (CMC) technology and mobile/wireless technology can be harnessed to liberate WIL from the constraints of time and distance in the form of online WIL. If appropriately applied, WIL can benefit from using technologies to deliver authentic learning and promote inclusive practices whereby learners acquire competence through their interactions with a wide spectrum of participants from different fields and locations. Technology is an effective tool when its use matches the purposes, particularly if it is suitable and relevant to the context of learning, is used appropriately and supports the pedagogy. This article presents a case study in which CMC and mobile technologies were used to liberate WIL from the constraints of location and time, and promote inclusive practices within a blended learning environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reflective Learning: A process which involves individual inquiry and review of particular context(s). This can be a powerful process in bringing about understanding and knowledge internalization resulting in enhanced learning experience.

Synchronous Communication: Immediate relay of information on a real-time basis, with live interaction between the sender and receiver. Chat rooms and virtual classroom technologies such as Elluminate are examples of synchronous communication.

WIL: Work-Integrated Learning. Learning in an authentic professional environment or context in which students are given opportunities, as part of a course of study in higher education, to integrate work experience and disciplinary knowledge acquired through formal learning.

Asynchronous Communication: The relay of information with a time lag, in which the sender and receiver are separate in time. Discussion forums and emails are examples of asynchronous communication.

m-WIL: e-WIL through mobile and handheld devices using wireless transmission such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and mobile phones. These mobile devices can be likened to pocket-sized computers and have the ability to deliver learning goals and provide access to online systems and services.

e-WIL: Online work-based learning, social or collaborative learning and inquiry-led learning being enabled and empowered by computer-mediated communications technology.

Pedagogy: The process, art or science of imparting knowledge and skill to students. It also refers to how teachers design, cultivate and enable students’ learning.

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