Workplace-based learning: Introducing a new applied degree paradigm
This research project identifies guiding principles for organisations wishing to implement a workplace-based learning degree programme.
Keith Tyler-Smith, WBL Project Co-Leader, Capable NZ, Otago Polytechnic
Date: April 2012
In this report, Keith Tyler-Smith covers the activities of the polytechnic’s Workplace-Based Learning, (WBL), degree pathway focused on the Bachelor of Applied Management. It was designed to consider Otago Polytechnic’s institutional resources, culture, policies and systems that may be impacted on and /or affected by the introduction of WBL programmes, for degrees and post-graduate awards.
A 3 cycle participatory action research methodology was used to investigate the issues and document the experiences of those involved in the pilot’s delivery. The researchers engaged with work-based learners, employers, academic teaching and managerial staff around the implementation of the programme with the aim of developing appropriate and robust practices around facilitation, assessment, curriculum negotiation and design, roles and responsibilities and support structures.
The following set of 15 principles were drawn from the themes and issues uncovered in the research. They are intended to inform and underpin policy and guide the development of WBL.
- Work-Based Learning is more than an alternative mode of delivery.
- Selection of potential WBL candidates requires careful, accurate and effective profiling.
- An effective Assessment of Prior Learning process is the foundation of effective WBL and is an essential ingredient.
- WBL places the learner, the learner’s understandings and knowledge and the learner’s workplace context at the centre of the educational process.
- WBL requires highly motivated, committed, capable and educationally flexible staff.
- Well developed and articulated learning agreements are critical to the success of WBL
- Guidelines, templates and exemplars provide academic advisors and learners with a structured approach for developing learning agreements.
- A formal and well-structured learning agreement approval policy and protocol is a key element in the WBL process.
- WBL is a three-way partnership and employer engagement is paramount.
- Accommodation of self-employed WBL candidates requires a different approach.
- Introducing WBL represents a disruptive change in practice and requires careful change-management processes.
- Locate WBL as a centre of excellence within the institution.
- The potential for growth in WBL is high and requires strategically acute management.
- Research and evaluation of WBL initiatives is essential to underpin, support and strengthen practice.
- WBL will change academic perceptions of how knowledge and qualifications should be structured.
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