Student at.IBM building

Embedding professional practice into the Bachelor of Information Technology undergraduate degree

The WIL embedded internship is offered to all students accepted into the program Bachelor of Information Technology (Professional Practice) at Federation University Australia.

Students are accepted into the program in first year.

Additional students from the Bachelor of Information Technology can also apply to transfer into the BIT(PP) program at the end of first year. Intake is based on available number of internship roles (usually 20-25 each year). Places are awarded based on competitive selection – using previous academic record and an interview.

Website study.federation.edu.au/#/course/DCI5

Kathleen Keogh

Kathleen Keogh

Program Coordinator, Bachelor of Information Technology (Professional Practice), Federation University Australia

Videos

Testimonials and marketing videos about Federation University Bachelor of Information Technology (Professional Practice) and IBM Ballarat. Students and graduates appear in each of these videos. IBM employees also feature in some of these videos.

Full details of 'Embedding professional practice into the Bachelor of Information Technology undergraduate degree'

Disciplines included in the WIL activity

STEM

Model/s of WIL activity

Industry/community based placement, Industry/community based projects, Site visits.

Brief description of WIL activity

This innovative program interleaves an industry-based internship throughout an undergraduate program. Students undertake an internship for 2+ years. Attendance is flexible, students attend placement 1-2 days a week during semester and more regularly during non-teaching periods. Participating in the internship for a long period promotes familiarity and opportunities for maturation and growth. Students develop work-ready skills. 

This highly successful model addresses a need to bring young talent and skilled graduates to a regional location. Over 300 graduates have completed the program since 2001. Many have accepted employment locally with our industry partner, IBM. Graduate satisfaction is above the national average.

Length of time the WIL activity has been in operation

The relationship between IBM Australia and Federation University Australia began in 1995 when IBM became the first tenant in the university’s Mt Helen Technology Park. IBM was seeking graduates to work regionally. The Bachelor of Information Technology (Professional Practice) degree was created in 2001 to provide an opportunity for IBM to expose students to industry and develop a skilled workforce familiar with the corporate environment. The partnership’s success has seen the Bachelor of Information Technology (Professional Practice) become a flagship offering of the university. It was recognised by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as national best of practice in industry-based learning.

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

The BIT(PP) was developed in 2001 to address the need for skilled graduates at IBM in Ballarat.

This is a positive and constructive model of WIL. This program provides students with supported opportunities to experience the contemporary work environment.

The program is innovative because it offers students an ongoing 2+ year internship embedded into their degree. Students receive financial support with an industry sponsored scholarship, develop authentic skills and gain workplace confidence.  Students mature and develop their workplace knowledge and skills as their academic expertise grows. The curriculum is aligned with industry standards and expectations. Industry practitioners are also involved as curriculum advisors and regularly engage with students in the classroom.

IBM is committed to the program as evidenced by the relationship flourishing over many years.

The model is expandable. Federation University is engaging with additional employers regarding possible expansion of internships available.

The sustainability and scalability of the WIL model is evidenced by recent adaptations:

  • In 2018, the internship program was expanded beyond Information Technology students to offer internships to undergraduate Business students.
  • In 2019, the program was expanded geographically to offer a Melbourne based internship to a student from the Berwick campus and
  • In 2019, the partnership was extended to secondary students through the P-TECH program. This program provides a pathway into the IT industry for secondary students through Federation College. These students are mentored by IBM staff and in 2019, P-TECH students were offered six week internships with IBM, gaining invaluable industry experience at a young age.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

The program benefits students, industry and the university.

This program is attractive to students who wish to study locally in a regional centre and supports students to introduce them to the broader international workplace. Students also receive financial support with a $38400* scholarship, sponsored by the internship provider. Graduates benefit from familiarity with the workplace and possess work-ready skills that improve their employability.

Employers have access to a skilled and work-ready graduate workforce.

The university benefits from the close relationships maintained with industry to inform curriculum and provide opportunities for industry based guest lectures and seminars.

(*2019 value reviewed annually)

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

This program has been reviewed and accredited by the Australian Computer Society (ACS). The ACS described the program as ‘best practice’ in WIL and it was commended for the innovative approach taken to preparing students for entry to professional practice. Internally the program is subject to university reviews.

The Academic Program Coordinator regularly meets with students and IBM staff to seek feedback and review operations. Students engage in workplace performance appraisals.

IBM are represented on the University Council and on Industry Advisory Panels. IBM influence curriculum development and offer relevant support and advice on industry demands and practical curriculum content.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

This program has been reviewed and accredited by the Australian Computer Society (ACS). The ACS described the program as ‘best practice’ in WIL and it was commended for the innovative approach taken to preparing students for entry to professional practice. Internally the program is subject to university reviews.

The Academic Program Coordinator regularly meets with students and IBM staff to seek feedback and review operations. Students engage in workplace performance appraisals.

IBM are represented on the University Council and on Industry Advisory Panels. IBM influence curriculum development and offer relevant support and advice on industry demands and practical curriculum content.

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula?

Prior to the internship, students tour the workplace. Students apply for internship roles based on career interests. Applicants attend interviews to align skills and interests to the potential role. Elective courses support students with knowledge relating to their role.

Interns attend orientation and induction at the workplace. Intern forums with the Academic Program Coordinator occur on campus. Interns are allocated a mentor and line-manager at the workplace.

Interns enrol in two Industry Experience courses delivered jointly by IBM and Federation University. Industry speakers present about relevant contemporary topics. Students listen, reflect, write and present insights relating their internship and academic experience. This allows for sharing insights, reflection and learning linked to placement.

How the case study is informed by relevant theoretical or empirical literature, research and/or scholarship

Key aspects of the BIT (Prof Prac) program that are best practice are aligned with and supported by research as follows:

  • Strong relationship between industry and University. (Edwards, Perkins, Pearce and Hong, 2015) 
  • Industry contributes to teaching and curriculum. (Edwards, Perkins, Pearce and Hong, 2015)
  • Students reflect on their experience and relate it to their coursework. (Orell, 2011)
  • Internship placements embedded and integrated in curriculum. This provides time for the intended graduate outcomes to be achieved. (Orell, 2011; Koppi, Edwards, Sheard, Naghdy and Brookes, 2010)
  • Authentic industry experience. (Edwards, Perkins, Pearce and Hong, 2015)
  • Students are mentored during internship. (Orell, 2011)

References

Edwards, D. Perkins, K. Pearce, J. and Hong, J. (2015) Final Report: Work Integrated Learning in STEM in Australian Universities submitted to the Office of the Chief Scientist, Australian Council for Educational Research

Koppi, T., Edwards, S. L., Sheard, J., Naghdy, F., & Brookes, W. (2010). The case for ICT work-integrated learning from graduates in the workplace. CRPITS: Conferences In Research & Practice In Information Technology Series, 107.

Orell, J. (2011) Good Practice Report: Work-integrated learning Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Surrey Hills Australia.

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

IBM has a strong partnership with Federation University providing WIL internships for undergraduate students in Information Technology and Business. This is expected to continue. IBM’s relationship with the university includes an additional partnership with Federation College. In the P-TECH program, IBM supports and mentors secondary school students interested in a technical career.  

Federation University are discussing options with other IT industry partners to broaden the successful BIT(Prof Prac) program to include internships in the banking sectors, where an ageing workforce presents a significant challenge for the future.  This would lead to additional internship opportunities and provide future skilled graduates into this area.