DeakinTALENT FreelancingHUB: a hybrid, multidisciplinary authentic WIL experience

Case Studies

Institution:

Deakin University

Discipline:

  • Health
  • STEM
  • Creative Industries
  • Business
  • Law
  • Other

Model/s of WIL activity:

Industry/community based projects

Level the activity is delivered:

Whole of institution

DeakinTALENT FreelancingHUB: a hybrid, multidisciplinary authentic WIL experience

Students experience hybrid working for a community-based client within a multidisciplinary team of freelancers.

The DeakinTALENT FreelancingHUB is a 12-week WIL experience available through credit-bearing undergraduate and postgraduate units in all Faculties. Interns experience working as a freelance consultant in multidisciplinary teams within custom, hybrid coworking spaces at the Burwood and Waurn Ponds campuses and the cloud. Each team, guided by an industry-experienced Project Manager, works with a not-for-profit, social enterprise, community or government organisation to deliver a real project based on the organisation’s needs. A purposeful, integrated, holistic curriculum augments the project work, ensuring interns develop contemporary consulting and digital workplace skills and identify, grow, and reflect on their broader work readiness.

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

Launched in 2018 after a successful pilot in 2017. Has run every trimester since its pilot/launch.

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

The FreelancingHUB is an inclusive, authentic and evidence-informed WIL experience. Established initially as an on-campus offering, the FreelancingHUB was well placed to provide online internships during COVID-19 restrictions, with Trimester 2, 2020 enrolments increasing by 38% compared to pre-pandemic levels. The FreelancingHUB is now offered as a hybrid program reflective of contemporary workplace practices.

From their first interaction with the FreelancingHUB, students engage in real-world employment and workplace practices. Projects are advertised via DeakinTALENT’s Jobs and Internships Board. Students submit their industry-standard resume, complete a video introduction and are invited to a formal interview. Students are given feedback at every stage to improve their resume and interview technique. This way, all students, including those not selected for the program, gain valuable experience and support through an authentic recruitment process.

Successful applicants are allocated to teams that are purposefully constructed as multidisciplinary, diverse and geographically dispersed. Students quickly become familiar with the digital tools and technology that enable effective collaboration. The team engages with the client throughout the project to co-design the project plan, deliver progress reports and to formally present final deliverables. Clients provide feedback on the project outcomes directly to the team at the final presentation and to the Project Manager as part of the program’s quality improvement processes.

The FreelancingHUB benefits from DeakinTALENT’s resources and expertise, including a range of digital and on-demand tools and access to recruitment, career development and teaching and learning professionals. Additionally, since 2020, the FreelancingHUB has partnered with the School of Psychology to embed the Work Readiness Scale (WRS) (Caballero, Walker, Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, 2011) as both a developmental tool for students and for program evaluation purposes.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

1100 students have improved their work readiness and experienced freelancing and the community sector via a FreelancingHUB internship. Interns have been hired by clients, started careers in the sector, or even returned as clients. Since 2019, over 75 former interns have been recruited as paid Senior Interns to continue developing their work readiness. 79 clients have hosted over 150 projects. Students and clients both benefit, with interns adding to the organisation’s capacity while developing their work readiness (Kemp et al., 2021). The teams’ diverse skillsets and FreelancingHUB project management allowed clients to realise projects they may not have otherwise. The FreelancingHUB team meet with partner organisations to scope out the aims of the project, but the outcomes and deliverables are determined during the project. This enables students to work directly with the client to develop core freelancing skills such as negotiation, project planning and client communication.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

The HUB has an extensive evaluation framework, including a data dashboard to report on student, client and course statistics, end-of-unit intern surveys, formal client feedback, and post-project reviews with project managers.

“My experience with the FreelancingHUB has been an incredibly positive and beneficial one. I have felt well supported throughout the internship experience and have had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of very talented individuals. The option of an online format for Cloud students ensures that we are given the same opportunities as on-campus students to participate in this exciting and challenging endeavour, and I have been able to develop a number of new skills along the way.” Bachelor of Commerce Student

The WRS provides an evidence-based, validated tool to assess the impact of the HUB program on student work readiness. A range of data is collected, including student WRS results, employment status and type, and previous WIL experiences. Since Trimester 1, 2021, 562 students have completed the WRS, with ~45% providing pre- and post-intervention data.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

FreelancingHUB alumni stay engaged via the 750-strong LinkedIn community, and in 2020, a mentoring program was established to further consolidate the work readiness development of the internship. Additionally, the FreelancingHUB provides a valuable service to the community. For example, six projects have been completed for the Lighthouse Foundation in areas such as marketing, community engagement, fundraising, social media and systems development. Finally, the university honours their commitment to equality and inclusion by offering a truly inclusive, university-wide WIL program. With ongoing disruption due to COVID, the hybrid nature of the HUB has provided stability for students, clients and the university.

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula? Include how it incorporates the preparation, implementation and reflection/debriefing phases of WIL.

Students undergo a comprehensive induction in the first week of the Trimester. At this time, interns complete the WRS and receive a Summary Report, which assists in creating an individualised development plan. Students are formally assessed through their unit of study. To support this, the FreelancingHUB offers a complementary, integrated curriculum, including professional development sessions on career management, design thinking, report writing and effective presentations. Interns also complete the WRS at the end of the internship and receive a Progress Report, which provides an overview of their work readiness development for reflection and further career planning.

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

The FreelancingHUB addresses gaps identified in the literature, such as enterprise skills development (Jackson et al., 2021). While work-based learning allows students to apply their skills and knowledge in professional contexts (Brooks & Youngson, 2016), to be transformational, students require support to incorporate new knowledge into existing frames of reference (Mezirow, 2012). The student-centred project management/ mentoring provided in the FreelancingHUB supports students to reflect and take action continuously. Additionally, continuous quality improvements are evidence-informed, including dashboard and WRS data, intern and client feedback, contemporary literature and the practice wisdom of the team.

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

The FreelancingHUB will continue to evolve and innovate to equip students with the skills and experience to navigate the contemporary workplace. Overseas placements from Australia and dedicated, flexible internships for student-carers will be piloted in 2022 to systematise inclusive practices further. The alumni mentoring program will be expanded, and the physical FreelancingHUB workspaces will be available to professional freelancers as rented coworking spaces, adding further authenticity to the student experience and more significant networking opportunities. The longitudinal data from the WRS will continue to support the evaluation of pilot projects and inform continuous improvement of the overall program.

References

Brooks, R., & Youngson, P. (2016). Undergraduate work placements: An analysis of the effects on career progression. Studies in Higher Education, 41(9), 1563–1578.

Caballero, C. L., Walker, A., & , & Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M. (2011). The work readiness scale (WRS): Developing a measure to assess work readiness in college graduates. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 2(1), 41–54. https://search-informit-org.ezproxy-f.deakin.edu.au/doi/10.3316/informit.211178854275901

Jackson, D., Shan, H. & Meek, S. Enhancing graduates’ enterprise capabilities through work-integrated learning in coworking spaces. Higher Education (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-021-00756-x

Kemp, C., van Herwerden, L., Molloy, E., Kleve, S., Brimblecombe, J., Reidlinger, D., & Palermo, C. (2021). How do students offer value to organisations through work integrated learning? A qualitative study using Social Exchange Theory. Advances in health sciences education: theory and practice, 26(3), 1075–1093. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10459-021-10038-x

Mezirow, J. (2012). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In E. W. Taylor & P. Cranton (Eds.), The handbook of transformative learning: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 73–96). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Case Study Team Members

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Ms Sharon Berman, FHEA

Manager, Digital Services, Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Ms Cathy Caballero

Lecturer, School of Psychology, Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Dr Loch Forsyth

Lecturer, School of Psychology, Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Dr Lauren Hansen, SFHEA

Senior Lecturer, Deakin Learning Futures, Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Ms Michelle Howard

FreelancingHUB Coordinator, Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Associate Professor Jamie Mustard

Pro-Vice Chancellor, Graduate Employment (Acting), Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Ms Mary Phillips, FHEA

Director, FreelancingHUB, Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Ms Caroline Rosenberg

Lecturer, School of Psychology, Deakin University

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Associate Professor Arlene Walker

Associate Head of School, Rural and Regional Development, School of Psychology, Deakin University