Reflective Practice – a transmedia approach to work-integrated learning

Institution:

Curtin University

Discipline:

  • Business
  • Communication

Model/s of WIL activity:

Industry/community based placement

Reflective Practice – a transmedia approach to work-integrated learning

A work-integrated learning program that focusses on active, critical reflection to prepare students for industry.

Reflective Practice exposes Public Relations students to a minimum of 20 days in a real-world work context. Throughout the learning journey learners undertake reflective activities, which include blog posts, a final report and an industry appraisal. Learners also design a digital, work-related portfolio, including an up-to-date CV and LinkedIn profile, preparing them for their post-university careers/graduate positions. Formative learning modules on a MOOC platform include first hand-insight by past students and video interviews with prospective employers, enabling asynchronous, flexible support and guidance, irrespective of placement start dates, location and mode. This program offers students a rich, interactive and personalised learning experience within the context of an engaged peer community.

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

A core unit in the Public Relations program, this compulsory subject has existed for more than two decades. During this time the curriculum has been continuously updated and re-designed, reflecting learner preferences, industry expectations, access to new technologies and the facilitators’ desire to create a unique, meaningful and immersive learning environment that supports students when and where needed.

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

Between 2019 and 2022 alone, more than 300 students have participated in Reflective Practice across more than 180 organisations in Perth, Western Australia and Sarawak, Malaysia – and beyond.

This program has been designed to offer students a range of different touch points throughout their learning experience, irrespective of the traditional term-based calendar. MOOC-based onboarding and expectation setting facilitates the preparation of placement students, irrespective of their start date and location.  Workshops, social media engagement and support, blogs and on demand resources via the MOOC platform guide and connect students throughout the implementation phase, in addition to the university’s standard learning management system, Blackboard. Reflective Practice is an example of how a successful course can evolve over time, and continually improve to provide enriched, contemporary and learner-centred outcomes for students as well as build a peer-supported community of practice.

The program has incorporated the use of an online portfolio, something students develop throughout the public relations program and finalise as part of their Reflective Practice placement, incorporating critical reflection and assessment of their learning journey. The teaching team has been proactive in the adoption of new and emerging learning platforms and tools, such as wikis, social media, blogs and video content to ensure enhanced learner engagement by effectively meeting learners ‘where they already are’ (as opposed to expecting individuals to seek out information). The very nature of the program and design of the unit means it is as flexible as it can be, to accommodate the availability of meaningful projects and supervision, as well as to adjust to learners’ increasingly complex commitments and study preferences, supporting full-time, part-time and hybrid learning.

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Genevieve Howe

Curtin PR Graduate

“Reflective Practice was the most practical learning element of my degree, and an essential part of what made me the PR practitioner I am today. Not just because I landed a job from my internship, but the experience to step into an agency as a third-year gave me the opportunity to see how the academic theories I was learning at university played out in the real world. The unit was essential in my development, and in those few months as an intern I was able to really practice the skills I had been learning and get real time feedback from professionals around me.”

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

This unit exposes every Bachelor of Commerce (Public Relations) student, irrespective of background and academic performance, to industry contacts and career development learning through a minimum of a month’s worth of industry experience. The program coordinators’ close industry connections and approval processes ensure students are engaged in meaningful work experiences in a range of businesses and industries, providing learners with sufficient flexibility to explore their individual interests and career ambitions. The model equally benefits participating organisations, departments and agencies in strengthening their ties with the higher education sector, but furthermore provides access to a pool of talent in the way of graduating students, many whom have been employed by their placement organisations.  Alumni frequently reconnect with the program to ‘give back’, by passing their knowledge on to students as industry supervisors.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

This particular WIL activity combines multiple evaluation opportunities and perspectives, drawing on both a supervisor appraisal, as well as students’ continuous reflective blog posts and a summative reflective report that evaluates their entire PR learning experience. Students are evaluated by their industry supervisor, based on quantitative criteria and qualitative feedback, assessing their aptitude for a career in the field. Learners are further assessed, based on an interactive rubric, on their reflective report by the Unit Coordinator.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders? 

    The industry placement fosters a partnership between the university and industry and further strengthens the relationship between the program and alumni, who often return to be guest speakers, are involved as real-life clients to deliver authentic assessment opportunities for current students, or become placement supervisors themselves. The reflective placement ensures that ALL graduates – irrespective of their academic performance – leave the university with industry experience. This provides industry with an insight into the competencies and knowledge standards of current graduates, but further facilitates talent acquisition. The MOOC-style learning platform allows learners to access material once they graduate; this includes templates and CV templates, providing personalised accessibility and connection with the program well beyond their formal enrolment.

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

    The Reflective Practice unit has deeply embedded WIL activities that draw on elements of Laurillard’s Conversational Framework (2009) and the Five Stage Model (Salmon, 2013). The unit is structured around an industry placement, with an online framework encouraging conversations, connections, and the building of knowledge. The WIL activity includes the completion of four online modules that prepare students for the industry experience, including the location of a suitable placement, and provide guidance on core milestones and learning outcomes (preparation). The virtual Reflective Practice community of critical friends (or peers) ensures students feel connected throughout the learning experience -irrespective of start times and intensity modes – through blogs, social media engagement, fortnightly LIVE Q&A sessions and podcasts. The digitisation of learning resources has increased accessibility for students to watch, interact and engage through asynchronous and synchronous learning opportunities (implementation). The report, updated CV and LinkedIn profile, digital portfolio, a poster session (mini virtual conference) and final meeting with the industry supervisor, as well as the supervisor appraisal is the final stage of the placement journey bring all elements together and prepare the student for their workplace journey (reflection/debriefing).

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

    The approach to this WIL opportunity purposefully utilises technology to enhance and deepen learning beyond the classroom, adopting a social-connectivist constructivist approach to pedagogy (Blayone et al. 2017). This approach facilitates the development of digital communities of practice with learners in both a social and educational sense (Kop, 2011). With the increased availability of online technologies comes a greater need for students to develop critical thinking, analytical and cognitive skills in order to perform and solve problems in digital environments (Duffy & Bruns, 2006), preparing them for a lifelong learning journey and meaningful careers.

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

    WIL in the public relations course has always been critical for both accreditation with the industry’s key institute, as well as ensuring students have access to authentic assessment. It will remain a key element of the course in terms of industry experience, simulations and real-life clients. Future plans include embedded industry partnership across undergraduate units (not just the placement unit) and video resources on building business acumen and relationships.

    References

    Blayone, T.J.B., vanOostveen, R., Barber, W. et al. (2017). Democratizing digital learning: theorizing the fully online learning community model. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 14, 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-017-0051-4

    Duffy, P.D., & Bruns, A. (2006). The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities.

    Kop, R. (2011). The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. 2011, 12(3), 20. doi:10.19173/irrodl.v12i3.882

    Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning (2nd ed.).

    Case Study Leaders

    Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

    Bridget Tombleson

    Lecturer, School of Management and Marketing, Curtin University

    Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

    Katharina Wolf

    Associate Professor, School of Management and Marketing, Curtin University