The Marketing Clinic: Work integrated learning in a student-led community clinic

Case Studies

Institution:

University of South Australia

Discipline:

Business

Model/s of WIL activity:

  • Industry/community based projects
  • Role plays
  • Research activities

Level activity is delivered:

Program-wide

The Marketing Clinic: Work integrated learning in a student-led community clinic

UniSA student-led Marketing clinic collaborates with local businesses to help solve marketing problems.

The Marketing Clinic was developed as a nexus of community and industry partnerships, authentic teaching and unique learning experiences for UniSA Marketing students. The course is designed to assist small, local and not-for-profit businesses through consulting and advising services, while developing students’ skills to become successful professionals. The success of the program has resulted in enhanced student preparedness for work and employment outcomes, with several industry partners offering students jobs. The course aligns with UniSA’s University of Enterprise ethos, and UniSA Business’s Vision of Enterprise Skills emphasis for students, productive partnerships with business, and corporate social responsibility. The clinic has been acknowledged with UniSA Citation in 2021 and 5 awards in UniSA Business over the years  – including Course Design, Teaching Excellence, Industry Collaboration and Excellence in Community Engaged Learning.

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

Since 2017

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

The Marketing Clinic demonstrates excellent practice and innovation as its design removes the usual risks associated with WIL “that may have serious financial, reputational and legal consequences” (Fleming & Hay, 2021) for all stakeholders. This unique course offers students valuable professional interaction with industry and community partners to support the development of transferable professional skills by consulting and formulating marketing advice to clients. Using a blend of marketing expertise, website development, digital commerce, and design skills, students work in teams to resolve client’s multifaceted issues. Learning occurs in a fresh, innovative context combining real-life settings with active engagement.  The program espouses three core learning outcomes: The first is a successful client briefing encounter in which students prepare a line of questioning to identify the client’s problem(s). This develops a key business skill – the ability to professionally interact and ask questions to uncover issues that may not even be self-evident to the client. The second learning outcome is the formulated solution to the client’s marketing problem. Students develop the skill of identifying how a marketing issue can be solved, as well as actively investigating the client’s business and the industry it operates within. The third is a professional, live presentation by the student team to the client.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

Each year, 40 students gain un-paralleled experience by participating in the Marketing Clinic, solving real issues for 12 clients. Through this experience, students become more job ready, expressing positive outcomes such as “Very real-world experience and could not recommend this course enough!” “It was a jam-packed course which required a lot of effort, but the rewards and outcomes are absolutely invaluable”.  Clients (including alumni) obtain free marketing advice that can be the difference in ‘staying alive’ or perishing. Businesses and not-for-profits benefit, take a recent example where students provided advice to a charity looking after pets of domestic violence victims and made a life-changing impact on those organisations and society. Community impact is even more obvious in rural businesses whom our students advise via zoom if they cannot travel to Adelaide. A client commented, “It was in my opinion – the best 45 min marketing advice and strategies we have received for our organisation.”

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

The Marketing Clinic embeds evaluation from students, peers and clients leading to significant improvements. The clinic features continual informal student reflection with the teaching staff culminating with a final in-person ‘debrief’ wherein they evaluate their learning progression and engagement with clients. This process allows the identification of nuanced issues that are improved and embedded in the following delivery, for example, adding an ‘Important concepts’ module based on previous year’s evaluation.  Clinic clients provide feedback on the student teams.  Over the years, client feedback on impact, communication, and value of advice has been 9.5/10. Peer review of the course by senior colleagues internally and externally has always been very positive.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

UniSA Business has a strong focus on graduate employability and job ready skills.  Our strong engagement with community organisations and business contributes to the success of the program and long-term survival. All partnering organisations ranging from sporting bodies, community radio stations, local councils, law firms to research centres from other universities appreciate the positive impact of this engagement with students.  Many clients contact the Clinic later to say how the advice has helped them.  One client told of how the Clinic literally saved their business from closure.  Many clinic clients return for a second time.  Also, many students have been employed by clinic clients soon after the project completion. Implementation of the student teams’ recommendations by these clients has resulted in measurable and marked improvements to their business outcomes.

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

Students prepare for the Marketing Clinic by filling in a skill survey followed by a face-to-face workshop. Their self-analysis informs team formation, and workshops provide information on clients and the marketing issue they are facing. Ample opportunity is provided to practice with role play and ‘mock’ engagement before the final, real encounter with the client to present solutions. Students are supervised by course coordinators who mentor, guide and provide feedback. Reflection and informal debrief is embedded in assessment and give students an opportunity to reflect on their journey.

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

The benefits of work integrated learning (Govender & Wait, 2017) informed the design and management of Marketing Clinic: linking  theory with scholarship of experiential learning, assessment, and successful group work. The clinic embeds curriculum factors  that are seen as predictors of employability (Smith et al., 2016), these being:
Authenticity: Meaningful professional work.
Supervision: While giving autonomy, student’s learning is supported, and feedback provided.
Preparation: The advice students provide, as well as its delivery by the student teams, is refined via feedback and iteration, as well as presentation rehearsals.   
Debrief: These occur after the initial client meeting and following each client presentation.

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

Recognising the importance of WIL for final year students, the Marketing Clinic is embedded as a course in the UniSA Marketing, Marketing and Communication, Marketing and Design undergraduate programs. The future is bright – at a micro and macro level, with a long list of clients on waitlist to access our services. The course-coordinators offer guidance to other disciplines to ‘think’ about what they can offer in this space. We have mentored another clinic by sharing our course handbook and developed systems for dealing with issues such as client confidentiality.

References

Fleming, J., & Hay, K. (2021). Understanding the Risks in Work-Integrated Learning. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 22(2), 167-181.

Govender, C. M., & Wait, M. (2017). Work integrated learning benefits for student career prospects–mixed mode analysis. South African Journal of Higher Education, 31(5), 49-64. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.28535/31-5-609

Smith, C., Ferns, S., & Russell, L. (2016). Designing work-integrated learning placements that improve student employability: six facets of the curriculum that matter. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 17(2), 197-211.

Case Study Leaders

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Vivien Chanana

Program Director - Marketing, University of South Australia

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Professor John Dawes

Professor of Marketing, University of South Australia