Up close and personal – co-designing exercise science WIL activities with real clients, in real time, with real rewards

Case Studies


University of Technology



Model/s of WIL activity:

  • Industry/community based placement
  • Industry/community based projects
  • Research activities
  • Site visits
  • Technology

 Level activity delivered:

Through an individual unit/course of study

Up close and personal – co-designing exercise science WIL activities with real clients, in real time, with real rewards.

UTS students developing professional capabilities of exercise assessment, prescription and delivery through telehealth and industry-based sporting projects.

The UTS School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation (SoSER) has created two bespoke WIL placement blocks for all final year students to accrue a minimum of 60 practicum hours in exercise Assessment, Prescription and Delivery (APD). These placements are a Health and Fitness Telehealth Clinic, and Project Based Learning Activities.
Following a co-design process which includes the university, students and external stakeholders, students engage in student-led placement hours where they engage directly with a large number of general population clinic clients (~75), and various sporting organisations (n=21). In these placements, students undertake exercise assessment activities, and prescribe and deliver individualised exercise and training programs directly with their industry-based client / project group. This program requires students to work in small groups (i.e. 5) and partner with external stakeholders for 6 weeks (for each placement) under direct supervision.

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

The WIL placement blocks were initially conceptualised in response to the first COVID-19 outbreak and industry shutdowns in 2020. Incorporating learnings from that period, the Health and Fitness Telehealth Clinic and Project Based Learning Activities were developed for 2021 onwards and designed specifically to ensure that the integrity of all future WIL experiences are preserved – namely that they remained supported, purposeful, authentic, collaborative and evidenced (UTS WIL Quality Framework, 2021). The two placement blocks have now successfully been run across two semesters – Autumn 2021 and Autumn 2022. It is envisaged that the placement blocks will continue to operate using their current structure, with minor adjustments made where needed, within a continuous cycle of improvement.

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

The reimagining of WIL placement blocks expanded partnership opportunities with local, state and national clients, such as New South Wales Swimming. The depth and breadth of WIL activities also allowed many other highly sought professional capabilities such as employability skills (i.e. communication, time management) to be developed by students. This program is innovative in its purpose as it seeks to create true collaboration between all stakeholders. This means that bespoke programs and projects are created to meet the identified needs of all parties.
The WIL placement blocks are also unique in that whilst they are student-led, they bring together a network of industry experts as direct supervisors who oversee the planning, quality assurance, implementation, reflection and debriefing phases of all activities. Combined, this creates a rich and collaborative student learning journey.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

A large range of stakeholders benefit from these inclusive WIL activities. External partners include state and national sporting organisations, and grassroots clubs and groups. Clients bring vastly different skills and experiences to the program, and they come from diverse demographics such as the LBGTQI community, elderly populations, and children with disabilities. UTS students in turn benefit enormously from greater diversity in their client populations, and develop enhanced employability skills in health promotion and exercise service delivery.
UTS Alumni support current students during placement blocks via the Sport and Exercise Science Mentorship program. Inter-professional connections are also fostered internally across schools, through shared thought and processes with placement practices.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

The UTS WIL activities use a scaffolded and integrated structure of assessment and evaluation processes.
During placement blocks, small student groups are paired with a dedicated industry supervisor (i.e., an accredited exercise scientist) who remains with them throughout the program. Ongoing formative assessment practices enable the real time iteration of placement activities to meet both individual student learning needs, and client / industry needs and expectations. Structured rubric based assessment are utilised to assess key competencies, as well as both self and team reflection, which are consistently evaluating individual and team/group proficiency. As the program progresses, this cycle of improvement is undertaken continually by all three key stakeholders within the WIL Educational Partnership – students, the University, and External Collaborators (UTS WIL Quality Framework, 2021). Summative assessment is also used as assessment of learning, with results incorporated into broader program evaluation.
A system of ongoing subject level evaluation also occurs, by both subject staff and supervisors. Subject staff and supervisors are uniquely positioned ‘within’ the program which facilitates consistent evaluation from multiple perspectives, and ensures that all activities remain evidenced, purposeful and authentic. UTS WIL subject staff also develop and maintain strong relationships with all stakeholders through regular communication, contact, and active involvement in all placement activities. As a result, stakeholders have multiple opportunities to provide feedback and evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of the programs they are participating in.
Additionally, students are encouraged and challenged to further develop their professional voice, through open and collaborative interactions within the WIL Educational Partnership. In turn this enables student-centred, real-time evaluation of WIL activities. Students also have the opportunity to complete anonymous subject feedback surveys.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders? 

    The program seeks to create an employability ecosystem which places the student at the centre of the experience. Through their participation, student professional capabilities and identity are developed. Students have increased opportunities to interact directly with potential employers, and employers are then beneficiaries of the increased industry readiness of students. Employers also have the opportunity to inform the curriculum so that university programs are evidenced to reflect the ‘on the ground’ needs of industry.
    Industry connections between UTS and external stakeholders are also enhanced. The sharing of knowledge and information enables evidence-based practice to grow capacity within partnering organisations. For example, coaches and athletes benefit by connecting with the latest research that their WIL students and supervisors draw from, whilst students equally benefit from learning about how this knowledge can be translated into practice from the many years of coaching experience that partners bring.

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

    WIL activities are the capstone subjects of the UTS Exercise Science degree. Initially, dedicated time is spent preparing students during multiple ‘coursework’ days. Here, students participate in various activities which introduce them to their placement block, and focus on developing communication, reflexivity, clinic management, and exercise science practitioner skills.
    Once placement blocks commence, students are supported through scaffolded learning activities. As student confidence and capability increases, supervisor guidance becomes less overt and the program evolves to become truly student-led. Because activities have been co-designed between all stakeholders, a collaborative learning journey emerges. Numerous formal and informal ways for students to reflect and debrief with subject staff, peers, supervisors and external partners are also embedded throughout.
    Whilst WIL activities enable students to “develop and demonstrate competence in integrating and applying their professional knowledge and skills in a real-world setting” (ESSA Practicum Standards, 2022), the course of study that students have undertaken in the preceding years offers constructive alignment which foregrounds preparedness for their ‘formal’ Exercise Science WIL experiences. As students move through the foundational, developmental and professional stages of their exercise science WIL learning journey, they grow their professional knowledge, skills and attributes through a range of professional practice pedagogies (The Circle of WIL, UTS WIL Quality Framework, 2021).

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

    Students are immersed in real-world experiences and develop twenty-first century skills (Condliffe et al., 2017) through problem solving and critical analysis of evidenced based solutions. Independent learning is undertaken by students who are motivated to take ownership (Marx et al., 1997) of the project and then come together to undertake collaborative practice (Brassler & Dettmers, 2017), enhancing active listening and communication skills.
    Students develop “real-world” skills through these UTS WIL activities, including the ability to adapt to the ever changing needs of industry and clients, utilising flexibility, self-regulation, metacognition and grit to deliver a product. The role of the supervisor is that of facilitator, rather than a traditional instructor, guiding students to authentic and collaborative solutions (Guthrie, 2019).

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

    Our unique and innovative placement blocks offer future potential with both scalability and reach. They can be scaled up or down as needed, and the program can also be used to further target specific populations. For example, many additional clients and minority groups from a range of locales could benefit from accessing this service. Investigations have already commenced into how the UTS School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation WIL activities can be integrated with existing health care services to further support the health and wellbeing of individuals and groups in rural and remote Australian communities.


    Brassler, M., & Dettmers, J. (2017). How to enhance interdisciplinary competence—interdisciplinary problem-based learning versus interdisciplinary project-based learning. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 11(2), 12. https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1686

    Condliffe, B. (2017). Project-Based Learning: A Literature Review. Working Paper. MDRC. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED578933

    ESSA Practicum Standards, 2022

    Guthrie, C. (2019). Towards greater learner control: Web supported project-based learning. Journal of Information Systems Education, 21(1), 11. http://jise.org/Volume21/n1/JISEv21n1p121.html

    Martinez, F., Herrero, L. C., & De Pablo, S. (2010). Project-based learning and rubrics in the teaching of power supplies and photovoltaic electricity. IEEE Transactions on Education, 54(1), 87- 96. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/5438911

    Marx, R. W., Blumenfeld, P. C., Krajcik, J. S., & Soloway, E. (1997). Enacting project-based science. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/

    Trede, F., & Wehr, D. (2021). UTS WIL Quality Framework.

    Case Study Leaders

    Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

    Greta Conlan

    Associate Lecturer - School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation (UTS)

    Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

    Kellie Ellis

    Associate Lecturer - School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation (UTS)

    Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

    Sharon Coutts

    Project Coordinator - Enhancing Courses (UTS)