WIL in an International Context

Case Studies


Curtain University


What is it?

Kristy Goodchild

Kristy Goodchild, Curtin University Kristy.Goodchild@curtin.edu.au

Curtin University have facilitated a 4-week WIL placement for a 2nd year Health Science student with a not-for-profit agency in rural Cambodia. The placement was completed as part of an existing credit-bearing WIL unit via a new international partnership. During the placement the student had to be resourceful and innovative in collaborating with local staff to develop a series of relevant health education topics, focussing on gender equality and empowerment for women. Ensuring that the student was adequately prepared for the placement prior to departure was seen as paramount to the success of the placement. Multiple pre-briefing sessions were held to cover health and safety, emergency procedures, travel, culture and language. Relevant documentation required prior to departure, and to meet the university’s international travel governance processes was collated and recorded. Whilst on placement, the student engaged with the University supervisor on a weekly basis via Skype, telephone calls and email, and a comprehensive de-briefing session was undertaken at the conclusion of the placement. This hugely successful placement has resulted in further requests by the not-for-profit agency for students from Curtin University across a variety of disciplines.

Why is it useful?

This is a great example of an innovative project potentially adaptable across disciplines and sectors. Resourcefulness, adaptability and communication skills are supported and encouraged to promote the development of identifiable employability and inter-disciplinary skills. OS Fee Help options via the Federal Government helps make this a viable option for students looking to do WIL internationally, if undertaking a credit bearing unit.

Author: Kristy Goodchild, Curtin University, Western Australia kristy.goodchild@curtin.edu.au

Full details of 'WIL in an International Context'

Disciplines included in the WIL activity

VE, trades

Model of WIL Activity

  • Industry/community based placement
  • Industry/community based projects
  • Site visits

Brief description

A 2nd year Health Science student from Curtin University completed a 4 week WIL placement as part of a credit bearing WIL unit, with a not-for-profit agency in rural Cambodia in December 2015 . The student collaborated with local staff and developed a series of relevant health education topics, focussing on the WHO Millennium Development Goal 3 “to promote gender equality and empower women”. Topics were presented to students aged 4-18 years and included: women’s health; water, sanitation and hygiene; and nutrition. A cross-generational approach was undertaken and education sessions were repeated to allow parents or carers of the students to attend and reinforce teaching.

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

This was the first official WIL activity utilising university students undertaken by this particular not-for-profit agency and resulted in a request for on-going involvement with Curtin University with the possibility of students from more disciplines.

Who benefits from the WIL activity (include all relevant stakeholders)?

Student – consolidates learning; encourages independence, resourcefulness and critical thinking skills; develops ethical principles; expands world view; enhances communication skills with CALD clients
Not-for-profit agency – brings expertise from a variety of disciplines; enhances learning experiences for local staff via capacity building; minimises costs to provide relevant education to staff and locals
Local Cambodian people – provides relevant education that may enhance health outcomes; reduces mortality and morbidity; enhances educational opportunities
Curtin University – develops partnership internationally; provides platform to increase WIL placements on an international level.

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

This WIL placement allowed the student to consolidate their theoretical learning and develop and implement health education sessions that were relevant to a particular under-privileged group. The student had to be present material that required interpreting and translating, and needed to be tailored to a relatively health illiterate population. Given that access to the internet, and even electricity, was compromised at times the student had to be resourceful and innovative. The objectives of this placement were developed with local staff and this allowed the student to understand the importance of developing relationship and effectively collaborating across culture and language.

How adaptable is the WIL activity to other disciplines, sectors, teaching practices etc?

Following this first interaction with a WIL student, the not-for-profit agency has requested additional WIL placements that could include students from varying disciplines such as: Education, Science and Engineering, Agriculture, Business and Health Science’s. They have recognised the benefits of hosting a WIL student for local staff and community members that could move beyond the education centre where this first WIL student was placed. Their involvement with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; Economic Development; Education; Capacity Building; and Health opens up many opportunities for future WIL placements.

How sustainable is the WIL activity beyond its immediate implementation?

The living and travel costs for this WIL activity were self-funded, with the added benefit of the student being able to access some funds via OS-HELP loan (due to being enrolled in a credit bearing unit). This placement was facilitated by the not-for-profit agency and as such, there was no “middle man” to pay, resulting in overall minimal costs. However, depending on the individual students financial situation such costs may be a possible impingement for future student placements. Sourcing funding via scholarships at a state or federal level, and the ongoing use of OS-HELP will see this as a sustainable model.

How is the success of the WIL activity evaluated?

The success was evaluated via the student’s submissions of specific assessment tasks for the credit bearing unit enrolled in. A formal de-briefing session was conducted with the student and allowed for verbal and written feedback on positives and negatives of this placement. Verbal feedback was sought from the host placement agency during and at the conclusion of the placement and feedback garnered was very positive. Additionally this agency has requested future students from Curtin University, and other Perth based universities, implying that they were happy with their first student and would like to continue with this model of engagement.

What are the wider impacts of the WL activity beyond completion?

The establishment of the relationship with the not-for-profit agency now has led to the potential for an ongoing involvement with Curtin University and placement of more students across many disciplines. This has also led to an increased awareness for the university of the benefits of utilising not-for-profit agencies in an international setting as a source of WIL placement opportunities.

How does the WIL activity approach the preparation, implementation and reflection phases of WIL?

Preparation of the student prior to departing on an international WIL placement was seen as paramount to its success. Multiple pre-briefing sessions were held with the student to gather all relevant documentation and meet the university’s international travel governance processes. Face to face discussions involving health and safety, emergency procedures, travel, culture and language were held over multiple sessions with a staff member who had travelled to Cambodia on many occasions before. Ongoing support was provided to the student on a weekly basis via Skype, telephone and email. A de-briefing session was undertaken at the conclusion of the placement.

What are the learning outcomes of the WIL activity and how do they link to graduate attributes?

  1. Providing an opportunity to experience and engage in community placement, and make a valuable contribution to this organisation. Graduate Attributes: the application of discipline specific knowledge, principles and concepts; effective communication; application of professional skills.
  2. Providing a platform to convert theoretical framework into practical experiences and identify the role of not-for-profit organisations in social development. Graduate Attributes: demonstrating inter-cultural awareness/understanding; accessing, evaluating and synthesising information.
  3. Reflecting on service learning, and identifying how this enhanced their understanding of community development, civic responsibility and employability skills. Graduate Attributes: recognising and applying international perspectives; thinking critically, creatively and reflectively.

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

This not-for-profit agency has requested future students from Curtin University, and other Perth based universities, across a variety of disciplines.

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