Graduate capability and employability are regarded as critical success factors for degree programs by universities, industry and students. A common response by the higher education sector to demands for better employability outcomes has been to develop and further work-based experiences for academic credit within degree programmes.

Successful work-based experiences are very dependent on the quality and continuity of academic-industry liaison. Particularly, the value of the opportunities afforded to students is reliant on the understanding each party has about the other’s business: meaningful, responsive and continuing conversations are paramount for worthwhile learning experiences.

Ideally, student involvement in work-based encounters builds student self-efficacy, advances student knowledge and skills, encourages questioning and guides student reflection on practice that advances ways of knowing and working.

The reality, however, is that the value of work-based experiences vary considerably, possibly due to differences in the time, effort and quality invested in academic-industry liaison.

The conventional approach suggests that enhancement is dependent primarily on the nature of that academic-industry engagement and commitment.

But what if we included the student as a partner in co-operative, collective decision-making for the arrangement of, and continuing dialogue throughout the duration of, the work-based experience?

A collaborative governance structure that includes the student alongside academic and industry partners can optimise learning opportunities. The capacity for students to act and not feel helpless is a key enabler for productive and relevant learning in professional settings. Including the student in the practical elements of building relationships and capabilities assists in students driving learning that meets requisite outcomes. Adopting a collaborative governance approach, that is inclusive of students, is contingent on commitment, shared understanding and trust across university, industry and student. The ultimate benefit is that the needs of all partners are met.

Professor Amanda Henderson RN RM

Central Queensland University

2015 OLT National Senior Teaching Fellow


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