Quality Work-Based Learning

This is the second post in our series on work-based learning (WBL) opportunities in a virtual environment. For more information, please contact us—we’d love to hear from you.

Once you’ve established your preliminary strategies for virtual WBL, how do you ensure the quality of the experiences you offer?

HEI has found that WBL experiences are most robust when designed and/or implemented via partnerships among educators, employers, and community partners. Moreover, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, even within a WBL model; program structures need to be designed to adequately accommodate the local context. Further, assessment of capacity and readiness to deliver WBL should be engaged by WBL providers to assure well-planned, high-quality implementation. WBL models should be informed by indicators of program quality detailed below, where implications relating to relevant policy and program design are mutually considered. 

  • Industry-aligned: All components of WBL should be industry-aligned to support participant development of technical and professional competencies required for successful performance in a career sector. 
  • Equitable: Equity must be considered across all phases of WBL implementation, which encompass design, development, delivery, and measures of impact. It is imperative that equity is integrated within WBL structures as evidenced by inclusion of intentionally embedded mechanisms that foster inclusivity and accessibility—including those involving offerings, recruitment and selection, participant support, compensation, and expectations. Equity cannot be thought of as a component external to or separate from the WBL program. Utilization of an equity lens also entails identification of opportunities facilitating and barriers hindering equitable access to WBL, and consequently, advancing areas of promise and mitigating challenges. Quality WBL is inherently equitable.
  • Transferrable: Participants’ learning should be adaptable to other contexts within the industry or sector. Further, training should be designed so that learner outcomes are congruent with expectations and values recognized across the profession.
  • Accountable: Central to understanding the impacts of a WBL opportunity—including for educators, learners, community providers, and employers—is clearly defining program objectives and expected outcomes. This not only serves as a guideline for design and implementation efforts, but also provides the foundation for which metrics can be established to monitor progress and identify observed effects. Further, this level of transparency encourages accountability across stakeholder groups.

Overall, WBL programs comprising these key principles have been found to be effective:

  • Support entry and advancement in a career track by providing opportunities for participants to develop technical and professional competencies. 
  • Provide meaningful job tasks that build career skills and knowledge in the form of appropriately complex and relevant tasks with structured mentorship and supervision.
  • Offer compensation, which demonstrates that participants’ contributions are valued and makes opportunities accessible to individuals who might not otherwise be afforded the ability to take part in these experiences without financial support.
  • Identify target skills and how gains will be validated, to the mutual benefit of participants and employers. 
  • Reward skill development through opportunities for more advanced responsibilities as well as wage and/or benefit increases, all of which positively reinforce learning and continued development.
  • Support college entry, persistence, and completion by assuring alignment among educational and industry objectives; WBL can be designed to excel postsecondary degree or industry-specific credential attainment through articulation agreements or embedded credit structures.
  • Provide comprehensive student support via career counseling or advisement, equipping students with the information required to make informed career decisions. 

Any questions? Let us know.