WORK-INTEGRATED LEARNING: INCREASING SOCIETAL IMPACT BY DECREASING THE GAP BETWEEN RESEARCH AND PRACTICE
The aim with the paper is to present and discuss experiences from using work-integrated learning (WIL) as an approach for research cooperation between higher education and industry. The knowledge society of today calls for more collaboration between higher education institutes (HEI) and industry. The so called third mission, i.e. that HEI collaborate with the surrounding society is crucial, especially for professional schools such as business, information systems and engineering. These schools should produce research that contributes with valuable academic knowledge as well as helpful knowledge for practice. Unfortunately, much published research don’t fulfil the intended contribution to neither science nor practice. This lack of societal impact hinders companies to keep up with rapid changes demanding specific competence. One such current challenge for companies is the ongoing digitalization of business.
In line with the third mission, a number of frameworks has been developed, e.g. triple-helix model, engaged scholarship, entrepreneurial universities, practice action research. Furthermore, alternative educational models for third cycle education have also been developed, focusing on educating researchers aiming at a position as a researcher in practice rather than an academic career. Another increasingly popular approach is Work-Integrated learning (WIL), which in a global perspective, most have been focusing on how to bring practice into educational programs. There has been less attention to how WIL could be used for bridging the gap between research and practice. At University West with more than 25 years’ experience of WIL a holistic approach to WIL have been adopted and WIL permeates all the Universities activities: education, research and extensive collaboration with the surrounding society as well. The holistic approach means that different strategies for collaboration between research and practice are explored, evaluated and refined. But WIL also includes basics values regarding how the university defines the relationship with the surrounding society that it serves. This includes ethical principles, taking responsibility and working long-term with common knowledge-production and that results actually are being implemented and generates ripple effects.
This paper will present and discuss experiences from adopting a holistic WIL approach. The paper will also include brief descriptions of the frameworks mentioned above, and a synthesis of these models will be used as a comparison to the WIL-approach. The comparison will address the following issues:
• How do different approaches to increased societal impact in university-industry collaboration relate to issues about rigor, relevance, validity and reliability?
• How do the different models for university-industry collaboration support: taking responsibility for societal impact, long term relationships, educational purposes and ripple effect?