CREATING & DELIVERING A POWERFUL COOPERATIVE EDUCATION PROGRAM: A PARADIGM OF EXCELLENCE
The growing demands for cooperative learning opportunities have resonated with educators at all levels of education, particularly in post-secondary echelons. In parallel to these calls, educational institutions are tasked with delivering more service, greater experience, while reducing resources in the interest of addressing student and industry demands for cooperative education programs. While tuitions have increased globally, a pressure to decrease operational budgets, manpower, and delivery time has administrators perplexed. Beyond the costs of capital, human resources, and time, a critical difficulty lies in institutions’ ability to develop a framework for cooperative education that addresses the nuances of a range of differences among industries and disciplines. Post-secondary institutions have the ability to adapt to these demands. Increasingly, students expect their schools to prepare them for careers in the real world. Though all institutions profess industrial connections through networking and research initiatives, there are few that capitalize upon these potential employers in a cooperative education framework. Aside from force-fitting precedents from one industry or institution into another with little sensitivity, educators need guidance in best practices to develop their unique responses to the cooperative education challenge.
This paper presents key strategies developed in the creation of a new cooperative education program within the largest Architectural program in Canada that may be adapted to and integrated by educators and administrators struggling with bridging the gap between industry and academia, especially in light of limited resources. By examining key factors including symbiotic relationships, industry and academic timescales, expectations on engagement and commitment, regulatory components, and the potential for advancing research and teaching, the authors propose the underpinnings of a cooperative education system that may be applied to any discipline.