Chapter 1: Work-Integrated Learning (WIL)

1.2 Types of Work-Integrated Learning (WIL)

Work-integrated learning (WIL) is offered in a variety of methods and models. Depending on the WIL type, your experience as a work-integrated learning student is either embedded as your course work toward your program or is separate from your regular program and is taken independently, such as a co-op program. Most of the time, a WIL experience counts towards course credit and/or credential completion. Each program and school are different, so you will need to check with your instructor or institution to learn more about what options exist at your school and what their eligibility requirements are.

Common Types of Work-Integrated Learning

There are nine common types of work-integrated learning. They are Applied Research, Apprenticeship, Co-operative Education, Entrepreneurship, Field Placement, Internships, Professional Practice (practicum and clinical), Service Learning, and Work Experience:

  • Applied Research Project. This type of WIL is when students participate in research at job sites and workplaces. Students act as researchers about work instead of workers on the site. Some examples of applied research include consulting projects, community-based research, and design projects.
  • Apprenticeship. This type of WIL is a formal model that matches a student apprentice with a certified journeyperson. The apprentice is paid to gain experience under the direction of the journeyperson while also taking some coursework or other in-class training. Some examples of apprenticeships include electrician, cook, hairstylist, or auto body and collision technician.
  • Co-operative Education (Co-op). This type of WIL combines work terms and academic terms, either alternating or back-to-back. Usually, the co-op experience is connected to the student’s field of study. Some examples of co-op opportunities are Marketing Associate for a Business Administration student majoring in Marketing; Social Media Assistant for a Public Relations student; and Clinical Assistant for a Kinesiology student.
  • Entrepreneurship. This type of WIL supports students in the start-up of their own business. Students may get resources, space, mentorship, or other funding to help them turn their ideas into practice. Some examples of entrepreneurships are developing an online store, designing a new app service, or creating a local delivery service.
  • Field Placement. This type of WIL is usually part-time or short term. It is an intensive opportunity for students to gain experience as a part of academic programs that do not have other formal WIL elements like co-op or apprenticeship and may or may not require supervision of a registered or licensing body. Some examples of field placements include areas of study such as social work, forestry, and engineering.
  • Internship. This type of WIL is usually discipline specific, supervised, and intensive. It may be paid or unpaid and take place at any time within a student’s program. Some examples of internships include Human Resources assistant, Manufacturing intern, or Graphic Design intern.
  • Practicum or Clinical Placement. This type of WIL is a mandatory unpaid work experience under the supervision of a registered professional as a requirement for licensure or certification. Some examples of practica are diagnostic medical sonography practicum, nursing practicum, or medical device reprocessing technician clinical.
  • Service Learning. This type of WIL matches community need with student workers in a particular class or discipline. Students work in partnership with a community organization to help solve problems and meet needs identified by the community. Some examples of service learning are Writing students developing content for a women’s shelter website, Physics students tutoring high school or Accounting students providing support at free tax clinics.
  • Work Experience. This type of WIL incorporates work terms into an academic program. It may have fewer formal components than a co-op program. Some examples of work experience include pro cook training, customer service, or administrative placements.

Work-integrated learning looks different at every school and workplace. This short list, adapted from Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada, 2021), should help you see what options are out there. To learn more about the various types and definitions of work-integrated learning in Canada, visit What is WIL? on the CEWIL Canada website: What is Work-Integrated Learning? If you want to know how a particular type of WIL works at your school, contact your program administrator or work-integrated learning office to learn the specifics that apply to you.

There are also simulated types of WIL that may be course-based and embedded right into the student’s assigned work. The experience is structured with purposeful and meaningful activities linked to course outcomes to tie the theory concepts into the work being completed. Types of simulated WIL are teaching lab, simulated interactive lab, employer or community-based project, and capstone project. WIL involves various stakeholders including organizations, industry, faculty, administration, and in some instances government, and the Industry Training Authority (ITA), which leads and coordinates British Columbia’s skilled trades system (ITA, 2019).


Using the information above and/or using the CEWIL website, complete the following True/False questions.

  • WIL intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies within a workplace or practice setting?
  • Work experience is typically one work term and completed as part-time?
  • Internships are typically 12 to 16 months however, can be any length of time?
  • Co-op consists of combining academic terms and paid work terms?
  • Field placements are part-time and short term intensive hands-on practical experiences in a setting relevant to the student’s subject of study?

Case study: Avery learns about work-integrated learning

Avery goes to the WIL info session at the College of New Caledonia (CNC). He learns that CNC offers a form of work experience placement as a part of course credit for an elective course called Work-Integrated Learning. If he chooses to take the class, he will work with his instructor to identify areas of work relevant to his program and learn about how to apply for work. He will practice job-related skills in class, like resume writing, interview skills, workplace safety, and more. He will be required to apply for, interview, and successfully get a field placement. He may also have to help identify potential workplaces for his work experience placement and approach them about taking him on. His work experience placement will count as real job experience that he can use on his resume when he graduates. Even though he won’t get paid, he will gain experience that may help him get an advantage over his classmates who do not participate in this elective program.

The Class Part of Work-Integrated Learning

Like with the types of WIL, class can look different depending on which program you take. Most of the time, these programs get you some form of academic credit. They do not always have grades, though. Pass/fail is a common way to mark completion on your transcript. Many co-op, internship and apprenticeship programs have class components where you prepare for and debrief your experiences in class. Think about these as the “feeling” and “thinking” stages of Kolb’s model of experiential learning. Sometimes, there is no associated class. Instead, you might be asked to work independently on activities or a report that summarize your experience. Here are a few common activities that could be linked to the school part of work-integrated learning:

  • Assessments. You may engage in a variety of assessments to help you determine your strengths, areas for development, skills, and competencies. These assessments will help you to set goals and evaluate your improvement as you progress throughout your work term.
  • Preparation Classes. You may be required to attend class, workshops, or other events before you start applying for work opportunities. Typically, these sessions would be focused on the early stages of the job search. They may also be built around particular themes or issues in the workplace.
  • Training and Seminars. Part of your WIL experience may be group training. This could be related to workplace safety, like the Workplace Hazardous Materials (WHMIS) course or a Standard First Aid course. It could also be a form of professional development like Intercultural Competency training, ethics, or conflict resolution training.
  • Worksite Visit. Your WIL instructor may connect with you and your supervisor during your work term. This monitoring exercise may happen virtually via a conference call or involve an actual visit to the worksite. You may have to complete assignments, assessments, or reflections as a part of this process.
  • Online or In-Class Check-ins. Many schools offer a virtual classroom to accompany a work placement. This may take the form of a repository of information for students, or it might take the form of a synchronous or asynchronous online class. You may have assignments, group work, or other activities to complete as a part of these check-ins.
  • Work Term Reports. Often students will be asked to reflect on their work placement in a formal report. These reports may ask you to reflect on your skill development, goals, and challenges. It may be a written report, but could also take the form of a journal, online discussion, workshop, presentation, or video.

Case study: Avery in WIL Class

It is the next semester, and Avery is taking WIL as one of his electives. For the first six weeks, he completes online work readiness modules. So far, he has completed several assessments to determine what kind of careers suit him, engaged in a job search, written a cover letter and resume, and started applying for placements. One of his weekly assignments is a journal where he reflects on what he has learned. He responds to different questions each week. They are all connected back to the main theme of the week. Once his work experience placement begins, he will be required to document his tasks. At the end, he will complete a learning portfolio and may be required to prepare a presentation for the employer Avery’s learning portfolio will include his best journal entries, a statement about his goals, and a statement about his next steps.

Imposter Syndrome

Most of experience some form of imposter syndrome at some point in our school and work lives. It is a feeling of self-doubt that perhaps you don’t really belong where you are at because you do not have the skills or knowledge that others perceive you as having. A nagging that you have ended up in this job or in this course out of luck and that everyone will find out that you’re not really who they think you are. It often makes us uncomfortable and therefore not always talked about. If you ever experience this, here are a couple of things to help dispel it:

  • Acknowledge it and then put it into perspective.
  • Share your feelings with a trusted friend or mentor.
  • Celebrate your strengths and successes.
  • Accept that no one is perfect. See yourself as a work in progress with the ability to continue to learn and grow.
  • Challenge negative thoughts and if you need evidence recall past successes.

The Work Part of Work-Integrated Learning

As a WIL student, you will have a lot of responsibilities at work. You will maintain dual accountability to both your WIL supervisor and your supervisor at work. You will need to communicate, conduct yourself professionally, understand confidentiality, seek feedback, and be open to learning. The WIL placement opportunity is dependent on good and open communication and active listening. As you openly ask questions, you will find your fit and the expectations of you within the placement. Before you begin, you should familiarize yourself with your school’s student code of conduct, any rules or regulations in the WIL placement, and the organizational guidelines and rules at your work placement. Here are a few common responsibilities that you will have as a part of the work part of work-integrated learning:

  • Establish Contact with the Workplace Appropriately. The post-secondary WIL program will likely have an established process where the student is provided with forms to fill out and a process to contact the work placement. In some cases, you will need to apply and interview for open positions. In other cases, you may actually be in a position of soliciting a potential work placement. Once you and your employer have agreed to the placement, you will establish an initial connection and a follow-up meeting to discuss the commitment such as work hours, conduct, duties, primary contact, etc.
  • Follow Workplace Requirements. Once your placement begins, be punctual and follow the daily organizational routines that are in place. Organizations often mandate that employees abide by a set structure of routine, with scheduled work hours, breaks, and social norms.
  • Work within your assigned role. Your roles and responsibilities may begin before and keep going after the work placement. However, your duties should be clearly laid out. You need to ensure that you do not attempt or ask to perform tasks beyond your work placement requirements. Students are responsible for taking care and understanding not to perform tasks beyond their skills and capabilities, communicate openly to ask questions, express any concerns, and ensure to perform and complete tasks assigned to their best abilities.
  • Be curious about the workplace protocols and culture of your placement. Organizational protocols and culture will vary from organization to organization, and this is your opportunity to really explore the industry or sector where you aspire to work after graduating. Confidential information related to the work placements should not be disclosed without the spoken permission of the employer. Always seek clarification from the employer if you are unsure whether certain material or information is confidential. Information obtained in WIL should not be leveraged in any way for personal gains.
  • Follow occupational health and safety guidelines. You should also seek to know and understand the workplace occupational health and safety standards within your region. In British Columbia, employee and employer safety standards are regulated by WorkSafe BC which are explored further in Chapter 5: Workplace Safety.

You are required to manage the set of obligations set out by the post-secondary institution and the employer within your work-integrated learning placement. Remember to maintain a high level of professional behaviour during your work placement and enjoy the learning experience to discover new possibilities through work-integrated learning.

Activity: Questions to answer before your work placement

To help you prepare for your work placement, come up with a plan! Try to answer the following questions about your work placement before it begins.

  1. How can I demonstrate active engagement in my work placement?
  2. What if I make a mistake?
  3. The work tasks being assigned to me are out of my scope of knowledge, what should I do?
  4. My responsibilities are unclear, who could I talk to?
  5. How can I find out the daily organizational routine?

Case study: Avery prepares for his work placement

Avery has just finished interviewing with three potential work experience placements. He has received two offers, both as administrative support in busy offices. As he is making his decision about where he wants to work, he turns to the WIL questions he needs to answer about his work placement. Here are his initial responses:

  1. How can I demonstrate active engagement in my work placement?
    • Ask for a list of duties and orientation materials.
    • Prepare a calendar with events and due dates.
    • Create some templates for routine tasks to remind me of what to do.
    • Request feedback on my performance from my supervisor.
  1. What if I make a mistake?
    • Identify the mistake and fix it if I can.
    • Report to my supervisor.
    • Write about it in my journal.
    • Come up with a plan to prevent it from happening again.
  2. The work tasks being assigned to me are out of my scope of knowledge, what should I do?
    • Identify strategies for learning on the job.
    • Ask for help and clarification from my boss.
    • Request additional training or job shadowing if I need it
  3. My responsibilities are unclear, who could I talk to?
    • Supervisor
    • Co-workers
    • Instructor
    • Peer group in my class
  4. How can I find out the daily organizational routine?
    • Ask supervisor or co-workers.
    • Read employee manual or other documentation.


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Getting Ready for Work-Integrated Learning Copyright © 2022 by Deb Nielsen; Emily Ballantyne; Faatimah Murad; and Melissa Fournier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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