Work-integrated learning or WIL for short is in focus as part of a province-wide campaign advocating and raising awareness for experiential learning opportunities for students. 

Organized by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), the "#myWILis" campaign is spread across eight university campuses in Ontario this week.

According to Amanda Kohler, OUSA communications director, the campaign was started in response to the provincial government's recent move to identify experiential learning as priority for students.

Experiential learning is often regarded as hands-on learning where students can combine their educational and work experiences. 

“OUSA has done their own research as well,” said Kohler. “Students’ satisfaction in their program can be a result from participation in work-integrated learning. Student outcomes, such as salary, work related to their program of choice and likelihood of employment also increase when participating in work-integrated learning.”

A booth has been set up this week in the UCC to educate students on what work-integrated learning is and what it can do for them.

Mauricio Diaz, USC associate vice-president, says that the booth is a partnership among OUSA, the USC and various campus partners.

“The process is to introduce students to the term WIL,” explained Diaz. “All campuses are running this campaign at the same time, so we will be able to compare and contrast students’ experiences.”

Students can write about WIL experiences on a whiteboard in the UCC, sharing their experiences in work-integrated learning or offering ideas on its improvement. If students are unable to visit booths, OUSA is encouraging students to share their thoughts on Twitter using the #myWILis hashtag.

Diaz adds that 52 per cent of students do not have any work-integrated learning experiences and the campaign would be a great opportunity for students to start thinking about how to find an outside experience that ties into their academic stream.

Western’s co-op advisor for the master’s program in environment and sustainability, Alison McInnis, believes work-integrated learning will allow students to connect class material to the real world.

“I think the one key thing is that internship at the undergraduate level adds an extra year on the four-year degree so it turns out to be five years,” said McInnis. “I think that makes people shy away, but my perspective is that students will graduate with a year of experience so that saves them time in the job search.”

Students are encouraged to take advantage of programs including co-ops and internships affiliated with their faculties to improve their learning experiences as well as future job prospects. 

Kohler added that OUSA will compile the responses from the campaign and work to create a more comprehensive definition of work-integrated learning so that they are able to better lobby the issue to the government.

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Grace is a news editor for volume 110 at the Gazette. She is a third-year neuroscience student minoring in French studies. If you want to reach Grace, email her at grace@westerngazette.ca

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