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Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Definitions

Work-integrated learning is a model and process of curricular experiential education which formally and intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies within a workplace or practice setting. WIL experiences include an engaged partnership of at least: an academic institution, a host organization and a student. WIL can occur at the course or program level and includes the development of learning outcomes related to employability, personal agency and life-long learning.

Below are the various types of WIL and their typical attributes:

  1. Applied Research Projects: Students are engaged in research that occurs primarily in workplaces, includes: consulting projects, design projects, community-based research projects.

  2. Apprenticeship: Apprenticeship is an agreement between a person (an apprentice) who wants to learn a skill and an employer who needs a skilled worker and who is willing to sponsor the apprentice and provide paid related practical experience under the direction of a certified journeyperson in a work environment conducive to learning the tasks, activities and functions of a skilled worker. Apprenticeship combines about 80% at-the-workplace experience with 20% technical classroom training, and depending on the trade, takes about 2-5 years to complete. Both the workplace experience and the technical training are essential components of the learning experience.

  3. Co-operative Education (co-op alternating and co-op internship models): Co-op alternating consists of alternating academic terms and paid work terms. Co-op internship consists of several co-op work terms back-to-back. In both models, work terms provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study. The number of required work terms varies by program; however, the time spent in work terms must be at least 30% of the time spent in academic study for programs over 2 years in length and 25% of time for programs 2 years and shorter in length.

  4. Entrepreneurship:  Allows a student to leverage resources, space, mentorship and/or funding to engage in the early-stage development of business start-ups and/or to advance external ideas that address real-world needs for academic credit.

  5. Field Placement: Provides students with an intensive part-time/short term intensive hands-on practical experience in a setting relevant to their subject of study. Field placements may not require supervision of a registered or licensed professional and the completed work experience hours are not required for professional certification. Field placements account for work-integrated educational experiences not encompassed by other forms, such as co-op, clinic, practicum, and internship.

  6. Internships: Offers usually one discipline-specific, supervised, structured paid or unpaid, and for academic credit work experience or practice placement.  Internships may occur in the middle of an academic program or after all academic coursework has been completed and prior to graduation. Internships can be of any length but are typically 12 to 16 months long.

  7. Mandatory Professional Practicum/Clinical Placement: Involves work experience under the supervision of an experienced registered or licensed professional (e.g. preceptor) in any discipline that requires practice-based work experience for professional licensure or certification. Practica are generally unpaid and, as the work is done in a supervised setting, typically students do not have their own workload/caseload.

  8. Service Learning: Community Service Learning (CSL) integrates meaningful community service with classroom instruction and critical reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities. In practice, students work in partnership with a community-based organization to apply their disciplinary knowledge to a challenge identified by the community.

  9. Work Experience: Intersperses one or two work terms (typically full-time) into an academic program, where work terms provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study and/or career goals.

Please click here to access the WIL Definitions print-friendly resource. 

*The Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada Definitions criteria are intended for program design.

CEWIL Canada acknowledges and affirms the rights of students with disabilities to have equal access to work-integrated learning programming. Exceptions to the above will be supported to meet the duty to accommodate and ensure that all students have full and equal access of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.