What is work-integrated learning? A comprehensive guide to WIL

Explore what work-integrated learning truly means and how it’s bridging the gap between classroom theory and workplace skills in our all-encompassing guide.
March 28, 2024
Your asset will automatically download.
Didn’t get it?
Download Now

In the current academic environment, there's a growing emphasis on work-integrated learning (WIL) as a key component of higher education. Statistics show that half of all post-secondary graduates have participated in some form of WIL, underscoring its increasing importance in students' academic and professional preparation. 

This trend not only reflects the value placed on WIL experiences in enhancing student employability but also points to broader recognition among educational institutions, employers, and policymakers.

Today, we will examine the significant benefits and impact of WIL, highlighting its role in preparing students for a successful transition into the workforce and its contributions to the evolution of higher education.


What is work-integrated learning?

Work-integrated learning (WIL) is an innovative educational approach in which academic theory and practical application converge to prepare students for the complexities of the modern workplace. By providing real-world experiences, this method not only enhances classroom learning but also brings theory to life. 

At its core, WIL offers students authentic experiential learning opportunities that directly contribute to their personal and professional development by integrating academic studies with relevant work experiences.

The significance of WIL has grown exponentially, particularly following the pandemic. As industries rapidly advance and incorporate technologies, professionals with a strong blend of academic credentials and critical intrapersonal skills (problem-solving, critical thinking, effective communication, etc.) are in high demand. 

WIL serves as a bridge for this gap, preparing students for a dynamic job market. Many institutions have recognized this as a crucial component of higher education, addressing the urgent need for graduates who are not just academically sound but also career-ready and adaptable to the changing demands of the job market.

For example, Marie-Maxime Bastien, a Business Administration educator at Collège André-Grasset, helped her students participate in virtual internships within multinational corporations that gave them experiences that were critical for life outside the classroom.

Additionally, Arizona State University and the University of California Riverside have both harnessed the power of WIL to enhance their course offerings and expand opportunities for international students

Common types of work-integrated learning

Different types of WIL cater to different educational goals and student needs. Each type offers unique opportunities for students to integrate academic learning with professional life, preparing them for success in their future careers. 

Here are some of the most common forms of WIL and examples of how they are implemented:


Internships are perhaps the most recognized form of WIL, offering students temporary work experiences that are often paid and always relevant to their field of study. Positions range from a few weeks to several months and offer hands-on experience under the guidance of professionals. 

Example: A marketing student might intern at an advertising agency, applying classroom theories to real campaigns and learning the nuances of client communication and project management.

Co-operative education (Co-op)

Co-op programs blend academic learning with work experiences in a student's area of study, offering deeper, often credit-bearing, professional exposure. Co-ops are typically longer than internships, sometimes lasting up to a year, allowing students to dive deeper into their professional development. 

Example: Engineering students may spend a semester working at a tech company, gaining insights into the design, testing, and production processes that they can then apply in their coursework.

Service learning

Service learning integrates community service with academic coursework, focusing on civic responsibility and the application of classroom learning to address community needs. Projects can vary widely but are designed to address community needs while helping students develop critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership skills. 

Example: Education students might engage in service learning by tutoring underprivileged children, directly applying their pedagogical theories in a manner that benefits both their academic growth and the community.

Industry projects

Industry projects involve students working on real-world problems presented by external organizations. These projects are usually part of the curriculum and can be tackled individually or in teams. They offer a direct application of classroom knowledge to challenges facing current industries, fostering innovation and problem-solving skills. 

Example: Computer science students could work on a software development project for a local startup, using their coding skills to create a product solution while navigating the project management and collaborative challenges inherent in real-world work.

The benefits of work-integrated learning for students and educators

Work-integrated learning offers numerous benefits, not only for students as they prepare for their future careers but also for educators and institutions seeking to enhance their educational offerings.

For Students

For Educators and Institutions

  • Coursework relevance: WIL ensures that academic programs remain relevant to industry demands, which can increase student engagement and learning application.
  • Stronger industry ties: WIL allows academia and industry to build valuable partnerships, enhancing educational content and facilitating collaborative research.
  • Enhanced student learning outcomes: Institutions offering WIL opportunities often see improved metrics, such as improved graduation rates and job placements, enhancing their reputation with employers and students alike.

Integrating work-integrated learning into your educational strategy

Even though integrating WIL into educational curricula has numerous benefits, the process, while rewarding, involves navigating challenges like resource allocation and partnership development.

Strategic planning and the use of digital tools such as Riipen can streamline this integration, making it more manageable and effective.

Pilot programs are a great way to start integrating WIL into the curriculum because your institution can demonstrate its value and gradually scale it based on its success (just like the University of Arizona did). Combining this approach with digital platforms can result in more efficient WIL programs that consume fewer resources.

Riipen offers a powerful platform to facilitate the integration of WIL into educational strategies, addressing many of the challenges institutions face:

  • Streamlining partnership development: Riipen connects educators with a vast network of over 30,000 industry partners from around the world, making it easier to find and develop meaningful collaborations that benefit students.
  • Resource efficiency: From smart matching tools to tracking outcomes, the platform offers tools that streamline WIL project management, reducing administrative burden and resources needed.
  • Enhancing student and educator experience: Riipen’s platform is designed to provide a rich experiential learning experience for students, offering authentic projects that enhance their employability and skills. Educators can integrate these projects directly into their curricula or create their own and find industry partners to collaborate with.


Jump ahead:
Learn more about how Riipen can help integrate work-integrated learning into your programs.

Key Takeaways

  • By integrating real-world experiences directly into academic curricula, WIL prepares students for the complexities of the modern workplace.
  • The implementation of WIL is diverse, with each form designed to meet different educational goals and student needs.
  • WIL provides significant benefits to educators and students alike. 

Learn more about how Riipen can help integrate work-integrated learning into your programs.

To learn more about how Riipen can help integrate work-integrated learning into your programs, reach out and schedule a free demo.

Enter your email address to subscribe to the Riipen Report.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Some Form Elements
hs-form is main form class.
form-columns-1 is class of wrapper with 1 column for inputs.
form-columns-2 is class of wrapper with 2 columns for inputs.
input and label
Field Description / Help text
This is help text for the field
Field error message
hs-error-msgs inputs-list
  • Error message label
hs-error-msgs inputs-list is an HTML list element.
hs-error-msg is a text span inside HTML List Item element.
Text area Input
hs-input hs-fieldtype-textarea
hs-fieldtype-textarea is added as combo class.
Note: HubSpot uses basic HTML checkboxes, Webflow checkboxes works differently than the default HTML checkboxes, hence in order to style HubSpot checkboxes you need custom CSS.
you can use Webflow checkbox to style and then copy CSS from it.
Radio Buttons
Success message
Submit button
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.