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Co-operative Education is an integrated approach to higher education which combines academic learning with associated workplace experience achieved via the relationship between the University, its students, industry and the community. Industry includes all sectors of commerce and industry as well as small business and the informal sector and regional, provincial and state departments.
Co-operative Education includes liaison between the University, employers, professional bodies, professional societies and other relevant organisations, including student bodies. It includes experiential learning/in-service training (IST) which requires the placement of a student in a relevant industry for integrated workplace learning, with the emphasis being on the student learning by doing. This may be mandatory, i.e. the student cannot complete the Diploma unless the required time is satisfactorily completed in industry - or it may be voluntary.
It is envisaged that all university programmes will adopt the mandatory route. The experiential learning must be structured, co-ordinated and supervised by specialist staff and workplace supervisors / mentors. Evaluation mechanisms must be strictly adhered to. For Co-operative Education to succeed, there is a need to develop sustainable working relationships in the form of partnerships between the University and the private and public sectors.
To this extent relevant industries and communities will be involved extensively in the development of curricula to ensure that curricula are relevant to industries needs and the university student is employable, i.e. that the students have the relevant skills and practical ability required by industry. Partnerships with industry are not limited to placement of students for experiential learning. Applied/industrial problem-solving research as well as innovative industrial research will also be strong components of these partnerships, as will the funding aspects of specific projects that will ultimately enhance the training of the students and the partnership generally.
To sustain these relationships, each party will ensure that the relationship is mutually beneficial. The University will ensure that all workplace stations that meet the requirements of a particular programme will be accredited. To this end, it will be necessary to accredit identified workplace supervisors/mentors.
- All programmes at the University will have an experiential learning (in-service training IST) component.
- Every attempt will be made by the relevant Department to ensure that students receive the required experiential training.
- Each student that is placed for experiential learning will be monitored by specialist academic staff.
- Evaluation procedures must be formally approved by the relevant Faculty Board/Senate.
- Workplace trainers/supervisors/mentors will be formally accredited by the University.
- Each programme will have a training manual for experiential learning that will serve as a guide to the student and the trainer/mentor.
- Should any one particular industry not be able to provide all aspects of the training as specified in the manual, the Department will adopt mechanisms to ensure that the student receives the required aspect of training by, e.g. rotating students through different companies.
- All experiential training must be registered with the university.
The University will make every effort to secure relevant workplace placement for students for the purpose of experiential learning. However, The University cannot guarantee a placement to students registered in programmes that have a mandatory experiential learning component. Where placements are unavailable or limited, the University may develop options for students so that they may complete the programme. Such options may vary from department to department but will be consistent with established practices on work placements. This will be done in collaboration with the relevant Co-operative Education Co-ordinator and the Co-operative Education unit.
The Co-op Co-ordinators, in conjunction with the programme supervisors, will establish the number and range of work placements that are available with a particular employer or group of employers. Students' applications will include a current curriculum vitae and portfolio/s where applicable. The Co-operative Education unit will ensure that broad screening of students is done on the basis of company requirements or profiles submitted by the relevant company. The appropriate CVs will be transmitted to the relevant company who will select the students they wish to offer training to. The Co-op Co-ordinator will arrange the necessary interviews, ensuring that there is an appropriate match between the requirements of the employer and the student.
Each student's work-station will be accredited by the University as a suitable learning situation. The accreditation process will be conducted by the relevant Co-op Co-ordinator and the specialist academic staff. The student will be engaged in relevant productive work rather than mere observation. Where employers have their own training procedures, the Co-op Co-ordinators and specialist academic staff will ensure that such procedures comply with the programme requirements.
Monitoring and Evaluation of Experiential Learning
Each student will be monitored at least twice during the experiential learning term. The student's progress will be assessed during visits to the worksite. The assessment will include written reports by the workplace mentor/supervisor/ employer and the student. Programme-specific and cross-field outcomes will be evaluated. During the visitation, the Co-op Co-ordinator will also be appraised of possible research, innovation, postgraduate and skills development projects that may exist. This will be reported to the Co-op Unit, which will explore further and refer to the appropriate department.
At the end of the experiential learning term, the employer and student will evaluate the work term and the appropriateness or otherwise of the academic learning at the University. This feedback will be relayed to the appropriate academic department and curriculum development department.
Evaluation processes will be formative and summative. Formative evaluation will determine learner progress and strengths/weaknesses in the programme. Summative evaluation will measure the degree to which learning objectives are met over time. As far as possible, evaluation will be continuous. All continuous evaluation procedures must be well-structured to remove any subjectivity. Competency or performance-based evaluation will be instituted where possible.
All reports will be lodged with the Co-op unit and be available for scrutiny by assessors/moderators. Final evaluation reports will be lodged with the Examinations Dept. Both employer and student will receive a formal report on the evaluation outcome.