Admittedly Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is a necessity throughout professional master’s (coursework) degrees, though increasing student numbers mean the methods of employing WIL are changing. From 2019, Master of Professional Engineering and Master of Architecture students will include virtual site visits as part of the immersive observation and analysis that takes place on physical sites. Using UWA’s own EZONE building project this is a foray into the 4D Construction Learning Environment, as pioneered by Chris Landorf of the University of Queensland.
Students in the Master of Architecture take part in WIL as an embedded part of a wide range of units: site visits with students in hi-visibility gear, involving observation and analysis in ARCT4430 (Architectural Technology, Structures and Services); interviews in small groups with mentor-architects within the profession in ARCT4461 (Architectural Practice); client meetings, presentations to stakeholders and development of actual design projects in ARCT5001-5 (Architecture Design Studio); codesign and design participation tactics, along with 1:1 fabrication, analysis of supply chain, sourcing and negotiating with suppliers in ARCT5593 (Furniture: from prototype to production); and 16 weeks of professional work experience.
The teaching of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design across a wide range of units is equipping students to become collaborators in their future professions. Yanki Lee, writing in CoDesign, describes this aim: “Designers should work as design agents to adopt different roles, and work with different stakeholders in different situations.”[i] (Lee P 48) This testing and equipping of students across numerous methods of practice is at the core. Designers as facilitators, stimulators, craftspeople, authorities and builders are but some of the future roles in which graduates of these master’s by coursework degrees will experience in practice.
Historically, groupings such as the Guild of Masons were the collaborative learning environments in the training of an architect, and these continued to be one of the more indentured professions. Such learning ‘on the job’ has certainly continued into 21st century, though with the apprenticeship replaced by tertiary education. In larger cohorts at other universities, the more traditional aspects of ‘site visits’ or ‘work experience’ are being replaced.
Of interest in the cyclical dynamics of education is a new model – that of the new London School of Architecture, which in promotional material describes its beginning as being born of the “crisis affecting British education”[ii]. The organisation provides a “cutting-edge, bottom-up initiative, which aims at bridging the gap between academia and practice and promises to democratise architectural education, by making it more affordable and therefore more accessible.”[iii] Further described as a network that plugs into existing institutions, this model is at once agile and low-cost, and – remarkably of the current ‘share economy’ – it is also, as readers can acknowledge, in the same trajectory of the original apprenticeship model. Students are educated within ‘the office’ three days a week and then have time to work through project-based integrative design projects the other two days a week.
The ‘disruption’ of these professional degrees is a model that is, of course, a threat to the academy. Perhaps within the university sector the acknowledged benefit and privileging of Work Integrated Learning will increase in visibility, coupled with the benefits of the immersive university experience. Embracing a wide variety of WIL, the curriculum is both virtual and physical, allows learning to be both mentored and individual, provides exposure to a wide range of authentic experiences and allows for specialised choice. It is measureable, accredited and also describes a remarkable, stimulating collaborative platform, from which, students can launch their careers.
Deputy Head – Education
UWA School of Design
[i] Yanki Lee (2008) Design participation tactics: the challenges and new roles for
designers in the co-design process, Co-Design, 4:1, 31-50, DOI: 10.1080/15710880701875613
[ii] “About”, London School of Architecture, 2018, accessed July 3, 2018. http://www.the-lsa.org/