Oct 18, 2023

WILP helps working professionals continue their education without a career break

Under this programme, the workplace serves as a real-life laboratory as efforts are made to integrate academic content delivery with experience at work

At a time when workplace dynamics and technology are ever-changing, universities have introduced the Work Integrated Learning Programme (WILP), which is proving to be an effective learning model to meet the aspirations of working professionals in the continual learning space. Moreover, it is an enabler for those who find it tough to further their education goals due to their work schedule. The programme caters to both students and professionals seeking to simultaneously upskill, obtain educational qualifications, and gain valuable industry exposure.

“Since the WILP student is engaged in work that is aligned with the programme of study, the instruction is delivered at the workplace, seeking seamless integration of knowledge acquisition with work practice, and development of higher order thinking. The rigorous nature and quality of these programmes have improved the knowledge and skills of working professionals while increasing their value among employers and industry,” says Prof PB Venkataraman, dean, BITS Pilani WILP, which offers BTech, MTech, MBA, and PG Diploma programmes in IT, manufacturing, automotive, electronics, hospital & health and finance.

Programmes such as BTech Engineering Technology and Manufacturing Technology, MTech in Software Systems, AI-ML, Data Science, Automotive Electronics, and Digital Manufacturing, are popular picks and in high demand, Venkataraman says, adding that WILP may help in getting a degree, diploma, or certificate in Science, technology/Engineering, Management, humanities and social sciences, depending on the duration of the programme. BITS Pilani, Shri Venkateshwara University, Lingaya’s Vidyapeeth, are said to be among the key drivers of this programme. The degrees are recognised by UGC and Tech certificate obtained through the WILP of BITS Pilani is valid for GATE IES and other government exams.

Mode of delivery

While WILP may be offered through correspondence, online or blended mode, it continues to be comparable with regular programmes. “It is conducted in partnership with industry, and under the direct supervision of experts in the real work environment, hence the expected outcome is far more impactful than pure classroom learning,” says Sumit Kumar, chief business officer, TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship where the newly launched WILP programme aims to reach 10 lakh candidates. “We offer BSc in Mechatronics for electronics and auto sector, BBA in Retail, Diploma in Machine Operations, Postgraduate Diploma in Total Quality Management (TQM), and Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology (DIMLT) besides curating bespoke programmes based on the job role and skill requirement," Kumar says.

“At BITS Pilani, the WIL Programmes follow a credit-based system, just like the on-campus education system. The curriculum, academic credit requirements, content, pedagogy, duration, evaluation scheme, and programme completion requirements, are identical/comparable to programmes that are offered on campus,” Venkataraman says. The models of delivery at the institute have grown along two broad lines: Synchronous lectures are conducted on the physical premises of organisations sponsoring students or via desktop-based teleconferencing facilities for students in some organisations. “In both cases, the employer is kept engaged in the academic progress of the student, with commitment to furthering his/her career.”

Akin to BITS Pilani, Mangalayatan University, Aligarh, has designed Engineering programmes for working professionals in Computer Sciences, Civil, and Mechanical etc in hybrid mode, providing them flexibility to study after business hours and weekends through regular classes. “Under these lateral entry 3-year UG programmes, students are required to fulfil the requirements of credit and contact hours for an Engineering degree and use up to 40% of courses through SWAYAM/MOOCS as per the AICTE regulatory guidelines,” says KP Singh, director-Institute of Engineering and Technology, Mangalayatan University.

Curriculum design

The WILP curriculum includes regular exercises and practical sessions designed for each course. Since all students admitted are required to be working in a relevant industry, they have access to physical equipment for laboratory and practical exercise. BITS Pilani, for instance, has invested in simulations and software, which are hosted on the cloud and made accessible to all WILP students supplementing their practical experience.

Flexible option

One of the key features of WILP is that it allows working professionals to continue their education without a career break. They can drop out of a semester and rejoin the next to meet their work-related assignments, such as overseas travel and special projects. Students can attend the lectures and access labs from any geographical location using technology-enabled platforms. The first-degree undergraduate programmes of WILP have a nominal duration of 7 semesters and the higher degree master’s programmes are of 4 semester duration, Venkataraman says.

Method of evaluation

In academia, WILP adopts the continuous assessment system, wherein students are evaluated for their understanding through multiple assessment tools, such as quizzes, assignments, mid-semester, and comprehensive exams. Feedback on their performance is provided continuously for each assessment component. It concludes with a final semester of a Dissertation (if it is a master’s degree) or a project course with topics that are formulated from problems culled out from the workplace.

Meeting the challenge

Teaching working executives necessitates the faculty members to remain on top of contemporary practices and technologies, which benefits the campus students as well. In certain cases, the WILP students collaborate with the campus students on problems involving coding and analytics.

“Considering WILP involves tripartite arrangement between academia-industry-student, it would require academia to establish industry partnerships to offer a variety of programmes. The industry too needs to consider WILP as a talent development channel and not abuse the programme in the garb of cheap labour,” says Kumar, adding that the scale of industry-academia partnership must go up in terms of volume and scope of association.

There is also the possibility of student trainees dropping out if they get job opportunities, which is good for the student, but the dropout reduces the talent funnel for the industry. “Since the programme is based on Choice Based Credit Framework, at least the module should be completed to earn credits that could later help students in lateral entry for further education,” Kumar adds.

Source: https://www.educationtimes.com/article/campus-beat-college-life/99733909/wilp-helps-working-professionals-continue-their-education-without-a-career-break