Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Win-Win-Win: Reflections from a Work-Integrated Learning Project in a Non-Profit Organization

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Win-Win-Win: Reflections from a Work-Integrated Learning Project in a Non-Profit Organization

Article excerpt


Work-integrated learning, integrating work-based learning into the student experience, is expanding rapidly across all academic disciplines in Australia. As Staehr, Martin, and Chan (2014) explain, this approach is imperative since IT employers are currently more likely to employ workready graduates. As well, there are advantages for the various stakeholders, namely, students, academics, and participating industry partners.

Staehr et al. (2014) assert that reflective practice differentiates work-integrated learning from work experience. Integrating education and research, the project in this paper is industry-oriented, providing a platform for students to enter the workplace and for academics as researchers to de_ rive guidelines for non-profit organiza tions in improving their decisionmaking and reporting performance through the adoption of business intelligence solutions. The aim of the paper is to report on the issues of student engagement through participation in a reallife project with strong social and community worth.

The non-profit in the study is Connections ACT, a local Canberra organization whose main activities are the provision of services in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) for homeless persons, such as outreach support services and crisis accommodation. Connections ACT focuses on the holistic relationship between people and their chosen families and communities. Non-profits such as Connections ACT are increasingly reliant on accurate and quickly-retrievable organizational data for regulatory reporting and on-going funding. This is difficult to realize for most non-profits since the software available is predominantly suited to organizations in the for-profit sector and their databases are often diverse and non-linking. By addressing Connections ACT's software challenges, the project in the study is enabling the organization to concentrate its limited resources on core business (helping the homeless) rather than improving IT services.

The intent of the WIL project is to design a data mart and reporting tools in the Cloud to capture, store, and retrieve quality integrated data as first steps towards a business intelligence (BI) solution. The construction of operational BI artefacts takes place progressively in Connections ACT. The aim is to keep costs low and to utilize available resources--student IT project teams and internships, funding from grants, university technical expertise, community support, and smart design options such as open source software and Cloud computing. University of Canberra (UC) student teams, usually comprising a project leader, analyst, developer, and tester, build tailored software artefacts for the non-profit during their final semester of studies as part of a WIL subject offered as a capstone. This project is ongoing, incremental, empirical, and heavily iterative with one to three new student teams each semester allocated to the project until planned implementation and closure in 2016.

The project is incorporated in a WIL subject called IT Project in a Bachelor of Business Informatics (BBI) course. See Appendix A for the curriculum where IT Project is shaded in mauve and Appendix B for the generic skills and graduate attributes expected to be acquired by UC graduates during the period of their studies.

The methodology adopted for the study is Action Design Research (ADR) which draws on action research and design research (Sein, Henfridsson, Purao, Rossi, & Lindgren, 2011). ADR is a socio-technical approach which takes place through a predefined reflexive process to address a problem-solving situation while stakeholders learn from the intervention. ADR consist of four stages and seven principles as presented in Table 1 in the Research Strategy section.

Stakeholder insights are analyzed in this paper through Moore's analytical lens (2004) which comprises 1) internal features of the organization, 2) features of the external environment, and 3) personal features of the participants, to reveal a curriculum at work. …

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