Stay up to date with the latest developments and milestones of eWBL (Work-based learning) project.
The Italian national report eWBL project is now available
The report studies the shift from work-based learning (WBL) to online mode (eWBL) that arose in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the Erasmus + project eWBL. The main aim of the project is to learn how HE providers have dealt with the pedagogical and technological challenges associated with the transition from WBL to eWBL, the solutions they have devised, and how work-based learning competencies were fostered in the absence of a physical environment.
In the case of Italy, researchers assessed 06 case studies comprising different areas of expertise and 03 institutions in internships developed between October 2020 and February 2022.
Although the Italian higher education system gained full autonomy after the Bologna Process implementation in 1999, the Ministry of Education has a prominent role in guaranteeing the efficiency of this system, encouraging HEIs to strengthen their connections with the labor market and its needs and improving students' employability.
Regardless of these initiatives, there is still substantial heterogeneity in the Italian HE system today, both in the institutions' size and geographic location, which increased during the COVID-19 pandemic surge, when each region establishing its own set of rules and regulations to carry the training out remotely, mirroring the enormous disparity already present in Italy and consequently impacting eWBL practices in the country.
Within the context of the need for companies to adapt quickly to the conditions that arose, the case studies addressed both the difficulties encountered in the process, the solutions found, and the impact of this change on the development of trainees' skills.
In general, the eWBL implementation challenge enabled the application of different approaches according to the HEIs, the companies' level of digitalization, and the tutors' and interns' initiatives. There was a substantial disparity among the institutions surveyed, pointing out the need to adapt the eWBL's transition process according to the available capabilities and resources. Also, it was noticeable the fundamental role Career Services played in accommodating the stakeholders' interests and needs, proving to be an indispensable influence on the transition process.
Regarding the companies, Interns unanimously reported the great proximity with their tutors on a positive note. Also, some companies used the opportunity to review their management approach, developed distance learning platforms and allowed students to be exposed to more diverse contexts and experiences that they perhaps would not have the opportunity to experience in face-to-face internships. These experiments potentially could bring positive long-term impacts to the overall company. Even so, the initiatives have not prevented program participants from encountering some barriers to socialization and a transfer of corporate culture, commonly witnessed in digital environments, and is surely a point to be improved to allow the proper development of the trainees.
Still, some consensus emerged regarding the impact of remote internships on the interns' skills development, such as independence, analytical thinking, and time management, skills that will be highly welcome in the forthcoming decades' work environments, according to several industry studies, such as that of the World Economic Forum in 2020 (WEF, 2020).
What becomes clear is that online or hybrid training is not a homogeneous solution and should not be applied to all types of trainees, as it requires an assessment of the profiles that are best suited to this type of training, as well as a clear definition of the objectives to be achieved at the end of the process adapted to each profile.
In any case, whether due to the impacts that eWBL has brought in the work/life balance or the skills developed, the change of mentality concerning the topic seems to be a road with no return. Therefore, it is fundamental for host companies and HEIs to adapt, allowing trainees greater flexibility concerning the training model they prefer to follow, thereby succeeding in retaining and attracting the best talent.