Alternatives to work placements: Real live projects for social impact

Dr Mieke Leppens (Torrens University), Nina Starkey (Torrens University)
2018 Conference

This paper outlines an alternative approach to Work Integrated Learning (WIL) work placements in Higher Education (HE) design courses. It involves design students from different campuses across Australia studying on campus, Online and students from a partner institution in Spain, working together on an actual project (Live Brief) but with a benevolent focus set by an NGO for West African implementation as an alternative to work placements in commercial companies. This method demonstrates amplified benefits resulting from a real as opposed to an imaginary project and that collaboration on a live brief leads to a more valuable experience. Significantly augmented learning outcomes through the experience, not least real life/work skills such as tasks negotiating, time management, peer critique and presentation skills add to the credentials of the student in view of future employability. Motivations increase when addressing stringent criteria laid out in the project brief resulting from the prospect to be able to present the project outcome to the client for feedback, critique on suitability. The benevolent or “Here for Good” aspect of the project instils understanding and respect for non-commercial design work and provides skills for working with harsh limitations whilst addressing all “Here for Good” criteria of the brief and the ethos of Torrens University within Laureate International Universities, a registered B-Corporation. Four aspects: Live Brief with clear client expectations, opportunity to present to the client, benevolent or “Here for Good” project with stipulated design boundaries and group collaboration make for a highly valuable and alternative approach that surpasses expectations of HE learning outcomes for WIL and an alternative to job placements.

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About the author

Dr Mieke Leppens is Dean of the Faculty of Design/Online, Billy Blue College of Design and Media School within Torrens University Australia (TUA). TUA is a partner in the network of Laureate International, a registered B-corporation andchored in the mission to be “Here for Good” in purpose. The partners commit to enable students, staff and industry collaborators to drive positive change. Billy Blue College of Design TUA issues undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications as well as MPhil and PhD by research.


Nina Starkey is a lecturer in the Bachelor of Commercial Interior Design program at Billy Blue College of Design TUA facilitating Live Briefs and teaching Environment Design and Space Planning.