Dr Gerhard du Plessis is the leader of the project team that is helping to ensure the Work-Integrated and Service-learning (WISL) Management System meets faculties’ needs. Gerhard is the director for centralised teaching and learning functions in the Centre of Teaching and Learning.
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Good progress has been made with the development and implementation of the Work-Integrated and Service Learning (WISL) Management System.
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In a short space of time and with many challenges to overcome, the development team are keeping their eyes on the finish line, knowing that in the long run this system will be a big win for participating faculties with WIL or SL modules.
These students are assigned to different workplaces in different parts of the country and keeping track of it all is a mammoth task, especially considering everything is done manually.
The good news is that the new automated Work-Integrated and Service Learning (WISL) Management System is coming to the rescue.
This integrated system automates and manages the placement of students, and even allocates the mentors who evaluate the activities of these students.
Putting WISL on their wish list
The NWU has been looking for an integrated solution to manage and report on activities within the work integrated and service-learning (WIL and SL) environment since 2016.
In 2019 the Faculty of Education submitted an urgent request for a WIL system, as it had already become an all-but-impossible task to use the outdated manual process to place their students for practical teaching.
It soon became clear that education students would not be the only ones to benefit from a change. Discussions revealed that nursing and pharmacy students may also benefit from such an integrated system.
Out of the starting blocks
A tender was awarded to the company Matogen and development of the WISL system started in October 2019.
A project team was put together to oversee the development process. Team members were drawn from the Faculty of Education, the School of Nursing and the School of Pharmacy, Student Academic Lifecycle Administration and Matogen.
The IT department, in particular Business System Development and Support, also played a huge role in the development process.
Step by step towards success
The team decided to follow a phased process, dealing with the immediate needs of the Faculty of Education first.
Representatives from the School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and the Faculty of Engineering kept an eye on developments to make sure their specific needs were also catered for.
After completing this phase, the consultants launched similar investigations in other faculties and schools.
Every year, the NWU has to find places at schools, businesses and clinical facilities across the country for more than 1 000 NWU students who need practical experience before they can qualify.
Faculty of Education
In the Faculty of Education, students can now register for placement at schools of their choice, without fear of mismatches or duplicate placements. This is because the WISL system monitors the capacity of schools and the number of openings in subjects in each education phase.
The mentors (lecturers) who evaluate the students can also be placed through the system and can even see the planning for this on the mobile screen of the WISL app. This, and the fact that communication of placements can be done through the system, makes it much easier for the mentors to make their travel arrangements.
School of Nursing
In the School of Nursing, WIL is an integral part of the Bachelor of Nursing programme, which is regulated by the South African Nursing Council (SANC). SANC prescribes the number of WIL hours student nurses must work in accredited clinical facilities to qualify as registered professional nurses.
So far, great progress has been made in adapting the new system to the WIL requirements and specifications for nursing. Part of the system has already been completed and tested, and the School of Nursing Science is excited about the results.
School of Pharmacy
In the School of Pharmacy, all pharmacy students must complete 400 hours of workplace learning, according to the rules of the South African Pharmacy Council.
Staff at the School of Pharmacy, which has been using a paper-based system to manage the hours worked, are excited to be part of the development of the new electronic, integrated WISL program. The pharmacy student component of the program was developed and tested during the lockdown period.
for practical work