Online work-based learning: a systematic literature review

Rienties, Bart; Divjak, Blazenka; Iniesto, Francisco; Pazur Anicic, Katarina and Zizak, Mirza (2023). Online work-based learning: a systematic literature review. International Review of Education, 69 pp. 551–570.



It is widely acknowledged that graduates need to develop skills and competences beyond the theoretical knowledge nurtured within higher education curricula. In the last twenty years there has been an increased interest in supporting learners with work-based learning (WBL) (e.g. apprenticeships, practice-based lab sessions, project-based learning). The experience of COVID-19-related lockdowns has ignited a push to support and provide these opportunities for skills development online. In this systematic literature review, the authors explored (1) which innovative technologies and online WBL typologies are implemented in online WBL in higher education; and (2) to what extent there is evidence that online WBL is effective. From an initial pool of 269 studies identified from two datasets, the authors selected thirteen studies which implemented and evaluated online WBL. In total, 1,015 respondents were included in these studies (M = 84.58, SD = 118.28, range: 7–390). The authors’ findings indicate that most studies used descriptive, qualitative approaches to explore the lived experiences of participants, mostly from Australia. Substantial differences were found in the designs of online WBL practices and technologies, although there was limited robust evidence of effectiveness due to a lack of evidence-based evaluation approaches. The authors encourage WBL researchers to be more precise in their design parameters of online WBL, and to consider (quasi)experimental designs to measure the impact of their approaches.

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