Criteria for programme accreditation had been set by the South African Council on Higher Education (CHE) in 2004. These criteria were interpreted from a distance education perspective, in a digital era. The following criteria apply to work-integrated/based learning:
Criterion 1 (iii): Programme Design (p. 86) should indicate how equivalence of learning provision across all sites/contexts will be ensured including, among others, work-integrated learning components.
Criterion 1 (vi): The characteristics and needs of professional and vocational education (p. 88), catered for in the design, namely:
- To promote the understanding of students about the specific occupation for which they are being trained
- Students to master the techniques and skills required for a specific profession or occupation
- Work-integrated learning (WIL) including, workplace-based learning and placement in a work-based environment, forms an integral part of the curriculum according to the HEQSF qualification type selected.
- There are appropriate ‘enabling mechanisms’ (e.g. placements in appropriate and proximate locations) for distance education students, and for the contexts in which they find places for work-integrated learning, where this is appropriate to the programme purpose, to ensure that ‘students master the techniques and skills required’
- There are documented procedures for the identification, training and monitoring/ support of workplace-based mentors as well as making provision for visits/interaction with supervisors appointed, trained and monitored by the institution.
- Institutions make clear how the above will be managed for a distributed student body and a diversity of contexts.
Criterion 15: Coordination of work-based/integrated learning (p. 104) is done effectively, including adequate infrastructure, effective communication, recording of progress made, monitoring and mentoring. These arrangements will likely be more complex in distance provision due to the more distributed nature of students and the geographic footprint of distance programmes which may even extend beyond national borders. Appropriate arrangements will be needed for placement, mentoring and supervision for a more distributed student body to ensure an equivalent learning experience across a wider range of contexts.
- (ii) Learning contracts or agreements are implemented through which the student, the higher education institution and the employer can negotiate, approve and assess the objectives and outcomes of the learning process. Various parties, i.e. the institution, students, mentors and employers, adhere to the contract or agreement on their roles and responsibilities.
- (iii) Regular and effective communication takes place between the institution, students, mentors and employers involved in work-based learning. Good working relations are maintained between the various parties involved.
- (iv) A system (both at the institution and at the place of employment) is in operation to record and monitor regularly and systematically the progress of the student’s learning experience in the workplace.
- (v) A mentoring system enables the student to recognise strengths and weaknesses in his/her work, to develop existing and new abilities, and to gain knowledge of work practices.
Council on Higher Education (CHE). 2014. Distance Higher Education Programmes in a Digital Era: Programme Accreditation Criteria, pp. 81-107 in Distance Higher Education Programmes in a Digital Era: Good Practice Guide. Produced on behalf of the CHE by the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide). Pretoria: CHE.