Making co-op work: A comparative exploration of student attitudes to co-op programs in the United States and the United Kingdom
Main, J. (2015, ). Making co-op work: A comparative exploration of student attitudes to co-op programs in the United States and the United Kingdom. Paper presented at World Conference on Co-op and work Integrated Learning (WACE 19th), Kyoto, Japan.
University engineering and computing courses have a long tradition of co-operative education that plays a vital role in developing students' applied skills and giving confidence to students and potential employers. Nevertheless, not all students choose to participate in a co-op course. Our study was designed to explore the reasons why students did not participate in the co-op program and what perceptions participants have about the program. We also consider students’ backgrounds that may play a role in their choice. Participants were in one of three groups: A) co-op participants, B) interested applicants and non-applicants, and C) those were not interested and/or did not apply. A mixed methods approach was used, including quantitative and qualitative analysis of surveys and interviews, to compare and contrast experiences, approaches, motivations and attitudes of student groups in the United States and the United Kingdom. Results show that US and UK students who identified as disinterested in the program share similar perceptions, including the perceived cost of additional time to graduation. Students also express concern that taking time away from campus to complete a co-op affects social interactions with their peers. However, it was found that students’ experiences in computing and engineering differ depending on the routes of their course of study. The overall aim was to uncover ways to increase participation in co-op education to the benefit of engineering and computing students: making co-op work.
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