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From Interest to Decision: A Comparative Exploration of Student Attitudes and Pathways to Co-op Programs in the United States and the United Kingdom

Ramirez, Nichole; Smith, Sally; Smith, Colin F; Berg, Tessa; Strubel, Beata; Ohland, Matthew; Main, Joyce


Nichole Ramirez

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Prof Sally Smith
Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development and Professor

Tessa Berg

Beata Strubel

Matthew Ohland

Joyce Main


Cooperative education programs (co-op) play a vital role in developing engineering and computing students’ applied technological skills and professional self-confidence. Nevertheless, not all students choose to participate in co-ops. Through empirical data collection undertaken at two universities, this article explores the reasons why some students did not participate in an optional co-op program and the perceptions students have about the co-op program. Because students’ backgrounds may play a role in their choice, demographic data were also considered. The 408 participants were in one of three groups: A) co-op participants, B) interested applicants and non-applicants, or C) those not interested and/or did not apply. Using Rational Choice Theory as an interpretive framework, a mixed methods approach including quantitative and qualitative analysis of surveys and interviews was used to compare and contrast experiences, approaches, motivations and attitudes across student groups in the United States and the United Kingdom. Results show that US and UK students who identified as not being interested in co-op shared similar perceptions, including the perceived cost of additional time to graduation. Students also expressed concern that taking time away from campus to complete a co-op would affect social interactions with their peers. The results of this work can be used to inform co-op program processes and policies, highlighting ways in which programs can increase participation. The study also shows how key stakeholders can learn cross-cultural ‘best practices’ to make co-op education accessible and effective.


Ramirez, N., Smith, S., Smith, C. F., Berg, T., Strubel, B., Ohland, M., & Main, J. (2016). From Interest to Decision: A Comparative Exploration of Student Attitudes and Pathways to Co-op Programs in the United States and the United Kingdom. International Journal of Engineering Education, 32(5A), 1867-1878

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 15, 2016
Publication Date Oct 31, 2016
Deposit Date May 2, 2016
Publicly Available Date Oct 31, 2016
Journal International Journal of Engineering Education
Print ISSN 0949-149X
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 5A
Pages 1867-1878
Keywords Cooperative education; Perceptions; Student Pathways; Computing; Engineering;
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