Illinois Work-Based Learning Innovation Network (I-WIN)

Portrait of Heather Penczak
Heather Penczak

Innovation & Implementation Director

Portrait of Jon Furr
Jon Furr

Executive Director



The Illinois WBL Innovation Network (I-WIN) is designed to help employers, educators, and students leverage innovative models for scaling high-quality work-based learning opportunities in school districts and community colleges across the State. This network explores ways to create equitable opportunities for students through both in-person and virtual learning. 

EdSystems convened I-WIN in October 2020 in response to the challenges educators faced in designing work-based learning opportunities for remote learning during the global COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, growing awareness of the racial inequities in our systems and communities prompted the EdSystems team to seek out virtual WBL models that demonstrated potential for connecting students with limited social capital to employers even as we move beyond the current public health crisis.

Our Role

Open to communities throughout Illinois, EdSystems provides I-WIN participants with professional development opportunities and participation in regular community of practice sessions to support and inspire their virtual work-based learning practices. Participants engage in conversations and receive guidance on creating sustainable, high-quality models that ultimately provide broader and more equitable access to work-based learning, especially for Black and Latinx students. In addition, EdSystems offers participants technical assistance including help in designing student projects, supporting employer onboarding, etc. 

Best practices, learnings, and resources gathered during I-WIN communities of practices are made available through our resource hub. As we learn from I-WIN participants’ first-hand experiences, EdSystems will systematically document best practices including sharable resources, models, and activities that will be shared with educators across Illinois for broader, statewide scaling. The best practices will also help inform our future recommendations to State policymakers. The I-WIN initiative is serving more than 50 schools representing 420 or more students in its inaugural year.

Additionally, select I-WIN communities are invited to be pilot sites for the implementation of Practera, an online learning platform that supports entirely virtual or hybrid work-based learning experiences. Through this platform, educators can track and monitor student and employer partner progress in real-time to provide resources and supports as needed. Access to the Practera platform for experiences aligned with dual credit coursework is being provided to participating sites at no cost during the 2020-2021 school year, thanks to our partnership with cooperative education and experiential learning leader Northeastern University (Boston) and funding by the National Science Foundation. Seven locations are Illinois pilot sites for Practera:

  • Central District 301
  • East St. Louis Senior High School
  • Elgin Community College
  • Kankakee Community College
  • Moraine Valley Community College
  • North Chicago Community High School
  • Northern Kane County EFE Region 110

These sites are planning to use Practera to facilitate both team-based challenges and career development experiences for students in a variety of career pathways, including engineering, health sciences, business and financial services, agriculture, education, and law enforcement.

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