EDGE students need to complete six milestones to earn their certificate. Some of these milestones help students prepare for their work experiences within the certificate, as well as their future career. The skills identification and articulation workshop encourages students to identify their existing skills and express them to employers in a clear, concise fashion, and the career development course develops core career skills like résumé writing, interviewing, and finding work that aligns with students' skills and interests.
Students must also complete three work or community experience milestones as part of the certificate. These milestones involve work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities inside and outside of the classroom and facilitate professional development and reflection on personal growth. Finally, students complete a capstone workshop to reflect on their experiences as part of EDGE and develop a post-graduation plan of action for their career or further study.
When students are completing their work or community experiences, they receive curricular support in one of two ways. Students engaged in WIL opportunities as part of academic courses complete tasks directly related to their course's curriculum. If students are engaging in co-curricular WIL, they complete online professional development courses during their experiences to develop their professional skills and maximize their learning within the experience.
Students need to complete three work or community experiences as part of their journey through EDGE. These experiences can involve almost any type of work, including academic courses featuring third-party engagement, full- or part-time employment, volunteering, internships, short-term service learning, and participation in student organizations. Milestones are granted for work and community experiences as long as they meet the following criteria:
- Students must spend either 18+ (academic courses) or 36+ (co-curricular experiences) hours within the experience over the course of a four-month term.
- Students must receive an evaluation from their professor or supervisory figure within the experience.
- Students must submit a reflection assignment in which they evaluate their performance and articulate their learning.
- Students must pair their experience with a curricular component, whether that's an academic course's curriculum or an online professional development course.
Students can complete these experiences during any term. The type of work done within EDGE experiences varies widely because of the program's flexibility and breadth. Experiences could include field work, research projects with partners, full- or part-time work, volunteering, service learning, and other types of experiences. Students work both locally (in the Kitchener-Waterloo community) and internationally. The nature of the experiences (and the certificate as a whole) is entirely student-driven.
EDGE students are assessed in a variety of ways throughout the certificate. In the career development course, students complete assessments related to core career skills, like writing bullet points for their résumé or finding work that aligns with their values and interests. If students choose to complete co-curricular work or community experiences, they complete assessments in their online professional development courses.
Students are also evaluated on their performance by their professor or supervisor in their work or community experiences, and the reflection assignment they submit as part of these experiences is graded. Finally, students complete summative assessments as part of the capstone workshop, in which they reflect on their learning in EDGE and how they see their career moving forward.
Students reflect on their experiences by submitting reflective assignments, which are required for both academic and co-curricular experiences. In the assignment, students reflect on the work completed within their experience, evaluate their performance and learning, and articulate their learning in the context of career-seeking strategies and next steps in their career. Students enrolled in PD courses also reflect on course content and its connection to their experiences as part of the assessments within the course.
EDGE students also engage in reflection outside of their work and community experiences. In the skills identification and articulation workshop, they look back on their academic and extracurricular activities to identify skills they already possess. The career development course compels students to reflect on their career interests and what they want to achieve in their job searches. Finally, students reflect on the totality of their EDGE experience and what they want to accomplish next in their capstone workshop.
Key success factors
- EDGE is a self-guided program, which means students are in control of their participation. They choose when and how to engage with the certificate, giving them a sense of agency and allowing for a remarkable degree of customization depending on their needs.
- EDGE has been received positively by partners from faculties and academic support units across campus. Colleagues from across the university are willing to encourage students in non-co-op programs to consider EDGE, and employees in student-facing positions (e.g. academic advisors) are some of the most powerful drivers of EDGE registration.
- EDGE has a robust online presence, including a program website, LEARN community, and online registration forms. This wealth of information and level of accessibility makes it easy for students to learn about the certificate and lowers the barrier to entry for students who are interested in participating.
- EDGE acknowledges a wide variety of workplace experiences across multiple forms of WIL. Students can complete the certificate by engaging in multiple forms of WIL across academic and co-curricular contexts depending on their needs. This allows students to create a path through EDGE that recognizes their unique professional journey.
- EDGE is designed to support students' existing experiences. Instead of prescribing certain experiences, EDGE gives students the framework they need to turn any work experience into quality WIL. Students can take experiences that satisfy their interests and values and amplify their benefits with reflection, evaluation, and professional development.
- EDGE is a novel WIL program, which means there are often questions about how it compares to traditional WIL programs and how to navigate its milestones. It can be difficult to explain how it works to students and other stakeholders given its flexibility and novelty. Students sometimes struggle to understand how to work through the certificate, even when they're engaged in activities that lend themselves easily to earning milestones.
- Because EDGE encompasses so many types of experiences, staff and participants have had to educate themselves quickly on the nuances and regulations associated with all of the potential activities students can complete within the certificate. The certificate has also enjoyed rapid uptake among the student body and has generated excitement across campus, with practitioners from a wide variety of faculties and departments interested in collaboration. This means that staff have had to prepare for a wide spectrum of possibilities given the variability in the program's future.