Program outcomes are in many ways the blueprint of a program. They can shape the layout of a program and students’ path through it. As you move from the design and development phase to implementation, there are both design elements to consider and approvals to be gained, at the department, Faculty, institution, and, depending on the scale of the change, provincial level. This section will guide you through the change, regardless of the scale, and includes links to relevant Waterloo documents for changes to programs or new program proposals.
Integrating graduate attributes into a program
As part of the design and development process (sometimes referred to as the visioning process), you identified new learning outcomes related to key knowledge, skills, and values. You might also have discovered specific educational experiences that you want to incorporate into the program (e.g., co-operative education, field trips, service-learning, etc.). While the learning outcomes provide a sense of where you want students to be by the end of the program, the next step is to understand where students are when they start your program and how they will progress through it to achieve these outcomes. You might view your curriculum in three phases: foundation; instructional scaffolding; and capstone.
You need to decide where this new content belongs within the curriculum. The creation of a content progression map helps identify students' progression from the start of the program to the fulfillment of the program outcome.
Figure 1: Sample Progression Map
The progression map helps us understand how our students will advance through the program. The “stuff” we map focuses on the concepts, content, and educational experiences we want for our students. Sometimes students must learn certain content before moving to the next level, such as learning the fundamentals of introductory calculus before studying differential equations or signal processing. In other situations, students might complete similar tasks, such as conducting an analysis of a literary work, but the depth of that analysis might grow as they progress through the program. As shown in Figure 1, it is valuable to consider the spectrum of expectations related to that concept; for example, it is worth articulating the student’s level both at the high school level and at the graduate level for an undergraduate program to better understand where they are when they enter the program and where they are heading upon graduation.
As an example, consider two progression maps from the mechatronics engineering (MTE) undergraduate program at Waterloo. Both are preliminary maps, one of the system integration thread (PDF), which maps the path from novice to expert while the second is a map of the electrical thread (PDF) and moves from before first year to the Ph.D. level. Thank you to Dr. Sanjeev Bedi, the MTE Director, for allowing us to share these examples.
MTE faculty members completed the maps at a curriculum retreat. Once the progression of concepts was identified, participants at the retreat were asked to identify the competency level for all graduates of the program, for students who specialized in that area, for masters students, and for students at the Ph.D. level. Each of the six key program threads was mapped at the retreat.
Forming a program's structure
Having identified key content and concepts, the challenge is to integrate these ideas into one cohesive curriculum. Sometimes content threads focus on key knowledge areas but do not reflect all of the relevant skills or values identified in the visioning stage. There might be intentional overlap among key threads in the program as well as key outliers to help students develop both breadth and depth of the discipline. The challenge is to translate these progression maps, program outcomes, and the contextual factors of the institution (e.g., length of the semester, program resources, etc.) into the required program structure.
Creating a curriculum map is a critical step at this phase. It captures how the program will address the intended learning outcomes, students’ path through the program, and the program structure, which might include courses, project or thesis work, and other key educational experiences (e.g., co-op, service-learning, etc.). Consider this sample undergraduate curriculum map [xlsx].
The map shows both the core courses and other key learning experiences (i.e., co-op work terms and a service-learning requirement) and how they contribute to students’ progress toward fulfilling the intended learning outcomes. The inclusion of elective courses and milestones would enhance the map.
This map represents a program that is in the process of re-developing its curriculum. The map shows new outcomes and tracks how those outcomes are addressed in the current program. As a result, there are times when an outcome (e.g., Program Outcome 8) is introduced after it has been reinforced in several courses. It might require content be re-organized or it could be the result of a broad outcome that addresses several different elements of the program.
Approvals and timelines
Before the new or modified curriculum can be implemented, it must be approved at a variety of levels. The requirements for approval vary depending on whether it is a new program, a major revision to an existing program or a minor change to a current program. The approval process is outlined in Waterloo’s Institutional Quality Assurance Framework.
- Table 2 (p. 18) outlines the level of approval (i.e., Senate, External Consultants, Quality Council, MTCU) for new programs and major modifications
- Section D (pp. 22-24) defines a “major modification” and provides helpful guidelines for departments to identify the level of change.
If you are creating a new graduate program, please refer to the new graduate program template provided by the Graduate Studies Office. For new undergraduate programs, please use the new undergraduate program template provided by Office of the Associate Vice-President, Academic Programs and Strategic Initiatives.
The timeline will be based on the approval process required for the change or creation of the new program. For example, the development of a new graduate studies program is expected to take almost two years. Details of this process, including the timeline and resource personnel, are available on the University’s Academic Reviews website. A similar timeline is required for undergraduate programs and is also available on this site. If the change is on a smaller scale, such as modifying a core course, the timeline might be shorter. We recommend contacting your associate chair to verify the approval process required by your department or school and Faculty.
How we can help
We offer several services to support your implementation activities.
- Consultations: As with the design phase, we provide support on all elements of implementation. There are many other groups on-campus who support this work as well, including staff at the library, institutional analysis and planning, co-operative education, the Centre for Extended Learning, the Graduate Studies Office, and the Office of the Associate Vice-President, Academic Programs.
- Workshops: We offer customized course design workshops for groups changing a number of courses concurrently. For example, we have run this workshop for all faculty teaching first-year courses in a department as they redesigned their courses for the new program model. If a customized workshop is not needed, instructors might prefer our one-day course design workshop or the four-day Teaching Excellence Academy.
In addition to course design, we also facilitate workshops related to progression mapping, curriculum mapping, and the design of the program’s structure.
For more information on these services, please contact Veronica Brown, Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Quality Enhancement.
- Ontario Universities Council on quality assurance (the Quality Council) – The Quality Council is responsible for the approval of all new undergraduate and graduate programs. Their web site provides resources related to program approval and the quality assurance framework.
- Course design tip sheets – Centre for Teaching Excellence provides several online resources related to course design, including: