Work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities are provided to students across numerous graduate programs at the University of Waterloo. Adopting the Co-operative and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL) definition, WIL “is a form of curricular experiential education that formally integrates a student’s academic studies with quality experiences within a workplace or practice setting. WIL experiences include an engaged partnership of at least: an academic institution, a host organization, and a student. WIL can occur at the course or program level and includes the development of student learning objectives and outcomes related to: employability, agency, knowledge and skill mobility and life-long learning.”
WIL allows for theoretical learning to be integrated with practice, promoting deeper understanding of theory through practical application. Graduate programs offering WIL opportunities should follow best-practices through the inclusion of the following key WIL components: pedagogy (curricular elements that include when the activity occurs, duration/intensity, and training); experience (ensuring meaningful activities and alignment with the WIL definition); assessment (of activities based on identified learning outcomes); and reflection (on what constitutes purposeful work for each student). Regardless of how WIL is structured, activities should align with Graduate WIL (GradWIL) learningdevelopment process.
At the University of Waterloo, there are different WIL models that provide consistency in how WIL experiences are offered and recorded across academic programs. While there may be some WIL activities that do not fall within one of the models (as well as accreditation requirements for professional programs), academic units should use one of the following WIL models to facilitate standardization and institutional tracking of experiences.
1. Course-level WIL is delivered in the context of a course (either required or elective) and activities are typically facilitated through a course instructor. Students receive course credit for the activity, with the unit weight being determined by the intensity/duration of activities. Course-level WIL comes in the form of the following models: a) Community and Industry Research Projects (CIR) or b) Practicums:1
a) Community and Industry Research Projects (CIR): Supporting the course objectives, CIR consist of a project or assignment within the course wherein students engage with a partner organization either individually or in teams. The course project/assignment would occur in or with external organizations, with examples being consulting projects, design projects, program evaluations. When a course involves CIR, the activity would be identified with a secondary (or tertiary) component using the course component CIR.
b) Practicums (PRA): Practicums are a work-integrated learning experience that form the basis of the course and provide students with intensive, hands-on experience in a setting relevant to their subject of study (paid or unpaid). Practicums are typically supervised within the external setting by identified person(s) who are approved by the program (based on their professional and other competencies). Practicum hour requirements are established by the program, vary across different programs and courses. Practicums are denoted as a primary component using the course component PRA. Practicums are usually graded as credit/no-credit.
2. Program-level WIL is delivered as a required component of the program with associated WIL activities typically facilitated through the academic unit, often in partnership with Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE). Program-level WIL comes in the form of the following models: a) Co-operative Education or b) Internship. Program-level WIL would be identified through the program name, plan code, and corresponding milestone(s). In both models, the WIL activity provides experience in a practice/workplace setting related to the student’s field of study. Typically the WIL activity would occur at a time in the student’s academic program to allow for an integration of learning between the WIL experience and academic/research activities. As program-level WIL typically involves full-time activity, students would be required to have a change of enrolment status during their experience(s).
a) Co-operative Education (Co-op): Co-op is full-time, paid work experience in a workplace setting that is related to the student’s area of study and career interest. Co-op programs typically include completion of a professional development course prior to a work term (COOP 6012), work term(s), and reflective and/or work reports as required by the graduate program. In masters-level programs with co-op designations, students are required to successfully complete a minimum of one standard work-term and, if specified by their program, one additional work term (standard or flexible work-terms). Co-op doctoral programs require a minimum of three standard work-terms and, if specified by their program, additional work terms (standard or flexible work-terms).
b) Internships: Internships are supervised work-integrated learning experiences that are discipline-specific and directly align with the graduate program’s learning outcomes. Internships require approval by the graduate program. Internships vary in length and intensity, but are typically between 4 months to 12 months of full-time work experience (that is paid or unpaid), and supervised within the external setting by identified persons who are approved by the graduate program (based on their professional and other competencies).
Separate from course or program-level offerings, many graduate students are involved in discipline-specific research activities that constitute WIL either as part of degree requirements (e.g., thesis or Master’s Research Paper) or as additional research projects during their graduate training (i.e., during a time when they have active enrollment status). Such research would involve an industry or community partner and an identified faculty collaborator (in most cases, the research supervisor). For research activities to be considered WIL, there must be co-creation of the research objectives by the external partner and the student/faculty member, active engagement and interaction between the student and external partner, and the external partner should have a role in providing feedback to and/or assessment of the student activity.
1 There are other types of experiential learning courses that take place in a setting outside the classroom [e.g., Labs (LAB), Field Studies (FLD), Studio (STU)]. The key distinction between these types of courses and those that denote WIL is that, for the former, a meaningful partnership with an external/host organization is not required. If criteria for WIL is met, courses should be identified as CIR or PRA.
2 COOP 601 does not count towards home program degree course requirements.