New experiences in the MSc Kinesiology (coursework) practicum
At the beginning of his practicum, Keith Rajkumar had mapped out a plan to complete his project during his four-month work-integrated experience. With the best laid plans, the outcome wasn't what he thought it would be, but it was so much more. Since finishing his practicum, he's been able to reflect on his experience and already understands how it will have a positive impact on his future.
As part of the coursework-based Kinesiology master's program at the University of Waterloo, all grad students take part in a 420-hour hands-on practicum experience, applying their knowledge in a real-world setting. Keith's practicum was at the NiMBAL lab at UWaterloo, under the direction of Professor Bill McIlroy. He worked on the development and customization of a new digital tool; the HUB. Already partially developed, the tool was created with the intention of helping a neuro-degenerative population self-record daily physical movement and sleep activity. Keith's project goal was to explore the expansion of HUB's use from a limited population to something that anyone could use. By approaching staff who work with participants of physical programs, Keith could get a better sense of applicability of the platform's use and identify improvements that could be made before launching it for use to a wider population. Keith connected with UWaterloo's CCCARE staff to gather their input. This would provide him with feedback from experts; people who work with participants of prescribed activity.
Initially, Keith had thought that gathering feedback would be simple and he could move on to the next stage of his plan. What he found was that investigating their input rigorously was time consuming but necessary to build the foundation for HUB to succeed. He realized that the challenge of his practicum was to work out how to balance the needs of the end-user with what could feasibly be achieved with HUB's design and technology. And reflecting on how this was achieved during his four-month practicum is Keith's main takeaway: “Establishing the big picture for the participant is everything. Consultation, assessment, and conversation is so important. There are so many factors that come into play when talking about care - I really began to understand that during this practicum and it'll be something that I carry with me as I hope to embark on a career in physiotherapy." Keith didn’t get to the end point of his plan as the practicum drew to a close, but he realized it was the plan that needed to be adjusted. The work he completed leaves a solid base for the project to continue.
Knowing what the program has to offer is key
It was the science-based rigour of the Kinesiology program that drew Keith to the Kinesiology and Health Sciences department for his undergraduate degree. And during a discussion with Bill McIlroy while he was on a co-op term, he learned about the Master's coursework program as an option. He hadn't really considered it before that conversation, but the chance to obtain an advanced degree and the hands-on experience of the practicum placement really piqued his interest. From that initial conversation, Keith researched what program had to offer, determined if it was right for him and had a clear vision of what he wanted to get out of the master's course. "Because I was able to determine that it was right for me, I believe that impacted my positive experience of the program significantly." By talking to faculty and graduate students in the department, he really had a strong understanding of what the degree would look like, what he would learn, and how he could use it. "When you have the initiative to pursue something and have a clear goal in mind you can use opportunities really well." This approach helped him get closer to his aspiration of becoming a physio therapist. As for what's next, Keith is currently working at Toronto Rehabilitation Insititute. Over the next year or so, Keith will be embarking on the next chapter as he flies out to Australia to start his physiotherapist training.
"When you have the initiative to pursue something and have a clear goal in mind you can use opportunities really well."