Goals and values

WatPD’s approach to student support and course development is informed by a program-wide commitment to critical reflection, professionalism, continuous learning, diversity, and ethical behaviour. The program’s operation is guided by the following goals:

  • We contribute to students’ productivity and career readiness by helping them develop the skills employers deem most valuable. When combined with academic study and Waterloo’s celebrated co-op and experiential education programs, WatPD helps students become successful, valuable members of the workforce upon graduation.
  • We’re invested in student success and satisfaction. WatPD employs more co-op students than any other department on campus, and our student employees are the backbone of our student support and course operation. Our co-op employees and full-time staff understand the challenges undergraduates face, and they strive to help students achieve their professional goals. Students have the power to shape our courses and approach to support by giving us feedback.
  • We’re always working to ensure our courses remain engaging, relevant, and aligned with employer needs. Some of our courses allow students to work towards industry-recognized standards and certifications, and all of them allow students to choose their paths and pursue their individual learning goals. We believe students who make a concerted effort to enhance their professional skills through WatPD can accomplish more than students relying on trial-and-error learning in the workplace.

WatPD fully supports, in principle and in practice, Waterloo's statement regarding academic integrity:

In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility.

For more information and/or questions about academic integrity at Waterloo, visit the Office of Academic Integrity website.

WatPD is also committed to providing its services and resources in a way that respects the dignity and independence of all students, including those with disabilities, at all times. For more information about accessibility at Waterloo, visit the AccessAbility and Campus Wellness websites.

Program objectives

WatPD is committed to achieving the following program objectives:

  • Enhancing the overall work-integrated learning experience of undergraduate students by providing engaging and relevant online courses to improve students' employability and workplace productivity;
  • Promoting the integration of what is learned at work with what is learned during academic terms through critical reflection;
  • Enabling peer learning and fostering a sense of community among co-op students.

Our history

The groundwork for the development of WatPD was laid in 2002, when the University of Waterloo decided to grant academic credit for work terms. That decision necessitated the creation of a complementary co-op curriculum, one that would help address employer needs by developing students’ professional (or “soft”) skills. As Waterloo’s faculties began working on their own professional development programs, they realized that they shared enough common goals to merit the creation of a single, centralized soft skills program. The faculties worked together to create WatPD, and the program began operation in 2006.

WatPD’s initial offering was limited to a single course (PD1) and two faculties (Arts and Mathematics), but the program expanded quickly. Two new courses were added in 2007 and another four were added in 2008, the same year that three other faculties (Applied Health Sciences, Environment, and Science) joined the program. Enrolment increased steadily until 2011, when it nearly doubled because of the addition of the Faculty of Engineering. Enrolment across all six faculties has continued to steadily increase in the half-decade since, and WatPD has launched several new courses while redeveloping and refining its existing suite of courses. The program expanded to include traditional (non-co-op) students in 2017 with the launch of the EDGE certificate, an opt-in program that helps students develop their professional skills and market themselves to employers.

10 Things You Should Know About WatPD

  1. All PD courses are offered and completed online through LEARN, Waterloo’s learning management system.
  2. PD courses are designed to be completed with 20-25 hours of work.
  3. PD courses appear on student transcripts as credit/no-credit courses.
  4. Undergraduate students take PD courses while participating in experiential learning (e.g. work terms, volunteer positions, internships, etc.) because it gives them the best chance to fuse theory and practice.
  5. Students don’t pay any additional fees to fund WatPD.
  6. Research has proven there’s a link between the WatPD program and student performance in the workplace. A 2014 study completed on behalf of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario found a statistically significant relationship between participation in the WatPD program and student workplace performance as assessed by employers.
  7. As of fall 2017, undergraduate students in traditional (non-co-op) programs can take advantage of the WatPD program by opting into the EDGE certificate.
  8. WatPD employs more co-op students than any other department on campus.
  9. We use end-of-course surveys to gauge student response to PD courses. The results are encouraging: well over 60% of Spring 2016 students rated their PD courses as “good” or “very good” overall.
  10. Over 19,000 students across six faculties were enrolled in PD courses during the 2016-2017 academic year, a new record for the department.