Written by Sasha Avreline as a member of the Task Force, supported by communications of the Dean’s Office.
It is great news to state that the task force on the renewal of the PDEng Program has concluded its work, published the final report, and fulfilled its mandate to the full extent. The report of the task force was submitted to the Dean of Engineering, Dr. Adel Sedra, by the deadline on April 30 and then released to students last Monday. The report has recommended sweeping changes to professional development in engineering encompassing phasing out of the current PDEng Program and then replacing it with a completely new program to be called WatPD-Engineering. The new program will go beyond just having a new name, with a new course structure, new course content, new methods of delivery and new organizational structure. The new program will have engineering content and will involve engineering instructors but will take advantage of the delivery methods used by the central WatPD office of the university. The Dean of Engineering has endorsed all of the recommendations of the report and has moved ahead with certain changes already through assigning a new academic director, Dr. Gordon Stubley, an eminent professor from mechanical and mechatronics engineering. It will still take a lot of effort to ensure that the transition to the new program will happen smoothly, a transition expected to take about a year’s time. In the meantime students will still be required to do all the current PDEng courses and work term reports in order to fulfill degree requirements until a further announcement has been made.
The contents of the report as well as the memo from the Dean to students can be found on the task force website – http://www.engineering.uwaterloo.ca/pdengrenewal. The content was further presented at the town hall meeting that took place on Thursday, May 13 where the Dean and a number of other administrators, including Dr. Wayne Loucks (Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies), Dr. Wayne Parker (Associate Dean of Co-op Education and Professional Affairs), Dr. Dwight Aplevich (newly appointed director of the current PDEng program), Judene Pretti (Director of WatPD), Dr. Gordon Stubley (Academic Director of WatPD-Engineering), were present to answer student’s questions. Transcript of what was discussed, as well as a recording of the meeting, will be available on the task force’s website shortly. In the meantime I would like to answer some clarification questions posed by Alex H. Rutter, current VP-Education of the Engineering Society, in order to clear up any misconceptions about the new WatPD-Engineering program before they start. If you wish to ask Alex further questions please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can reach me at email@example.com.
Answers to FAQ by Alex H. Rutter
So, is this just a name change?
The new program is far beyond just a name change. There are a number of reasons for this:
- New course structure has been proposed which involved two engineering-specific core courses to ensure all students have the basic skills followed by three electives to pick from a range of WatPD courses and engineering-specific electives to be developed in the future. This would allow students to better tailor the program to their needs.
- New content will be developed for all courses with input of the curriculum committee consisting of a faculty member from each of the engineering departments and programs. The actual content will be developed by experts in each of the course areas and those experts will be selected through a request for proposal (RFP) process. This will ensure that the content is appropriate, applicable and interesting.
- New methods of delivery that would involve the central WatPD office of the university. This will allow the program to leverage best delivery techniques at the university available from the Centre of Extended Learning (CEL). The marking scheme will also follow the one currently in use with the WatPD office which is based on percentages with a pass level of 50%.
The whole report sounds great but it is all about recommendations – will those recommendations actually be implemented?
The Dean of Engineering has endorsed all of the recommendations. They have further been accepted in principle from university’s senior administration. At this point, newly appointed academic director of WatPD-Engineering and the director of WatPD also endorse the recommendations and will try their best to implement them; however, they cannot fully predict what will actually happen and if some of the recommendations will turn out to be impossible during the process of implementation. All of the changes will also require approval from certain governing bodies at the university. Short answer is – most likely but certain things may be tweaked along the way.
Do I have to do PDEng in the mean time?
At this point nothing from the report has been implemented with the exception of the short-term changes to the current PDEng courses and establishment of the curriculum committee for the WatPD-Engineering program. Therefore it is extremely important to continue doing your current PDEng courses and to hand in all of the work term reports before a further announcement has been made.
What is the time-line for implementation?
The goal is to have the first WatPD-Engineering core course to be developed by winter 2011 term right in time for the in-coming class of 2015 to take the course. Having said that, the students currently in PDEng will be allowed to take WatPD electives and newly developed WatPD-Engineering electives (once they become available) if they completed PDENG25 and as soon as this change has been approved by respective governing bodies. This time-line is not set in stone as of now but the change should occur as soon as possible – stay tuned for updates.
The time-line for the first course to be developed is 8 months – why couldn’t this course be offered next term in 4 months?
There are two key reasons for this:
- The course will require approval from certain governing bodies within the university and that usually takes much longer than 8 months – so this timeline is in fact short
- The course content needs to be properly developed by the instructor and then the centre of extended learning (CEL). Centre of Extended Learning usually takes about 8 month to complete their part if the content is already ready. So once again, given the content is not ready yet, this is a short timeline.
So then given that the time-line is so short – will the new courses be of good quality?
When WatPD was formed, their staff was able to develop a course in the period of 8 months and it turned out to be quite good. The newly appointed academic director of WatPD-Engineering has a certain vision for what a good course will be like and if that vision is not met by January 1, 2011 the course will not go ahead and PDENG15 will be offered instead. Furthermore he is looking into getting high school students from grade 12 to test the course.
What is the new content going to look like?
The Curriculum Committee will be responsible for creating the RFPs, which will be tendered to professors and professionals for creation of content. All of the content will then be incorporated into audio, narrated power points and/or video lectures by the centre of extended learning. The option of simply reading the content will be available.
The time to complete the course is being lowered to 20-25 hours and the course will also have more instruction – will there be time to really learn anything and to practice certain skills? Is the bar just being lowered?
The bar is not being lowered – absolutely not. The courses will just be more efficient with greater focus on a few of the key concepts. There will be more emphasis on instruction – the point is to teach students practical, professional skills and give them opportunity to practice and apply them. The time spent doing the assessments will be decreased but those assessments will also be geared in order to have students demonstrate a few key skills and understand the key concepts. Overall, the courses will be designed to achieve a greater result in less time and perhaps the bar will be pushed even higher; however, the courses will not be expected to take more than the 20-25 hour guideline for 75% of the students.
Is engineering going to maintain presence in WatPD-Engineering or will engineering students be just like all other WatPD students?
Once again – absolutely not; there are a number of measures put in place to avoid this. The Curriculum Committee, along with the academic director will design the engineering specific core courses and engineering specific electives. Over that time, they will also ensure that the content is well maintained in those courses. Engineering instructors, and whenever possible engineering markers, will be present in those courses. Moreover, the Curriculum Committee, along with the academic director, will have input into WatPD operations and will handle any special requests of engineering students including any special course sequences, accommodations, etc. Finally the WatPD director, Judene Pretti, is very open to ensuring that engineering students have a good experience with courses offered through WatPD operations. So far all of the courses offered by WatPD operations have received very positive reviews from the students that were enrolled in the courses.
As far as WatPD electives are concerned, the task force, the Dean, the Chairs and Associate Deans of Engineering, as well as the newly appointed academic director, believe that engineering students will have the benefit of learning those concepts (such as team work, leadership, conflict resolution) in addition to the engineering specific curriculum. It is also believed that those concepts will enrich the skills possessed by engineers and will help them in the workplace.
Will there be mentor positions offered through WatPD for engineering students?
Of course there will be. Director of WatPD is really looking forward to having engineering students on board as a part of their team to mentor students taking WatPD-Engineering courses.
What will the marking scheme be like for WatPD-Engineering?
As of now, the marking scheme for WatPD courses is just the same in any other University of Waterloo course: numerical averaging with a pass level of 50%. This marking scheme would most likely be applied to new WatPD-Engineering courses, but this would be up to the Curriculum Committee.
For the current PDEng courses, the marking scheme has been revised to include numerical averaging given the rubrics used in those courses and the pass level is set at 70%. This marking scheme will only apply to the current PDEng courses as they remain in place for another year or so.
I’m currently in a difficult position for completing PDEng before my graduation date. What should I do?
You should schedule to meet with the current PDEng director, Dr. Dwight Aplevich, in order to discuss a possible plan for you to complete the program. The plan could include a combination of courses taken on the work term and academic terms, as well as more than one course per term. However all of those arrangements will be discussed on a one on one basis.
At this point if you have any further questions or input into new courses – please do no hesitate to contact us.
Sincere thanks to the task force and the Dean of Engineering for all their hard work!