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Discipline & Themes 

  • Multidisciplinary Co-op Education
  • Research Skills

Learning focus:  

  • Reflection
  • Academic Skill Development

Design focus:

  • PebblePad Workbooks
  • Self-guided Learning

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Beyond expectations - allowing recognition of specialization

The University of Waterloo is located in the heart of Canada's technology hub, and is growing its network of global partnerships and building bridges with industry, institutions and communities. A leader in experiential learning, Waterloo strives to make the world the classroom for their students and PebblePad is delighted to support student learning both within and beyond the boundaries of their classrooms. Ranked number 1 for Experiential learning and STEM, and third overall in the best Canadian university rankings, the University of Waterloo strives to go beyond expectations. In this project, PebblePad provides the structure for guiding students through gaining recognition and certification of research, following and evidencing against a robust framework.  

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University of Waterloo - PebblePad Partnership

The University of Waterloo’s Co-operative Education Research Certificate (CERC) is a new academic credential within the Co-operative Education degree, which recognizes students who demonstrate an area of specialization in their work term experiences. We needed a system to support students to demonstrate they have met all certificate requirements, assessed against a clear and robust set of criteria. 



The ‘Supporting Independent Activity With Few Resources’ Ambition 

Co-op Certificates were created to recognize the degree of specialization that some students were already achieving as they pursued Co-op degrees. During a capstone interview, students must assess their research against a research skill development framework and demonstrate, with evidence, why their experience merits special recognition. Certificates were envisioned as an enhancement to the students’ degrees and available at no additional cost. As such, limited resources were available to support formal instruction and assessment for the certificates and the Co-op department focused its efforts on identifying cost and resource effective ways to support students preparing for the CERC Capstone Interview.


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Students generally complete their Co-op degrees over five years and could complete Certificate requirements at any time within that period. As such, any resources would need to be available throughout the students’ entire program of study. 

The Successful Workflow

The team decided to build a resource that would allow students to engage with the assessment framework before, during, and after their individual research experiences, and ensure that all students had the opportunity to receive some personal guidance/feedback prior to engaging in the Capstone Interview.

A PebblePad workbook was created to include instructional resources and support independent study. PebblePad was chosen to support this process because:

  • it was already available to students through their degree program

  • materials could be available at any stage throughout the degree, and

  • the ability to share PebblePad assets with external parties (e.g., to support job applications, admissions in graduate studies, etc.) could be incredibly valuable for students engaged in work integrated learning experiences.




           Our PebbleVision video, while not specifically about this case study,  provides a brief overview of how PebblePad can support            some of the pedagogical and pebblegogical practices discussed in this case study.

The PebblePad Difference

"Engaging in this work reinforced how influential even a small degree of reflection and feedback can be in supporting student success. Implementing these changes required minimal additional effort but had huge impact on the students’ ability to relate their experiences to the assessment framework."


PebblePad has helped the University of Waterloo achieve these benefits ...

  • The new format allowed for identification of students who appeared to have misunderstandings and who could benefit from additional coaching.

  • The ability to support student reflection and learning, while also simplifying program administration.

  • By default students control access to their PebblePad assets, which addressed privacy concerns associated with trying to implement similar approaches in the online community.

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We're more than a little proud of our 17-year track record of helping universities scaffold learning journeys which make a meaningful difference to student success. 


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