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Practicum Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I know if I need to do a Practicum?

A decision to apply for a practicum may be made for a variety of
reasons:

  1. The student desires a job upon graduation but lacks practical experience in the information sciences.
  2. The student may have considerable experience in one area of information work; the practicum offers an opportunity to test the waters and the culture in a different aspect of the field.
  3. The student needs a low-risk opportunity to test initial interest and aptitude in an area of career interest.

Do prospective employers consider the Practicum as equivalent to work experience?

Employers are primarily interested in skills and work habits over time. A practicum is a different type of experience as to intensity and duration (150 hours equivalent to only 18+ days) as well as intensity.

The Practicum focuses on learning rather than work performance. A practicum may prove to be in an area or environment different from that where a student ultimately applies. If your practicum is successful in the supervisor’s eyes, you may get a positive recommendation from that supervisor once you seek full-time, professional-level work.

Do I have to take a practicum in the Knoxville area?

A practicum can take place anywhere if it meets the other requirements noted in the 599 guidelines. Practicums, for example, have been done in Nashville, Chattanooga, Denver, Boston, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Charlottesville, Washington D. C., and elsewhere.

Can I do a Practicum where I work?

It is possible to do a practicum at one’s workplace if it is completely different from the student’s current work. If, for example, the student does cataloging work and want to do a reference practicum, that is possible. Of course, one’s supervisors must agree to it, and it must not violate federal or state wage and hour guidelines.

How is a Practicum evaluated?

The Practicum is ungraded and for S/NC credit only. The student’s supervisor provides a written evaluation at the practicum's completion. The student turns in a report of the experience as to its activities, its quality, its ability to meet the original objectives, and the level of student satisfaction.

Must a Practicum be both started and finished in the semester for which I registered for the practicum?

No, practicum experiences and calendars are different for each student, and there is some flexibility about beginning and ending a practicum. A practicum might be initiated during a break before the term in which the student expects to receive credit. The practicum must end before the end of a term in which credit is expected.

Do Practicum requirements change in the shorter summer term?

No, a three-credit-hour practicum in the summer term still requires 150 clock hours on site. However, a student with the supervisor’s agreement, for example, could begin a practicum in May during the break between spring and summer semesters, for example. This would make completing the practicum on time less taxing.

Who sets my work hours for the Practicum?

Setting the hours during which the student will be working on site is the responsibility of the student and the supervisor. Factors which should be considered include the meeting times of the student’s other courses, if any, and availability of the supervisor to oversee the student.

Do I need to bring knowledge or skills to the practicum?

Yes, if the practicum involves any technical understanding. Supervisors are not able – nor are they asked – to train a student from the ground up. For example, a cataloging practicum should be preceded by either one or more cataloging courses or some preliminary experience in cataloging. A Web-development practicum should be preceded by IS 581 or previous experience in HTML/XML coding and related experience. A student doing a reference practicum should have at least the first reference course (IS 530) as a foundation. The supervisor makes the ultimate decision as to a student’s ability to handle the relevant work.