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Practicum Overview

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Course Title and Description

IS 599: Practicum (3 hrs.) Opportunity to translate theory into practice under guidance of qualified information professionals. Prerequisite: completion of required and pertinent advanced courses relevant to student's practicum design. Minimum 3.0 GPA. Written permission of advisor and approval of practicum coordinator. May be repeated with written permission. Maximum 6 hours. S/NC only. Fall, Spring, Summer.

Overview and Rationale

The practicum is an elective curriculum option available to any student who wants field experience as a part of his or her specific program of study. It is available to those who:

  1. Meet the necessary prerequisites (in course description, above),
  2. Identify a career goal or information work area outside the scope of available courses, or 
  3. Want  to gain work experience, expand his/her knowledge base, and/or enhance a portfolio with a work product (e.g., student-created websites, system documentation, training materials, computer programs, etc).

While normally a useful and stimulating experience, the practicum should not be considered a substitute for work experience.

Each practicum is an individualized case-by-case experience, requiring approval by the student's advisor, supervising information professional, and, possibly, his/her institution. For that reason, more time and effort is required to set up a practicum than merely signing up for an existing course. This is the reason why work to develop the practicum must begin early in the term preceding that in which the student wants to do the practicum. Typically, though not exclusively, students plan practicums for their final semester. See Practicum Setup Steps.

As identified by the student and his/her advisor, the practicum may emphasize a particular aspect or functional service area (e.g., cataloging, serials, reference, maps/GIS, database design, web page development, manuscript or archival processing, records appraisal, materials preservation, and other options). 

In considering a practicum experience, students are urged to identify first their long term career interests and, secondly, a practicum which supports those needs and interests. Once he/she understands the student’s interest, the practicum coordinator attempts assist the student to identify a practicum site that will meet the student's needs. Students are always welcome to suggest sites for a practicum. Students in the distance-education (DE) contingent of the program should seek sites and supervisors on their own.

The practicum provides directed and supervised experience within the framework of a particular type of information organization (e.g., library, archives, information center, records management unit, internet service provider, information analysis center). In rare circumstances, the practicum may include experience in more than one information organization if (1) this is available and (2) is needed to satisfy the requirements of the student's curricular needs. 

Credit Hours Options

Typically, a practicum experience is three hours of academic credit (150 clock hours), which translates to an average of 10 hours per week of on-site practicum activity (e.g., instruction, work, consultation, supervision, review, evaluation) for one 15-week semester during the regular academic year (i.e., fall and spring semesters). This is equivalent to a quarter-time job. As noted above, however, scheduling is somewhat flexible.

During the summer term, only 10 weeks long, the 150-hour requirement also applies, though with the practicum supervisor's consent and availability, the practicum may begin during the break between spring and summer terms.

The flexibility of the practicum affords the student a range of possible options. Under circumstances agreed to by the student's advisor and the practicum coordinator, a student may engage in:

  1. One additional 3-credit-hour practicum experience (i.e., a total of two separate three-hour practicums in two separate semesters), or
  2. Two 3-hour practicums (six credit-hours) in different areas/sites during a single semester, or
  3. One 6-hour practicum in one semester–in special circumstances.

The time format for the practicum also affords some flexibility. As needed and agreed to by the supervisor, a practicum can begin before the beginning of that term in which the student wishes to receive credit for the practicum. 

IS 591 vs. IS 599

Occasionally, there is some confusion about IS 591 and IS 599. The focus of IS 599 is on learning from and working directly with a skilled, experienced information professional; the focus of IS 591, Independent Project or Research, may be on a project or applying preexisting skills on a project with little supervision and/or instruction. The practicum experience requires a teacher and learner; 591 does not.

School Library Information Specialist Licensure

Students in the School Library Information Specialist Licensure should consult that concentration's advisor(s) and the documentation for that concentration as to practicum requirements. If done under the 599 course number, the practicum must meet the expectations of both the concentration specifically and the Policies/Procedures of IS 599 generally.