Experiential Learning Policies
To read more about the numerous career, internship, and experiential learning opportunities available, click here.
A field experience is a three-credit elective that incorporates two components completed over one term:
- 130 hours of supervised professional work carried out by an MLIS student at an information service host site that provides the student with an opportunity to apply the skills, methodologies, and theories learned through coursework, and
- 20 hours of scheduled class meetings, conferences, and on-line reflective discussion with other students registered for LIS 2921 or LIS 2924 in a given term, and overseen by the field experience coordinator.
Please note: the definition, course prerequisites, academic and work requirements, and application process for LIS 2921 or 2924 Field Experience vary from that of LIS 2922 Practicum in School Libraries. Students in the School Library Certification Program (SLCP) must successfully complete LIS 2922 and follow the requirements of the SLCP in order to meet teacher certification requirements. Questions regarding SLCP requirements should be referred to Dr. Mary K. Biagini.
Student Learning Outcomes
Students will clarify their career objectives while gaining insightful, resume-worthy experience at an information organization, which will help prepare them for their chosen career.
Students register for LIS 2921 or LIS 2924 (if the student is in the Archives and Information Science specialization), earning three elective credits upon successful completion of the course.
- Students must have completed 12 credits of LIS coursework, including LIS 2000 Understanding Information and LIS 2600 Introduction to Information Technologies (or LIS 2610 Library and Archival Computing), before the start of the field experience.
- Students must have earned a minimum QPA of 3.0 to receive permission to register for LIS Field Experience.
- The student must be registered for LIS Field Experience in the term in which the supervised professional work occurs. The field experience must be completed in one term. Only extenuating circumstances will be considered for an incomplete grade and must be approved by the field experience coordinator.
Requirement or Elective
Field Experience credits are not required when earning the MLIS degree–LIS 2921 or LIS 2924 is considered an elective course. Although LIS Field Experience is not required, all students are strongly encouraged to incorporate this elective course into their plan of study in order to gain real world, experiential learning.
Students who successfully complete all requirements for LIS Field Experience earn a grade of “Satisfactory.” Students who do not successfully complete all requirements for LIS field experience earn a grade of “Unsatisfactory.” Grading will be based on performance as determined by the host site supervisor and the quality of the final report/project as determined by the Field Experience Coordinator.
In order to determine a viable, academically credible field experience, students must:
- Attend information session in the term prior to the field experience. For those unable to attend on-campus, the information will be made available online.
- Speak with your academic advisor to identify a host site, a host site supervisor, and a proposed project. Note: Online students must first confirm state eligibility by checking the status of allowed states for the School of Computing and Information at PittOnline.
- Submit the Application for LIS (2921 or 2924) Field Experience, including two written statements (outlined on the application).
The Registration Team will enroll students in three field experience credits after receiving documentation and approval from the field experience coordinator.
For a partial list of previous host sites and contact information, click here.
Download the Application for LIS (2921 or 2924) Field Experience for full details regarding the process of applying for and registering for the field experience.
Requirements for successful completion of the field experience
As a three-credit elective class, the LIS (2921 or 2924) Field Experience comprises 150 total hours of on-site and academic work divided as follows:
Student Work Requirements
- Complete 130 hours of work at the host site under the direction of the host site supervisor and according to the agreed upon schedule with the host site supervisor
- Follow all policies and procedures that host site staff must follow, e.g., dress, acceptable use of technology, interactions with patrons
- If the student is ill or if there is extreme inclement weather on a scheduled work day, the student must inform the host site supervisor in advance of scheduled work shift and must make up any missed hours.
Student Academic Requirements
- Participate in regularly scheduled class meetings (20 hours) with the field experience coordinator and other field experience students to discuss progress, experiences, and shared challenges and learnings
- Post remarks to a weekly field experience blog on CourseWeb
- Prepare a mid-term report and submit to the field experience coordinator
- Facilitate a meeting at the host site that includes the field experience coordinator, the host site supervisor, and the student
- Submit to the field experience coordinator a final, confidential written reflection about the student’s experience at the host site framed around their career objectives and the “Goals for Graduates of the MLIS Program” that includes several examples of work developed for the host site during the experience (portfolio)
- Confer individually with the field experience coordinator to review the final course deliverables for the Field Experience, which may include a report or a project.
Students are highly encouraged to pursue a Co-op as opposed to a Practicum. Students wishing to enroll in a practicum will be considered for this an exception to a Co-op and handled on a case-by-case basis.
- To offer students an opportunity to extend their academic experience to a practical work experience. The practicum allows students to gain some experience in an area they wish to explore and to apply their knowledge and skills in a work situation.
- To show in concrete terms the work options available to students through an apprenticeship term that can provide job-related training.
- To illustrate the Program’s commitment to translating information system development and management ideas into action and to contribute to the development of local businesses and industry.
- To broaden the scope of the Program and to enrich the program by contact and exchange with area businesses, industries, and community groups/agencies.
- Students must have completed a minimum of eighteen credit hours.
- Students must be in good academic standing.
- A practicum is designed to provide a student with an opportunity to experience the nature of workplace for which they are being educated. Thus, students who are already working in the field are not normally eligible for a practicum. An exception might be made when the student is working, but not in a job related to the field and the practicum is not in the same organization in which they are employed.
- A practicum is three (3) credits. In all cases, practicum credits are not counted toward the Foundations, Cognitive, or Systems requirements, i.e. they are electives.
- Students should plan to work between 100-250 hours per term (7-20 hours/week) for a practicum. When a student is taking other courses, the practicum should be limited to less than 20 hours per week. When a student is registered for only the practicum, the number of hours per week may approach 40 hours or full time work. (International students should consult with the Office of International Student Services as full time practica impact options open to the student for post graduation work experiences.) Individual schedules will be arranged between the student and the Site Supervisor, and it is the student’s responsibility to notify the practicum advisor of the schedule arrangements.
- International students must obtain approval for Conditional Practical Training after registering for a practicum.
- While minor exceptions can be made by the Practicum Instructor, students should alert their supervisor that generally all work on the practicum should be completed during the academic term. More specifically, work may not begin until the beginning of the term and should be completed before grades are due.
- The practicum must complement the student’s education in information science. A good practicum should exercise the student’s educational learning and/or to introduce the student to new areas of the information profession which complement the student’s academic background or area of interest.
- Grading will be based on practicum performance as rated by the Site Supervisor and the quality of the final report as rated by the Practicum Instructor. The normal grading for the practicum is Pass/Fail.
- During the normal period for course registration and the drop add period before the beginning of the term, the student is to submit three documents (and international students should also submit a CPT or pre-completion OPT request via OIS):
- Practicum Application which provides information about the student, the location of the practicum, and the courses they have completed
- Practicum Proposal which describes what the students expects to be learning during the practicum. This may be accompanied by a letter from the practicum host extending the offer.
- Practicum Site Agreement which identifies the site supervisor and indicates their agreement with practicum policies.
- The Practicum Instructor will inform the Internship Coordinator of his/her approval of the practicum application and will place a copy in the student’s folder.
- After receiving approval from the Practicum Instructor, the Internship Coordinator will enroll the student in the appropriate practicum course (INFSCI 2980 or TELCOM 2940).
- Students must communicate with their Practicum Instructor at least once a month or as necessary to discuss their practicum. Students must keep a written log of the practicum experience to be examined by and discussed with the Practicum Instructor. The Practicum Instructor may require that these communications occur during a scheduled practicum review session.
- A report, normally about 10 pages in length, relating the practicum to the student’s academic goals, is required for the completion of the practicum. This report should also include the student’s specific duties at the site and a critique of the strengths and weaknesses of the practicum as it relates to the student’s academic and personal development. This report must be sent to the Practicum Instructor before the final week of the term, and must be signed by the Site Supervisor.
The Department of Informatics and Networked Systems agrees to:
- Assign a faculty member to facilitate communication regarding student educational progress. The faculty member agrees to be available for consultation with the site supervisor as needed.
- Provide services of administrative assistance to facilitate effective communication lines between the Program and the site on all matters.
- Provide the site with a student profile if required, listing the student’s educational background, field of interest, and qualifications for working in the particular site.
- Provide information about the University’s academic calendar. This should be used to set beginning and ending dates of the practicum as well as period when the student might reasonably be expected to be excused from work for holidays.
- Insure that student placements shall not be considered final until the plan has been fully reviewed by the Program. Modification and changes, such as early termination, shall be submitted in writing.
- Keep the site informed of any changes in university policy or curriculum that affect the site-program relationship.
- Insure that Practicum Instructor will offer guidance to the Site Supervisor (if needed) as to requirements/content of final evaluation report of the student’s progress.
- Provide that this agreement shall continue until review or termination is requested in writing by the Program, the site, or the student.
- Refrain from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, disability or status as a disabled veteran or a veteran of the Vietnam era.
Through the assistance of the School of Engineering’s Cooperative Education Office, formal arrangements are established with industry that permit students to rotate four-month terms between the workplace and the classroom. At the University of Pittsburgh, this rotation begins after the completion of the sophomore year, and extends into the senior year, with the Co-op student completing at least two four-month work rotations. These rotations, which are typically but not necessarily with the same employer, allow job duties to increase as the knowledge and skills of the student progress.
During Co-op rotations, students earn competitive salaries. In 2013-2014 the average monthly salary for a CS Co-op student was $2809.
Co-Op Capstone Option
Completion of at least 2 four-month Co-op rotations and a summary paper can be used by a Computer Science major to satisfy the Capstone graduation requirement. However, the Co-op does not count in place of any regular Computer Science courses.
In addition to receiving an “S” grade for at least two co-op rotations, students using their cooperative education experience for their capstone requirement must complete an 8-10 page paper as the final requirement. This paper must be completed in the term following your final co-op rotation. The deadlines are as follows:
|Final Co-Op Term||Paper Deadline|
The topic should be an examination / explanation of your co-op both from a technical point of view (projects you did, things you learned, etc) and from an experiential point of view (workplace issues, organization, etc).
Please use a standard format (.doc, .docx, .pdf) and submit via email to Dr. Ramirez. You are strongly encouraged to have your paper reviewed by the Writing Center http://www.writingcenter.pitt.edu/ prior to submission.
Note: Students cannot graduate in a co-op semester.
Applying and Enrolling
In order to register for the Computer Science Co-op Program, the student must submit the following materials to the Cooperative Education Office in 152-D Benedum Hall:
- Evidence that the student has declared his or her major as Computer Science
- An Interest Form submitted in person or by email
- An unofficial transcript submitted in person – free to students at G3 Thackeray Hall
- A resumé submitted in person or by email – must be in pdf, word .doc , or word .docx format
- A completed Co-Op Schedule form submitted in person or by email. This form must be approved by the CS undergraduate office
Students apply to the Co-op Program at least one semester before they begin their rotations. In order to be eligible for all positions, please see the following dates for paperwork completion.*
- Spring Co-op: End of September
- Summer Co-op: End of January
- Fall Co-op: End of May
- *These deadlines are established with the student’s best interests in mind. It is still possible for a student to apply after these dates, however, this student will have missed out on opportunities.
Students on Co-op assignment are still responsible for getting themselves registered for classes in the term following their Co-op term. Some assistance may be provided by the engineering Co-op office. Additional assistance may be provided by the Computer Science Department.
For more information, see the Cooperative Education Home Page. If you are interested in the Co-op program, your first point of contact should be the Co-op Office, not the CS Department.
Undergraduate Co-op Education Contact
412-624-9882 | firstname.lastname@example.org
CS Co-op Coordinator/Advisor
(412) 624-8441 | email@example.com
Through the assistance of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Cooperative Education Office (SSOE), formal arrangements have been established with industry that permit the School of Computing and Information students to rotate four-month terms between the workplace and the classroom. As a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, this rotation begins after the completion of at least 18 graduate credits across at least two full-time terms of study, with the Co-op student completing at least one full-time four-month work rotation, but no more than two of such rotations. These rotations, which are typically but not necessarily with the same employer, allow job duties to increase as the knowledge and skills of the student progress. During Co-op rotations, students earn competitive salaries determined by the Co-op employer.
Any of our students who obtain a work experience through SSOE MUST do ONLY Co-op for that experience – they CANNOT switch to a practicum later on (but can certainly do multiple Co-op rotations.)
“Obtaining a work experience through SSOE” is defined as getting the initial contact for the employer either through the SSOE Co-op fair or by being in the SSOE Co-op system as an applicant and obtaining the employer information there.
Applying and Enrolling
In order to register for the Co-op Program, the student must submit the following materials to the School of Computing and Information Cooperative Education Coordinator, Alka Singh (firstname.lastname@example.org):
- Provide evidence of completion of 18 credits at the graduate level at Pitt while maintaining good academic standing by emailing a transcript to Alka Singh
- Email a resumé (must be in pdf, word .doc , or word .docx format)
- Provide a completed plan of study for your chosen specialization that has been approved by your academic advisor (who can either sign their approval on the plan of study or email their approval) and shows exactly when you will be taking each class required for graduation and when you will complete your Co-op rotation(s).
- If you are an international student enrolling with an F-1 Visa, you will also need to apply for CPT through My OIS.
- Once you have identified an employer with whom you wish to Co-op, you will need to submit in person or by email a copy of your employment offer letter that must include: a) description of the position; b) the duration of the position (start and end dates for each rotation); c) salary; d) name and contact information for your on-site supervisor; e) a statement that the position is full time (any job stating that it involves 32-40 hours of your time per week will be considered full-time).
Once all of these steps have been completed, Alka Singh will work to confirm that they have all necessary documentation, and will enroll you in a one credit Co-op course entitled INFSCI 2982 Information Science Cooperative Program (Graduate IS) or TELCOM 2982 Telecommunications Cooperative Program (Graduate TELE). The fee for this course is $325 plus the safety and transportation fee, activity fee and prorated computer fee.
- Registration in INFSCI 2982 for MSIS or TELCOM 2982 for MST will designate you as a full-time student at the University of Pittsburgh while on Co-op. Students on Co-op do not pay the standard University resident or non-resident per-credit charges; the Co-op registration fee outlined above substitutes instead. University tuition charges can be found at: https://ir.pitt.edu/graduate-tuition/
- Upon completion of the Co-op rotation, students must submit their report to Dr. Abdelhakim (see deliverables section below for details). If a satisfactory grade is warranted for this submission, the student will be assigned an “S” grade and allowed to complete additional authorized work experiences in the future.
Students must apply to the Co-op Program prior to the start of the term in which their rotation will take place, and they must be registered for the Co-op credit by no later than the end of add/drop for the given term.
Students on Co-op assignment are still responsible for getting themselves registered for classes in the term following their Co-op term.
For more information, see the Cooperative Education Home Page. If you are interested in the Co-op program, your first point of contact should be the SCI Co-op Coordinator, not your advisor or the Co-op faculty reviewer.
In addition to receiving an “S” grade for each Co-op rotation upon successful completion of the on-site work (as defined by your site supervisor), students must:
|Co-Op Term||Paper Deadline|
|Fall||Please contact Co-Op supervisor for information|
|Spring||Please contact Co-Op supervisor for information|
|Summer||Please contact Co-Op supervisor for information|
- Complete a 4-5 page paper as the final requirement and submit this to the appropriate Co-op Faculty Reviewer by the appropriate deadline indicated as follows:
- The topic should be an examination / explanation of your co-op both from a technical point of view (projects you did, things you learned, etc) and from an experiential point of view (workplace issues, organization, etc).
- Please use a standard format (.doc, .docx, .pdf) and submit via email to Dr. Abdelhakim.
- Complete a 1-page summary of their work experience both to the SCI Co-op Coordinator and to their academic advisor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to most of your questions can be found by reading the graduate SCI Co-op Handbook, which is used by Computer Science, Telecommunications, and Information Science. However, answers to the most common questions asked about Co-op are also as follows:
What work hour and duration criteria must I satisfy for the experience to be allowed as a Co-op experience?
a minimum of 1 rotations, a maximum of 2 rotations
a minimum of 32 hours per week and a maximum of 40 hours per week
15 weeks is preferred per rotation, no less than 12 weeks per rotation is allowed
Can I participate in Co-op in my final term of study?
No – students cannot graduate in a co-op semester.
Can I telecommute?
No – the experience must be at the employer’s physical location; if the work environment is dispersed across multiple locations, the student must work at the physical location of the on-site supervisor.
Am I able to take classes while I am on a work rotation?
No you may not take classes while on a work rotation.
What is the difference between Co-op and a practicum?
Co-op has to be at least one semester of full-time experience and would only be counted for 1 credit that does not directly apply towards academic degree requirements (meaning this would be in addition to your required 36 credits for MSIS or the 37 credits required for MST); it is a structured and documented outside of the classroom practical experience that is an officially encouraged educational enhancement to a student’s degree program. This differs from the practicum in that the practicum: a) is a 3-credit practical experience with a strong academic component that directly applies to degree requirements, b) does not have to be paid, and c) does not have to be with an employer with whom we have a formal Co-op relationship. The SCI Co-op Coordinator can help employers new to working with SCI students determine whether or not a formal relationship can be defined. If the employer cannot develop a formal Co-op relationship, the student cannot take the experience as a Co-op experience.
Can I switch an experience from Co-op to internship or internship to Co-op?
No – this determination must be made in advance of any work done for the employer; once you have committed to a Co-op with an employer, your experience with that employer must remain a Co-op experience. If you have committed to an internship with an employer, your experience with that employer must remain an internship.
If I am an international student studying in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, what work authorization issues do I need to consider?
- Co-op registration must be designated as full-time.
- The work must be related to the degree.
- Work authorization can be achieved as CPT or pre-completion OPT, but CPT is most common. However, please note that CPT authorization cannot extend beyond 12 months or OPT is negated.
Internship Approval Guidelines
- Students must have taken at least five information science courses
- Have consent and approval of the Internship Coordinator
- Complete the Undergrad Internship Application Form
- Have your employer complete the Employer Internship Agreement Form (send them this link)
- Once you have completed both the Undergrad Internship Application and the Employer Internship Agreement, you will need to request a permission code for the class using the SCI Permission Code System
- Only one INFSCI internship will count for credit as an INFSCI capstone class requirement. Students who wish to complete a second INFSCI internship must contact their INFSCI advisor.
Student Performance Assessment
- Students will be awarded 3 credits for a successfully completed internship
- Students will not receive a letter grade for an internship (S/NC); this course will not affect students’ QPA
- Students are required to submit two reports during their internships – one in the middle of the term and another one during finals week.
- At the midpoint of the term, students must complete the INFSCI 1085 Internship Report.
- At the end of the internship period, students must complete a final INFSCI 1085 Internship Report.
- At the end of the term, send your employer the Employer Internship Evaluation form (send them this link).
Internship Position Requirements
- Internships can be paid or unpaid
- minimum of 180 hours of work per semester
- Must complete the internship in the term when you are registered for INFSCI 1085
- Work duties/positions must be directly related to the information science and technology fields. Some examples of acceptable positions are:
- Programmer / web developer / application developer
- Database administrator
- Data analyst
- Business analyst
- Project manager
- Web designer
- Technical liaison
- Quality assurance/systems testing
- The following duties/positions will not be accepted as valid internship positions:
- Data entry
- Document scanning
- Help desk triage
- Customer service
For more information about internships, please contact:
Director of Experiential Learning
Room 507, Information Science Building