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FAQ for Practicums and Internships

by linnm37 — last modified Aug 01, 2017 01:01 PM

What is the difference between Practicum and Internship?

Practicum is a three-credit  individual project-based course. You write a project proposal, carry out the project, and report on your progress throughout, under appropriate supervision. Typical projects include assisting faculty with research, and faculty-supervised work on large software projects. The Internship course allows you to earn three credits for work experience in a professional environment. Significant training and/or mentoring must occur.

What are the prerequisites?

Both courses are restricted to students who have completed 75 credits. You must also have completed at least six credits of upper-level CS courses (300 or 400 level) and  have completed IS 208.

How do I enroll in Practicum or Internship?

Talk to the CS faculty member serving as the Practicum/Internship coordinator. For an internship, you need to complete the application form and get a letter describing the internship duties and responsibilities from your employer. For a practicum, you need to complete the application form and write a project proposal in collaboration with your CS faculty supervisor.

Upon approval of your application, the Practicum/Internship coordinator will enroll you in the appropriate course.

Can I do a Practicum or Internship in the summer?

Both courses are offered every fall, spring, and summer semester. Students can register for an internship or practicum in the summer ONLY if they are going to graduate that summer. As a favor, the department lets students work on a practicum or internship in the summer and sign up for credit during the subsequent fall semester in order to avoid paying summer tuition. Note that you must always have your practicum or internship approved BEFORE you begin.

The deadline for approval of a Computer Science internship or practicum for the Fall or Spring semester is generally two weeks after the start of that semester. The deadline for a Summer internship is set by the internship/practicum coordinator. You should contact the coordinator by email to find out when that is.

Finally, remember that you must complete INT 208 BEFORE you do your on-site internship employment or practicum.

When is the Practicum or Internship over?

The courses are officially seventeen weeks long during the fall and spring semesters. This means you have until the end of the interim period to complete the work. Your grade will not be recorded until the end of the interim period. Failure to turn in reports and/or complete your oral presentation may result in failing grades..

What if my practicum project gets behind schedule?

At the end of the semester your practicum supervisor will evaluate your work based on how well you met the goals and milestones in the project description you wrote. That evaluation may reflect how circumstances and goals changed during the project.   Such changes are taken into account at the discretion of the practicum supervisor, who is the "domain expert" in your research area.   The practicum/internship coordinator will communicate with the practicum supervisor to determine exactly how the supervisor feels the changing circumstances should affect that portion of the course grade that is determined by the practicum supervisor.

Who are the Practicum/Internship coordinator and supervisor and what are their roles?

The coordinator is the faculty member who acts as the "administrator" for all the students enrolled in CS 399 and CS 490.   The coordinator will be a faculty member in the Computer Science Department and is listed on TitanWeb as the "instructor" for CS 399 and CS 490.   The coordinator will grade all the reports you write and the oral presentation you are required to give.   The coordinator is not the domain expert in the area in which you are doing your practicum or internship.   That domain expert is the supervisor and will typically be your mentor at the interning organization if you are doing an internship or a Computer Science faculty member if you are doing a practicum.   The supervisor will be the one who evaluates your work from the perspective of the domain expert in the field you have chosen for your internship or practicum.   The supervisor will report that evaluation to the coordinator using the online form that can be previewed here.   The coordinator will then assign a grade for the course based on the combination of reports/presentation and supervisor's evaluation.

How do I find a practicum project?

Practicum projects are intended to be small scale research projects. Look back on the 300-level courses that you have taken. Which was your favorite? How could you take what you learned in that course and do a project based on this material? Talk to the CS faculty member who taught that course for ideas. Also talk to CS faculty members about assisting them in their research projects. Finally, discuss your own project idea with CS faculty members to see if it qualifies as a practicum, and if they might be willing to supervise it.

How do I find an internship?

Check for internship opportunities at the Career Services office -- check the internship information they have posted on the Career Services web site. Attend the job fairs sponsored by Career Services. Talk to the people at the university's Business Success Center about opportunities they may have for Computer Science students.

What communication-oriented assignments are required?

Both Practicum and Internship are courses that emphasize your ability to communicate. One half of your semester grade is based on the communication skills you demonstrate in written reports and oral presentation.

How long should the reports be? How should reports be organized?

You will do one or more reports during the semester with due dates established by the practicum/internship coordinator.  Because you are writing these reports in a senior-level capstone experience, these reports are coordinated to help us evaluate how successful you have been in attaining our student learning outcomes. The particular details of the reports will be communicated to you by the practicum/internship coordinator at the beginning of the semester in which you are enrolled in practicum/internship.

It is the responsibility of the student to turn the reports in on time.   A grade reduction penalty, or even a failing grade,  will be imposed if they are submitted late

Do I have to do an oral presentation?

All Practicum and Internship students must present a summary of their experience to the CS faculty and students in person.

What should I talk about in my oral presentation?

Your oral presentation will be scheduled for a 20-minute time slot. Your formal presentation should last 15 minutes, and you should allow 5 minutes to answer questions. Don't make your presentation overly technical. Your audience will be composed of computer science instructors and students.

Start by providing the background leading up to your project. If it is a practicum, what motivated you to choose this topic? If it is an internship, what kind of company are you working for and what specific needs did they want addressed by your project? Then provide an overview of the design of the software you wrote for your project. If it was one large program, what was its underlying structure? If the development was object-oriented, describe the key classes and how they interacted. If the software you wrote consisted of several smaller applications, describe any unifying relationships between them. For example, did they have to coordinate their access to the same database? How were they all related to the original goals of your project? Finally indicate to your audience the greatest challenges you faced in your project and how you overcame them.

Should I sign a contract with my employer?

It is standard for employers to protect their intellectual property with non-disclosure agreements. Be aware that you still have to do an oral presentation and write a report so you must be able to disclose a reasonable amount of information about your project.

However you should not sign a contract with your employer that in any way guarantees the completion, delivery, and/or installation of a specific software system for the employer.  Software contracts are problematic even for professional consultants and software firms. A large percentage of professional software projects go over budget and get behind schedule. As a Internship student you are gaining practical experience, not acting as a professional consultant. Both you and your employer should understand that this is a learning experience.

by linnm37 — last modified Aug 01, 2017 01:01 PM
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