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Receiving Credits for Internships

The EPC serves as the body which approves the criteria for awarding credits for internships.

Credit-bearing undergraduate research courses have a long history at W&M. A standard model for credit-bearing internships that meets accreditation requirements is less well defined. To establish a consistent framework for credit-bearing internships at W&M, the EPC Working Group on Internships researched policies and standards at SCHEV peer group institutions as well as Commonwealth universities. We then articulated a set of core values and guiding principles that informed the development of a standard model for credit-bearing undergraduate internship courses.

Most institutions of higher education in the US use the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) definition of internship:

"An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent." [emphasis added]

Undergraduate research is another common form of applied learning on the W&M campus. The Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines undergraduate research:

"Undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry is fundamentally a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. With an emphasis on process, CUR defines undergraduate research as: A mentored investigation or creative inquiry conducted by undergraduates that seeks to makescholarly or artistic contribution to knowledge." [emphasis added]

Both types of applied learning feature student skill building, broadly defined. The key differentiating features are that internships occur in a professional setting and include making connections in a professional field while undergraduate research makes a scholarly or artistic contribution to knowledge.

The EPC has established the following guidelines for undergraduate, credit-bearing internship courses:

For a 3-credit internship course:
  • In order to enroll in the course, students must complete a minimum of 90 internship hours and be approved by the unit prior to beginning the internship.
  • Students must complete a substantive final product as part of their coursework. This product must integrate the internship experience with a scholarly component in some way; products that are solely reflective or solely academic (e.g. a literature review) do not fulfill this requirement. This final product could take the form of a paper, presentation, reflection assignment within a pedagogical framework, or any other form determined to be acceptable by individual units.
  •  All internship courses must meet the academic credit hour policy, which requires 135 hours of student engagement for a 3-credit course. Courses must additionally adhere to the following standards:
    • No more than 120 internship hours may be counted towards the 135 hours of student engagement.
    • At least 3 hours must be in the form of direct faculty instruction, with best practice defined as in-person or synchronous.
    • At least 12 hours must be in the form of independent student work outside of internship or classroom settings. Examples of independent student work include but are not limited to scholarly research for the final product, academic readings, and reflection work within a pedagogical framework.

The engagement hour totals enumerated above for a 3-credit course can be scaled up (e.g., for a 6-credit course) or down (e.g., for a 1- or 2-credit course). For example, a 1-credit internship course would require students to complete a minimum of 30 internship hours. No more than 40 internship hours could be counted towards the 45 hours of student engagement. Minimums of 1 faculty contact hour and 4 hours of independent student work would apply.

Best practice in undergraduate credit-bearing internship courses would also require internship supervisors to complete an assessment of the student’s internship experience and students to engage in critical reflection.

The standards articulated above are minimum requirements. Units retain the autonomy to impose additional standards for student course entry, hours of faculty contact, and/or hours of independent student work.

No more than six credits in internship courses may be applied to the 120 credits required for graduation.