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Cooperative Education and Internships - Faculty Guide



Introduction | Definition | Qualifications | Faculty Role/Information | Learning Agreement | Career Services Role | Summary


Background | Impact | Benefits | Cooperative Education Overview | Unique Student Circumstances | Enrollment and Registration | Program Promotion | Additional Information



This guide is intended to acquaint faculty with the operations and procedures of Central Washington University's Cooperative Education Program. We welcome your participation and look forward to working with you toward the goal of providing a quality Cooperative Education Experience for every student who wants this experience.

It is the purpose of this guide to serve as a foundation to the development of a quality cooperative education program within an academic department. A successful program lies in understanding the co-op program and in establishing effective processes and criteria at the department level. It is hoped that you will find this guide successful in addressing these and that you will feel confident and better prepared to establish or improve the co-op program in your department.

This guide is divided into three sections including an Appendix. It is recommended that you read the whole guide, parts A and B, before proceeding with developing your own co-op program.

Part A is a brief step by step guide to factors that impact the development of a quality program within an academic unit. Part B is information about cooperative education that will enrich your understanding of the program and add dimension to your vision for co-op in your unit as well as the impact and effect of co-op in the larger sense. The Appendix includes copies of the forms that are regularly used in the administration of cooperative education, our policy statement, a grading guide, and other information.



Cooperative Education (Co-op) is an educational plan designed to integrate classroom study with planned, supervised, and evaluated work experience that links the academic program with students' career goals and interests. It offers undergraduate and graduate students a unique opportunity to combine career, social, and personal growth with the educational process.

The Cooperative Education work experience may be full- or part-time, on- or off-campus, and paid or unpaid. Central's program uses the terms "cooperative education" and "internship" almost interchangeably. We consider a paid or compensated position as co-op and any uncompensated experience as an internship. The supervisory relationship with the employer is essentially the same. We strongly prefer paid positions for all our students. However, many social service and nonprofit agencies are unable to provide compensation. Other employers and experiences in certain fields require license or certification before wages can be paid.



Qualifications for Student Enrollment in Co-op

To participate in Cooperative Education, the student must meet the following minimum requirements:
  1. A first year student should complete at least forty-five credits at CWU before enrolling in Cooperative Education. A transfer student should complete at least fifteen credits at CWU and have a total of forty-five credits, including transfer credits, before enrolling in Cooperative Education. Under extraordinary conditions these requirements may be flexed.
  2. To be eligible for enrollment in the 490 level course, the student should complete a minimum of ninety total credit hours with ten or more credits in his or her major. Departments may have additional requirements for this level of experience.
  3. Student must be in good standing with at least a 2.0 gpa and no fines or fees outstanding.
  4. The student must complete a formal Learning Agreement with a learning plan that contains relevant objectives and activities.
  5. The student must submit a completed Learning Agreement form to Career Services to complete the registration process.

What Qualifies as a Cooperative Education Experience

To qualify as a cooperative education/internship experience the following five essential elements must be present:
  1. Hands-on work with increasing levels of responsibility for the student.
  2. The work experience should challenge the student sufficiently to be worthy of university level credit.
  3. There is coordination and supervision of the student by the faculty.
  4. There is a means of evaluating the student.
  5. The work relates to the student's academic major and/or career goal.

Further, the department must determine what is expected of a work experience for students in the major or specialization. Are there certain classes you would consider required to qualify for co-op? Is there a specific process you would want the student to follow before securing a co-op employer? Such things as faculty advisor approval before applying for a co-op position, attending workshops or seminars related to employment or the co-op program are common processes for students.


Identification of Employers and Co-op/Internship Positions

Employers regularly send announcements of cooperative education and internship positions to the CS office. These announcements are prepared in a standard format and sent to all academic departments appropriate for the position. Departments are urged to post and/or circulate copies of the announcements to all faculty to announce in their classes. Faculty announcements are a key way students learn of positions available for co-op experiences. All position announcements are available for students to review in the Career Services office in Bouillon 206. Additional information related to the job or the employer may be available also. Many announcements suggest students contact CS for more information.

Many of the best employers and experiences are gained through contacts faculty have in the profession. We encourage all faculty to consider the people they know in the field and contact them in the interest of developing a cooperative work experience for their students. You may also suggest employers to the CS cooperative education administrator to contact and develop co-op/internship opportunities.


Faculty Role/Information

Faculty Involvement

Administrative Responsibilities: The most successful co-op programs are coordinated by one key individual in the major or department. This person is most familiar with the expectations the department has for the students' experiences and other parameters for the program outlined in this guide. This person becomes the key contact for the Career Services co-op program administrator and will be contacted when outstanding positions come in or if any problems develop with any student's registration or experience.

Quality Control: The faculty coordinator reviews the students' Learning Agreements and helps them develop quality learning plans according to the expectations of the department. Learning Objectives and Activities must be appropriate to the position and the students' capabilities. The faculty coordinator also identifies appropriate methods for the student to document their learning to justify the university credits granted for the experience. The Cooperative Education Student Workbook (available in quantites for departments) is a guide to developing a quality Learning Plan and outlines methods of documentation.

Site Visits: The department's faculty coordinator may make employer site visits to support the student and validate the quality of the experience. Site visits include a visit with the student's employment supervisor to verify the student's performance and get feedback on the student's academic preparation for this experience. These visits help faculty and departments to develop an accurate perception of how their program prepares students for the career field and can be a source for information to incorporate into the curriculum to reflect cutting edge concepts, leadership, and emerging techniques in the field. Visits also solidify a relationship between employers and your department's co-op program and may open opportunities for research projects. When faculty are not able to make a site visit, the department may request a member of the CS staff to make the site visit in their place. A call to the CS office can arrange this.

Course Faculty: The faculty coordinator is the faculty of record for registration. The employer and student evaluations that are sent to CS at the end of each quarter. They are copied and sent to the faculty coordinator who reviews them, evaluates the students' academic reports and documentation, and issues the grade.

Awarding Credits: The university policy establishes a maximum of 12 credits per quarter and a maximum of 20 cooperative education credits to apply toward the degree. Summer quarter is considered as full session only due to the number of hours necessary to earn the credits.

Academic credits are determined under these university guidelines for cooperative education:

  1. One credit equals at least 40 hours of work. This includes estimated time to complete the academic requirements. (Journal, progress reports, term project, final report, etc.)
  2. The perceived level of challenge the position offers the student.
  3. The amount and kind of documentation that is assigned and the level of performance in those documentations. (Professional research report, significant professional document for the employer, etc.)

Above and beyond these guidelines, each academic department may define their own criteria that the students of that department must adhere to. The department may require more than 40 hours of work per credit or may require a particular type of documentation for the credits. The expectations of the department must be made clear to each student at the time of advising.

As you can see, the faculty coordinator has a major responsibility in the success of the program for the department as well as for each participating student. This time and effort should be recognized by the department in consideration of their workload.


Student Advising

Incorporating Cooperative Education in the Academic Curriculum: To be most effective, guidelines should be established for faculty to advise students regarding when and how to incorporate a co-op experience into their academic plan. The department must:
  1. Keep in mind the sequence of courses and any prerequisites faculty may determine are important to the co-op experience.
  2. Review the curriculum to determine guidelines for advisors and the best way to integrate a co-op experience in the program.
  3. Consider periods of greater activity for employers related to your department majors. These are the times employers are more likely to appreciate a co-op/intern student and when students are more likely to have bone fide professional level assignments and challenging learning experiences worthy of university credit.

The department must decide if credits will be applied to the major as a requirement or an elective or if they will be applied to the general university electives. You must also decide how many credits will be accepted for the different categories.

When a student has determined that they will participate in a co-op experience, they need to plan their search for an appropriate employer/position allowing adequate time to meet application deadlines that are sometimes six months, even a year in advance. This process is similar to any job search and is intended to help prepare them for their career employment search upon graduation.

When the employer has made the hiring selection, the student should communicate their decision to the Faculty Co-op Advisor immediately. Students who have applied for positions but were not selected should inform the Faculty Co-op Advisor and continue their search using all resources available in their academic department and Career Services.

In approving co-op positions, consider how the work experience complements and enriches the academic program and that there is sufficient learning within the field experience to justify awarding university credit.

Work Periods: Students may work full time, dedicating a full quarter to their co-op work experience. They may also work part time and attend classes on campus concurrently. Start and end dates for work experiences usually match the dates of the quarter. However, if the student and employer agree to start before and/or end after the quarter dates, the dates on the Learning Agreement should reflect that accurately.

Students need to be aware that if the ending date is after the end of the quarter an Incomplete (I) grade will be required. If the student is on financial aid, this could pose a problem if the Incomplete is not changed before the start of the next quarter. If the student is graduating, the degree would be withheld until the end of the next quarter. Students need to be aware of these possible complications.

The Co-op Job Search: Students need to be aware that some employers recruit in the fall and winter for their summer positions. Some employers or positions require extensive background checks that take six months or more. Students need to know the recruiting seasons for their desired employers or areas of interest. For more specific information on recruiting seasons and employers with early deadlines please contact, or suggest students contact the Career Services office.

Students may find positions posted in their department office, at the Career Services office, or at any of the Extended Center offices. All positions are now viewable through our home page: There are many resources in our library for positions and employers beyond those posted through our office. We encourage students to visit the Career Services office in Ellensburg in Bouillon 206 to use these resources.

Students may find a "regular" position that can double as a co-op experience if there is sufficient challenge and opportunity for learning that can justify university credit. Some students work with their current employer to offer new assignments or responsibilities that could qualify as a co-op experience. Decisions on whether the experience warrants university credit rest with the academic department and the coordinating faculty.


The Learning Agreement

The Learning Agreement is the document that generates registration. It is also the guide for student activity both academically and in employment. The Learning Plan must be reflective of specific achievable objectives supported with activities that relate directly to fulfilling these objectives. This can be used to nudge employers who are not providing quality, challenging experiences by referring them to the Learning Agreement. Without a quality Learning Plan there is no evidence of the type and quality of experience the employer agreed to at the beginning. Guidelines for developing quality Learning Plans are included in the Cooperative Education Student Workbook. (Quantities of the Workbook are available from CS upon request.) It is recommended that students use the Workbook for complete guidelines for writing their Learning Agreement. In addition, CS offers workshops on writing resumes and cover letters as well as applying for Cooperative Education, including completing the Learning Agreement. It is important that the students present themselves in the most effective and professional manner possible. The Learning Agreement is an official compact (similar to a contract) between the employer, the University, and the student. (See the Appendix for a copy of the Learning Agreement.)

Students may pick up the Learning Agreement in the CS office in Bouillon 206, the Extended Center offices, or at the academic department. We are happy to provide quantities of these to you upon request. It is also available through our home page at

The Faculty Co-op Advisor should not write the Learning Plan (Learning Objectives, Learning Activities, and Evaluation). This is a student responsibility and is part of the learning process. The Learning Agreement must be approved by the employer/supervisor, the student, the Faculty Co-op Advisor, department chair, and the Assistant Director of Career Services.


Career Services Role


Students are registered by staff in Career Services. Registration is done from the Learning Agreement after all signatures have been secured in the signature block on the back of the form. Registration deadlines are the same as for all other class registrations. Students are encouraged to submit their Learning Agreements early, prior to the start of the quarter to be assured that they will be registered in a timely fashion. Students on financial aid must have their registration completed before the quarter begins to be assured their award is not delayed. We welcome Learning Agreements at any time, even months before the quarter of the experience.

Students must plan to complete their Learning Agreement in a timely fashion to access the employer supervisor and university coordinators and administrators for signatures before registration. Occasionally, one or more of these individuals are difficult to contact for a signature which can jeopardize registration.

How Career Services Serves You

Career Services provides several services to faculty. In short, the key services for cooperative education include (an expanded discussion of each of these follows in section B of this guide):
  1. Student guides: the Employment Guide which addresses finding and applying for a co-op position; the Workbook which guides students through developing a quality Learning Agreement and tips on making the transition to the workplace. It is recommended that faculty have copies of these to support their students interested in participating in a co-op experience.
  2. Employer files: contain information on employers/organizations that participate as well as the position(s) that are posted, application forms, etc.
  3. Cooperative Education Data Base: a source for information on co-op participation. We can generate reports by major, by faculty, and/or by employer by quarter. Departments may request a report at any time for any period to review or document the activity of the students, faculty, or employers for a particular major.
  4. A Resource Room: for all positions that are currently posted, for a list of all employers by major who have participated in the past few years, and for directories that list positions available nation wide.
  5. A Clearinghouse: for all employers who would like to post a position or recruit students to apply for their co-op positions; a repository for all forms including the student Learning Agreements and the evaluation forms from employers and students; for policies and information on all career, cooperative education, and recruiting related activity.
  6. Site Visits: Career Services staff may make employer site visits for faculty upon request. You may ask us to visit all of your students on co-op experiences or specify certain students and employers you would like us to visit.
  7. Advising Support: Students may come to Career Services for advising support in finding or applying for a co-op position. We can work with you to assist students in their search for an appropriate employer and an appropriate position.
  8. Employer Development: We are continually identifying and contacting employers that appear to be a valuable addition to our participating employers. If you have an employer you would like us to contact or visit to develop a cooperative education position and relationship, please let us know.
  9. Workshops: Each quarter employment and cooperative education related workshops are scheduled for students to help prepare them for application, transition, and successful performance on the job.
  10. Trouble Shooting: To work with you, an employer, and/or a student if a placement or experience is not resulting in a positive cooperative experience. We can support your efforts in adjusting the experience or act as the lead to negotiate necessary changes to effect a quality experience for the student and employer.
  11. Quality Control: To maintain a high standard consistent with university policy and program procedures by monitoring Learning Agreements prior to registration and by selecting only those employers and positions that will yield a promising, valuable experience.
  12. Registration: Cooperative Education credits are registered through Career Services from the information on the Learning Agreement. Any changes or adjustments to the registration regarding faculty coordinator, number of credits, or grading system applied (S/U or letter grade) is done through CS.
  13. Learning Agreement Template: We can provide a copy of the Learning Agreement on a computer disk for use in your department office. A CS staff member will be pleased to train the appropriate department personnel on assisting students in using the merge document.

In Summary

With this basic overview of the program you should be ready to address these topics within your department. What is your definition for cooperative education? What do you require for a position to qualify as a co-op work experience? How will co-op be integrated into the curriculum? What guidelines will you establish for advising students regarding cooperative work experience and enrolling in cooperative education? Who will be the key coordinator of the program in your department? How will that person be recognized and compensated for this commitment? How will you determine the number of credits to award toward the major or for university electives? How will you identify preferred employers as participants in your co-op program? How will you use the services available from the Career Services office?

Career Services is here to support your efforts in the development of a quality co-op program. We are available to address faculty meetings or other group or personal sessions in your efforts to establish or improve your co-op program. Call us, we are glad to help.




The Cooperative Education Program at CWU has been in operation since 1972 as a campus wide program. Co-op currently functions as a program within the Career Services under the Student Affairs division and has approximately 700 students participating each year.

More than ever, employers are looking for related work experience as evidence of a student's initiative. Many employers prefer to hire someone who has participated in the company's own cooperative education (internship) program. Most of these employers have found that it cuts recruiting costs per student recruit and assures a better "fit" once a student accepts a full-time position upon graduation.

It is a mutually beneficial program for both the student and the employer. The student can gain much needed "on-the-job" work experience and can show the employer their competency level in various areas. The employer has the opportunity to look at the performance of the student without making any permanent employment commitment. With increasing expectations nationally among employers, cooperative education is important to qualifying for and leading to career employment.


Impact of Co-op On Students

Cooperative education and internship experiences affect the way learning takes place. Students ascribe new value to what is learned in the classroom because, either in principle or practice, students are applying learning to the test of a real job. The purpose of the program is to provide a comprehensive (theory blended with practice) educational experience for the student and to improve career opportunities upon graduation.

Benefits of the Cooperative Education Program

Benefits to The Faculty
  1. Provides opportunities for faculty to improve relationships with students.
  2. Provides opportunities for new research and articles for publication through employer contacts.
  3. Aids in gaining a favorable tenure and promotion recommendation.
  4. Supplies opportunities for bringing relevant outside speakers into classes, seminars, and special functions.
  5. Provides opportunities for professional and personal growth as institutional representatives with the employment community.
  6. Gives faculty opportunities for self-renewal and keeping current with innovations in their academic area.
  7. Presents opportunities for the faculty to review their curriculum and evaluate the general curriculum offered by the institution via employer contacts and student response.
  8. Creates opportunity for faculty to create consulting opportunities.
  9. Provides for a variety of faculty workload assignments (i.e., released time, career counseling and advising, etc.)
Benefits to The University
  1. Enlarged curriculum and learning facilities.
  2. Increased student interest and better retention of enrolled students.
  3. Enhanced opportunity for developing relevant objectives for the total college curriculum.
  4. Increased opportunity to fill immediate needs of the students and the community.
  5. Provisions for employer and community input to college administrators and faculty, impacting the public image of the university.
  6. Cooperative Education Programs help to recruit students more effectively.
  7. Students who participate in Cooperative Education work experiences do better academically than those who choose not to participate.
  8. The enhancement of university goals of excellence and professionalism for all participants.
  9. Cooperative Education moves a university toward more mutually productive interaction with business, social service agencies, government, and industry.
  10. Visibility and marketing of the University to external business constituents.
Benefits to The Student
  1. Cultivates increased motivation for classroom learning.
  2. Provides for specific preparation for employment in a career of his or her choice.
  3. Aids in the acquisition of skills and practical experience related to student's career objectives.
  4. Develops professional interaction and communication skills.
  5. Tests interests and abilities in connection with professional level jobs.
  6. Advances the establishment of good work habits and attitudes.
  7. Generates a learning environment that cannot be duplicated in the classroom or laboratory.
  8. Improves career decision making.
  9. Develops greater understanding of oneself and others.
  10. Increases the student's sense of responsibility, judgment, and self-confidence.
  11. Aids in discovering strengths and weaknesses.
  12. Develops success in making the transition from school-based learning to the world of work.
  13. Provides an improved understanding of human relations and leadership development.
  14. Direct contact with employers in the career field facilitates employment upon graduation. A large portion of the students who have participated in cooperative education work experiences receive job offers from their co-op employer. They interview more often, receive more second interviews and job offers with higher starting salaries than those who choose not to participate.
Benefits to The Employer
  1. Is a source of better trained personnel and improves the ability to screen selected personnel better.
  2. Provides a source of highly motivated personnel. Cooperative education students have often proven themselves as productive and more motivated than regular employees.
  3. Releases professionals from lower priority tasks, allowing professional time to be applied to higher level assignments.
  4. Facilitates entry level recruiting.
  5. Helps to reduce the hours required to train new personnel.
  6. Reduces young employee turnover.
  7. Improves the public image of the company by using university student employees.
  8. Is cost effective; employers often save on salary and benefits since these are interim positions (i.e., the employer is not required to pay unemployment compensation on co-op students and other insurance benefits are usually not offered to co-op student employees).
  9. Improves profits through highly trained and talented people.
  10. Source of quality, qualified temporary help during peak work periods.
Benefits to The Community
  1. Better informed and more productive young adult citizens.
  2. Increased awareness of employment opportunities, improved economic health, retention of young adults employed in the co-op employer's community after graduation.
  3. Greater cooperation and understanding between the university and employing community.
  4. Expanded buying power of employed young adults.


Cooperative Education Overview

Cooperative Education Courses

Cooperative Education courses are numbered 290, 490, and 590. Credits are variable and students may re-enroll for each level. Cooperative Education courses may be repeated with the same employer if learning objectives and activities are distinctly different from previous experiences.

Co-op 290 is intended for students who have not declared a major, are interested in career exploration, or otherwise do not qualify for the 490 level. Co-op 290 is offered for 1 to 5 credits with a maximum of 10 credits.

Co-op 490 allows 1 to 12 credits per experience with a maximum of 20 credits to apply toward graduation. The 490 level is specific to the major and students must qualify according to university and department requirements.

Co-op 590 is intended for graduate level students and 1 to 8 credits are allowed with a maximum of 8 applied toward a graduate degree (If doing a FS 590, please contact your department). Students at this level are usually on an "as arranged" basis with their advisor and their program outline.

A maximum of 10 co-op undergraduate credits may be accepted in transfer from another institution.


Co-op Employment Preparation

Faculty and departments may want to refer students to the Career Services office for individual advising or workshops on finding and successfully completing a co-op experience. We can assist with employer contact and application processes including developing effective resumes and cover letters, preparing for interviewing and professional follow through. We are also available for classroom programs tailored to the co-op process, employers and experience for your major.


Where to Find Co-op Employers

The University's Cooperative Education Program actively recruits and develops a broad base of employers so that Cooperative Education placements can be closely related to the student's academic and career interests. We welcome and encourage you to let us know of any employers you know who have a co-op/internship program or who you feel would be an asset to our employer data base for your major. There are many sources of co-op (internship) positions:
  1. Many companies, government and social service agencies have co-op and internship positions established and usually inform the University regularly of such positions.
  2. The Career Services staff continually contacts firms and agencies to develop positions appropriate for Central's majors and programs.
  3. Academic departments often contact firms and agencies which result in co-op positions for their students.
  4. CWU students, friends, parents, and alumni provide referrals for co-op employment.
  5. Publications are available in the Career Services office (Bouillon 206) that list and present information for every major both locally and nationwide.
  6. The Internet has a myriad of sites that have internship and cooperative education positions listed. Please refer students to our home page at for sites that have internship information.

University Disclaimer

Central Washington University's Cooperative Education Program will, upon employer request, make efforts to propose and refer acceptable candidates for a cooperative work position and will make available appropriate application materials. However, the final responsibility for interviewing, evaluating, and selecting a student employee rests entirely with the prospective employer. It should be understood that the University cannot guarantee co-op employment to every student who applies. It is the employer who will select the student who most closely meets their needs. Further, the University cannot assume any liability for actions taken by the student while on a co-op assignment.


Student Wages and Benefits

Compensation for the student's work rests with the judgment of the employer. Employers must be in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the minimum wage guidelines as outlined in the FLSA. Employers know the responsibilities they will be assigning the student and the quality of work that will be required. The rate of compensation should reflect these qualifications. The key is that the students are fairly compensated for work done. Most employers offer students a regular hourly rate. The average rate at CWU is nearly $7.30 per hour. Additional responsibilities of the employer include the legally required worker's compensation insurance (Labor & Industries), social security, and federal income tax withholding. There is no requirement for additional insurance or benefits (unemployment compensation, retirement, etc.) for the student.


Unpaid Positions

Those students who work in "unpaid" positions must do so under certain conditions defined by the FLSA. The criteria are:

  1. The training, even though it includes actual operation of the employer's facilities, is similar to training that would be given that would be given in a vocational school.
  2. The training is for the benefit of the student.
  3. The student does not displace regular employees, but works under the close ovservation of a regular employee.
  4. The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the student. Occasionally, the operations may actually be impeded by the training. For example, a Public Relations major working in a company that requires the student to spend a considerable amount of time completing office support activities (typing, filing, clerical) that a regular employee would be doing, that company would most likely be required to pay the student for that work.
  5. The student is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
  6. The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

Fair Labor Standards Act Guidelines for Unpaid Internships in the For-Profit Sector


Unique Student Circumstances

There are some unique circumstances which require the Faculty Co-op Advisor's understanding and patience. Remember, any student may be referred to the Career Services office at any time. It is our desire and purpose to support the faculty co-op advisors in their work with students interested in participating in the co-op program. The following examples illustrate situations the advisor may encounter.

  1. Unemployed Students: Students who have a more difficult time securing a co-op position will require more patience and guidance. You may reference these students to Career Services. We will help the student focus their attention with a review of their career goals, their qualifications, and their application materials as well as a review of the student's efforts in securing a work experience and make suggestions that will prove successful.
  2. International Students: With some companies, citizenship is a security clearance that is a requirement of the position. Cultural and language differences often make job adjustments difficult. Although there are employment barriers, every effort should be made to set up opportunities for employer contact with international students. Consider searching for opportunities in the students' home country or employment with organizations doing business with or in the home country.
  3. Academically Exceptional Students: Both the marginal and the gifted student may present cooperative work assignment problems in gaining employment. Both groups may have unduly high expectations. The marginal student may resist the fact that low grades may keep them off many interview schedules or consideration for positions. The gifted student may feel that their grades should automatically assure him or her of securing the best co-op jobs.
  4. Single Parent Families and Married Students: These students usually do not have the flexibility of location and hours required by some jobs. In addition, they sometimes have higher salary needs because of their family responsibilities, or may be working part-time, which could interfere with the cooperative work assignment. Local opportunities within the commuting distance of the University are sought and advanced for students who are geographically locked.
  5. Students Lacking Career Direction: Students with no idea of what type of career related employment they are seeking in the short- or long-term may have difficulty deciding which jobs or employers they should pursue. This problem is prevalent in the more abstract majors, such as social science, where role definition is more difficult. These students may lack career information, self-knowledge, or a sense of direction. Address these areas first in a counseling or advising conference or refer them to Career Services.
  6. Transfer Students: These students are sometimes in the difficult position of being advanced in terms of credits earned, but beginners in their major at CWU. They usually seek upper-level cooperative work positions, but seldom have the necessary course background or qualifications to compete successfully. They may also be new to the CWU's system, competing with peers who are experienced with the process. These students may need more complete guidance to participate in cooperative education.
  7. Students with Disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) prohibits all employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities* in job application procedures, selection for hiring, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. An individual with a disability is a person who: (a) Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (b) Has a record of impairment; or (c) Is regarded as having such an impairment.

As students with disabilities seek cooperative employment positions, faculty co-op advisors must be aware of and be able to break through attitudinal barriers students may encounter with employers. If necessary, such help and training is available through the University Disability Support Services Office or the County and State Departments of Vocational Rehabilitation. Career Services is also able to assist and support your efforts.

* A qualified individual with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question. Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to: (a) Making existing facilities used by employers readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; (b) Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position; and (c) Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters. An employer is required to make an accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. For more information on legal requirements and protections please contact the Disabled Student Services office or Career Services.

Remember, the Career Services office is here to support your work with any of these situations.


Enrollment and Registration

Enrollment in the Cooperative Education course is the student's responsibility and is done through Career Services in Bouillon 206. It is recommended that all students complete their learning agreements before the close of the quarter before they begin their work experience. This prevents difficulties students sometimes encounter in obtaining signatures, account holds, financial aid requirements, and the stress of registration deadlines. Registration must be completed before the end of "drop/add week." Faculty must decide which grading system is to be used (S-U or Letter Grade) prior to registration. Please attach a note to the Learning Agreement form if you are approving the letter grade system. If there is no note attached to the Learning Agreement, the student will automatically be registered under the S-U system.

There are certain situations where it is critical that students complete the Learning Agreement process before the start of the quarter and complete their co-op experience at the end of the quarter:

  • Any student on financial aid must follow the quarter dates carefully to prevent any suspension of funding.
  • Any student expecting to graduate at the close of their co-op experience quarter to be assured their degree will be issued as expected.

Please advise students of these critical situations to prevent these problems.


Awarding Academic Credit

The assumption that class-based learning and work-based learning should be linked together and be mutually reinforcing is a prime reason that academic credit is awarded for cooperative education experiences. Further, the work experience provides learning not available or possible in a classroom experience. The Faculty Co-op Advisor is responsible for the number of credits awarded and the grade each student receives for their co-op work experience.

The university has established a minimum of 40 hours of work for each credit earned. For example, a student seeking 12 credits will need to put in 480 clock hours. If they work 40 hours per week for 10 weeks, they will need an additional 8 hours per week to complete the academic requirements for a total of 480 hours. These additional hours may be earned through completing the academic requirements and documented on the Learning Agreement.

If a student is a few hours short of the total number of clock hours needed to obtain the credits requested, then the most important aspect for awarding the number of credits will be the quality of the Learning Agreement. Does the Learning Plan section of the Learning Agreement indicate that there are 12 credits of university level learning as indicated by the Learning Objectives and Activities? Are there enough Academic Requirements (Term paper/project, Log/Journal, Assigned Reading, Final Report, etc.) to justify the credits indicated? This is especially critical when a letter grade will be awarded.

It is recommended that the following be considered in developing the learning plan and in the awarding of credit:

  1. The student performs at predetermined levels of skill and competency and is reflected in the learning plan.
  2. The student relates the job experience to his or her college major and related learnings.
  3. The quality and level of challenge inherent in the experience must be evident. Menial and unchallenging tasks should not be awarded credit.
  4. The student has developed a quality Learning Plan with Learning Objectives, Activities and Evaluation Plan that reflect challenges appropriate for university level learning. The Learning Plan must show that the field experience is worthy of academic credit.


The S/U grading system is the grading system advocated for the vast majority of co-op work experiences. As an alternative, under special circumstances, and at the discretion of the Faculty Co-op Advisor (not the student), a letter grading system (A, B, C, D, F) can be incorporated into the program. When students are given the opportunity to work for a letter grade, they generally develop better learning plans with a higher standard of learning objectives and activities, have stronger work performance, and submit quality final (reflective) reports.

As in all academic situations, the Faculty Co-op Advisor has complete autonomy in determining the student's grade and should be prepared to defend their grade decisions.

Any or all of the following, in addition to whatever criteria is established in the department, may be considered in assessing the grade: quality of cover letter, resume, and learning agreement, term paper or project, journal or log, progress reports, assigned reading, final reflective report, and employer evaluation. We have recommended topics to include in the final reflective report in the student workbook. The workbook also includes a suggested format for the term paper, journal, and progress reports as well. Please refer to Appendix G, Grading Sheet for Cooperative Field Experience, for more detailed guidelines.


Program Promotion

The most effective way to draw students to your co-op program is through the academic advising process and in announcing related co-op positions to students in class and calling these opportunities to the attention of qualified students outside of class. Personal testimonials from students and faculty are the most effective forms of advertising. Information from you to students, employers, and other faculty members has a great deal of credibility. To promote Cooperative Education the following is suggested:

Mention and explain Cooperative Education to your students. That students are unaware of the co-op program is the most common reason students give for not participating. Remember that the Career Services staff can answer questions or help you or your students with the co-op process.

Take advantage of club, classroom, and seminar presentations to inform students within your department of the co-op program and co-op opportunities. Also, Career Services offers workshops and seminars on a scheduled basis throughout each quarter. These presentations are made by the unit staff and can be arranged for classroom and/or student club/organization meetings by contacting Career Services. Presentations can be tailored to your needs and available class time. Please contact CS if your department has not received a copy of the schedule for posting.

Announce current Cooperative Education job openings to your classes. Often a specific job announcement in your department's major classes generates interest in your Cooperative Education Program and may otherwise be overlooked by students already considering a co-op experience.

Advise students about how Cooperative Education work periods may fit into the department's curriculum. Help them plan a co-op quarter in their course sequence.

Finding and developing new job openings for Cooperative Education students is a continuous task for Career Services. Any assistance that faculty can give will be greatly appreciated. Here are some suggestions:

  • Provide possible job leads to students. If you give the Career Services office a company name, address, and contact person, the CS staff will follow-up with a letter and materials which introduce CWU's Cooperative Education Program to employers. Or, if you become aware of a job "lead" for department majors, post the position within the department immediately and notify us.
  • Ask other faculty within the department if they know of any job leads and relay them to your students. Many job leads can be discovered through faculty interaction.
  • Mention the importance/value of Cooperative Education to your contacts in business, industry, government, and social service agencies. Point out the benefits and advantages previously outlined in this guide and the Employer Guide to your employer contacts. Offer to have one of the Career Services staff contact them with information on the Cooperative Education Program.

Anything we can do to support your employers or that you can do to help us in the development of new employers is most welcome.


Additional Information

Travel Reimbursement For Expenses

Travel costs to internship sites is the responsibility of individual departments.


Forms and Reports

Procedural Forms:

  1. The Cooperative Education Learning Agreement form contains stipulations of student, employer, and Faculty Co-op Advisor roles, a Learning Plan with Learning Objectives, Learning Activities and an Evaluation plan. This form confirms the nature of each co-op experience, conformance with University policies and guidelines, and approval by designated individuals.
  2. The Position Available form is used to solicit and record position information of field experience opportunities available with various employers.
  3. The Position Announcement is distributed for posting whenever new co-op opportunities are available. The Position Announcement lists important application information such as a brief description of the position, appropriate majors, job duration, wage range, etc. The student should work through the identified contact person.
  4. Conditional Approval for co-op experience. This form is used occasionally to help speed registration for the Cooperative Education course while also alerting the student and the Faculty Co-op Advisor to any concerns which need additional attention. Registration must be handled in a timely fashion to prevent complications for all parties.
  5. Employer Evaluation of Student Performance. Toward the end of each co-op work experience this form is mailed to each employer to solicit evaluation and feedback on student performance and University programs.
  6. Student Evaluation of Cooperative Education. This form solicits evaluation responses from the student near the end of the co-op work experience.

Data Bank and Co-op Reports:

  1. The co-op program maintains a data base that provides a variety of reports on participation and activity in the co-op program. You may request these reports at any time or a custom report that will reflect the specific information you need.
  2. A listing of potential and current co-op employers by academic major. These are available in the Co-op resource room for student access and are updated quarterly.
  3. A list of students currently enrolled in a co-op experience reflecting the number of credits registered, the employer, and the coordinating academic advisor.
  4. A report of students who have enrolled in cooperative education for any quarter in the past.
  5. A report of faculty activity in cooperative education for any specified period.

Faculty and Staff Training and Development

Career Services staff can schedule a faculty seminar for your department so all faculty members can become acquainted and familiar with Cooperative Education, its philosophy, and its goals.

The seminars provide information and resources for maintaining program quality and integrity. The training emphasizes the following:

  1. The value and impact co-op can be to faculty and the department.
  2. How cooperative education can be integrated into department programs without undue burden on faculty or the department as a whole.
  3. How to help students develop learning objectives and learning outcomes for their work experiences.
  4. The academic structure of the co-op program and assessing the level of accomplishment students achieve from their co-op experience.
  5. Evaluating program success.

Please contact Career Services to plan/schedule a training session.

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