Professional Experience and Project (PEP) Course description
The PEP is intended to be a culminating, integrative experience, allowing the student to employ the knowledge gleaned from his/her coursework and, with creativity and professionalism, apply it to a real-world problem in a real-world setting. The student is expected to spend approximately 10 to 12 hours per week, across a full semester, conducting some piece of professional work above and beyond whatever obligations he or she might already have at some company or agency. This project involves not only “learning,” but also “doing”; the student will have true ownership of a project.
The iSchool strives to achieve as much consistency as possible across the various sections of the PEP course. Your instructor will serve as a facilitator, less a subject-matter expert and more an advisor to help you carry out this “industrial-strength” piece of work.
The student is encouraged to remember that he or she is representing the School of Information in this effort. That is, the quality of the work performed will not only reflect upon the excellence of the student, and thus inform his or her subsequent recommendations and affect his or her likelihood of subsequent employment, but also reflect upon the iSchool, as the field supervisor and subject company or agency consider sponsoring future capstones.
INF 388L - Professional Experience and Project
For the PEP, this course provides a means through which project proposals can be approved and progress monitored (and through which eventual credit will be assigned). This course facilitates information sharing regarding projects and preparation for the semester-ending poster session. It also provides a structure through which students can successfully complete the electronic portfolio requirement.
Students must have completed 27 hours of coursework AND be entering their final semester.
Types of Projects
There are few if any constraints on the types of projects that could qualify as a good PEP project.
The student is advised to look at what our recent graduates have done. These previous projects can make a good launching pad for what the student can choose to do now. There is an impressive breadth of creative PEPs completed in scores of different settings, as is evident in this archive of previous projects:
Students can search capstone projects that have been posted in the ‘Job Searching’ section of iCareers. The Contact Database in iCareers is a good place to find potential supervisors; consider viewing the alumni contacts first. Talk with the Career Services Director who has contacts at many local and national organizations.
Here are a few additional points regarding projects and host sites:
- Students may conduct a capstone where they already work, though we encourage breadth of experience. If a student conducts the PEP in a known location, he or she must conduct professional work above and beyond whatever obligations he or she might already have.
- If the host site, the company or agency, where the student conducts the project wishes to pay the student for this effort, that is acceptable.
- “Virtual capstones,” where the student conducts the work remotely from the host site, are acceptable.
- There is no particular, prescribed relationship between the PEP project and student’s previous coursework; students may opt to conduct a PEP that builds on completed courses, though again we encourage breadth of experience.
Submitting Capstone Proposals And Registering For Class
Students enrolled in any capstone courses must be concurrently enrolled in INF 181E, Electronic Portfolio.
The process of planning for and getting approval for capstone projects takes considerable time, effort, planning, coordination, and securing of two signatures:
- For the Professional Experience and Project, it requires the signatures of the field supervisor and the capstone course instructor.
To ensure adequate time for students’ preparation of proposals, the securing of field supervisors’ or faculty supervisors’ signatures, and the approval of proposals by the capstone instructor or the graduate advisor, these registration procedures will apply to the aggregated capstones:
- Students will enroll themselves in PEP and e-portfolio courses during pre-registration and/or registration before the semester begins.
- Students must submit completed proposals to the capstone course instructor for the next semester with the signature of their field supervisors NO LATER THAN THE LAST CLASS DAY OF THE SEMESTER PRECEDING THE CAPSTONE COURSE.
- In summer (that is, when submitting a proposal for fall), that deadline will be the last class day for nine-week courses.
- This deadline allows one month from the submission of completed proposals until class starts. See the table below. That month gives students and instructors time to review and, as necessary, revise proposals and projects.
- The capstone instructor will submit the approved proposals, with the appropriate unique numbers, to the graduate coordinator.
For example, here are the dates of the three contiguous semesters.
|Last day of class in previous semester||First day of class|
|Summer 2014||FRI 5/2||THURS 6/5|
|Fall 2014||TUES 7/29||WED 8/27|
|Spring 2015||FRI 12/5||TUES 1/20|
|Summer 2015||FRI 5/8||THURS 6/4|
One of the criteria the INF 388L instructor will consider when approving the project proposal will be the goodness of the match between the proposal and the student’s iSchool education and stated professional goals. There is more detail below under the section “PEP Requirements.”
The field supervisor need not be an expert in the student’s domain of interest, but he or she may not be a student and must be a professional capable of evaluating the contribution of the student’s project to the company or agency.
The student’s field supervisor must approve the completed capstone work for you to receive credit for the course.
It is to the student’s advantage to discuss this evaluation with the field supervisor at the beginning of the project. The student’s signed evaluation must be given to the instructor during class toward the end of the semester by a date established by the INF 388L instructor.
To receive credit for the PEP (INF 388L), the student must complete the following:
- Project proposal
- Letter of agreement.
- Some periodic updates to be specified by your instructor (e.g., biweekly status updates and project reflections via a course blog).
- Class attendance.
- Submission of poster abstract and participation in semester-ending poster session.
- Completed evaluation by field supervisor.
Each of these is described below.
Project Proposal and Letter of Agreement
The student’s proposal and letter of agreement must be approved by the last day of registration. These are separate documents.
When developing the proposal, the student should keep in mind that the PEP should involve approximately 125 hours of work and should be an independent, student-led project. While the student is free to take advantage of previous work done for the sponsoring organization, and to continue working on additional elements of the project after the PEP ends, the PEP should be structured so that it does not require more than 125 hours of work.
The PEP can comprise a component of a larger project, but the PEP itself should be a relatively discrete, self-contained piece of work. Remember that the point of the capstone is to be a culminating experience that synthesizes a variety of skills, knowledge, and expertise while showing that the student can lead an independent project. It should not be merely a means for the sponsoring organization to get 125 hours of free labor; that is, the student should not be performing routine tasks (e.g., stuffing envelopes, data entry) except as necessary for the accomplishment of the specified, larger, capstone goal.
The proposal should include:
- An overall description of the work to be performed;
- A set of work activities;
- A list of deliverables;
- A preliminary schedule;
- A set of learning objectives;
- Explication of how the project fits into the student’s education.
The proposal and letter of agreement are similar, except that the proposal is for the instructor and the letter is for the field supervisor. The letter constitutes the student’s contract with the field supervisor about what work the student will perform, what will be the deliverables, and by when they will be completed. It is to the student’s advantage to make the letter as explicit as possible and to describe what will happen should circumstances shift. (For example, the student might describe what he/she would do if it became impossible to conduct all of the planned stakeholder interviews.) The letter of agreement probably does not need as lengthy of a narrative description of the work as the proposal as the context is already known to the field supervisor. It should include the lists of deliverables, activities, and objectives, as well as a preliminary schedule. It should also clarify the working relationship: where the work will be performed, the manner of supervision, necessary equipment, means of evaluation, and so forth. The student will need to submit a signed letter of agreement to the 388L instructor.
The student may use the following samples to help prepare the proposal and letter of agreement. Be aware that they are just samples, not models to follow slavishly . The student will need to adapt them in a manner that suits the current project.
- Sample Proposal Coming Soon
- Sample Letter of Agreement (word)
One recent instructor required biweekly blog status updates and reflections, but that is just an example of the sort of update an instructor may require.
Because there are only four class sessions (plus the poster session) over the course of the semester, attendance is mandatory. The student missing class without negotiating the absence in advance with the instructor risks not getting credit. One of the classes will be with the Director of Career Services. The schedule of class meetings will be communicated via the course syllabus.
All capstone students (including those doing master’s reports and theses) must participate in the semester-ending poster session. This requires:
- Submission of a one-paragraph abstract of the project for the program.
- Preparation and printing of a poster to display and discuss at the session.
One class session will focus on the mechanics of poster preparation. A poster should provide a title and brief description of the project in a manner that can be easily grasped by people without expert knowledge of the information professions.
The student will not be evaluated on the content or visual design of his/her poster, only on its completion. Because potential employers, friends and family, and various members of the university and iSchool community attend the poster session, it is to the student’s advantage to present his/her work in a polished and professional manner.
Details for poster sessions attendance
The student should plan on having his/her poster printed by the day before the poster session. Toward the end of the semester a work space will be available on the fifth floor, in the "work study" space. Here, the student may affix his/her poster to foam core board with art gum and leave the mounted poster in this area. Note that this area is accessible only during business hours; after 5 p.m., the hallway doors automatically lock. iSchool staff will transport the posters downstairs on the day of the poster session.
Plan to arrive at 15 minutes early on the day of the poster session, typically the final class day of the semester, to get situated. Your mounted poster will be downstairs on an easel. Your assigned easel will be marked with your name.
The due date for submitting project information for the program will be communicated via the course syllabus. Please submit the requisite form (located here: Link) with the following information, via e-mail:
- Student name
- Project title
- Host institution
- Field supervisor
- Abstract (approximately 150 words, less is fine)
If the student has have a question that is not answered here, then please address it to the Graduate Advisor.