handshakeEnhance your classroom learning with work experiences

While Rose-Hulman does not require students to complete an internship or co-op experience, we certainly do recommend it. Not only does the experience allow you to apply your classroom knowledge to real projects, it also gives you a leg up on the competition when you seek your first job upon graduation. You do not receive academic credit for an internship or co-op job, but employers do pay you well.

What's the difference between an internship and a co-op experience? An internship happens during your summer break, while a co-op experience occurs during the academic year. Most people who participate in a co-op take a break from the classroom so they can work full-time.

Whether you do an internship or co-op, it's important to develop a professional strategy

We suggest you establish learning objectives which specify the significant and appropriate learning expected to result from your work experience. A successful experience is determined by the outcomes of the experience, not the experience alone. Objectives are shown to be most effective if the supervisor and student employee discuss them face to face.

Goal setting is essential to gaining control of the learning process. Management by objectives is an important professional strategy. By creating learning objectives you can then direct your experiences in such a way as to more certainly create specific outcomes. Self-direction and self-evaluation are the means for professional development.

Remember that a learning objective is a result or an outcome you wish to accomplish. It is not a statement of what you will do but what you hope to learn while doing assigned tasks. 

The following are categories of learning objectives that can be considered:

Knowledge to be acquired:

  • Relevant to your major (i.e., theories, practices)
  • Relevant to a particular business, industry or operational function
  • Relevant to career development

Skills to be developed (both intellectual and functional):

  • Analytical skills relevant to your academic major
  • Operational skills relevant to particular functions required in the co-op assignment
  • Interpersonal skills relevant to interaction for successful on-the-job performance

Problems to be solved:

  • Solutions pertinent to your academic major, work assignment or personal interests.

Values to be clarified:

  • Relevant to your academic program, personal development (personality, performance, confidence, etc.) and/or career exploration and development of professional goals.

Writing Your Learning Objectives:

We have an optional form that is a guide that can help you write learning objectives for your experience. Even though this is an optional form, it is a good tool to help guide conversations with your new supervisor during the beginning of your co-op experience. It can also be helpful in allowing you to articulate personal goals that you have while learning about expectations the employer might already have.

When writing learning objectives, make them SMART - Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely. For each one, include an outcome measure (how you know you achieved your learning objective) and a list of action-steps (how you will get there) with timelines for completion.