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Are Student Practicums Practical? The Practicum Experience in Online Courses

written by: Sarah Malburg•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 12/6/2011

If you are a prospective online student wanting to enroll in a program that involves a practicum experience, internship or clinical work, then you may be wondering how this would work. Read on to find out the field study options that are offered through online coursework.

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    How's This Going to Work?

    There is often a lot of skepticism revolving around the topic of online learning. Many questions often arise like, "Are these programs legit?", "Can you seriously get a Ph.D. online?" or "Will employers take your online credentials seriously?" These are all good questions and they all have one common answer, "It depends." If you attend a fully accredited online university, with a quality and certified program, then you should have no worries.

    Even still, when it comes to applying for an online degree, there might be one question in the back of your mind if you are interested in becoming a teacher or maybe even a counselor....

    "How can I complete the required practicum experience, clinical field work, and/or internship that is part of my online coursework?"

    Many online universities make the answer do this question easy for you...YES! It is certainly possible and can be done. Here you will find a couple of examples of programs that require you to participate in practicum experience, field work, and internships that will also allow you to complete them from your home town.

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    Western Governors University-B.A. in Science Education Grade 5-9

    Many of the online bachelors programs at Western Governors University require some type of student teaching, or demonstration teaching as they like to call it. Prior to this student teaching experience you will be required to complete all of the other online coursework or assessments involved in the program and you will then meet with your online mentor to discuss your assessment results and status. This "qualifies" you in a sense then to be ready for the hands-on classroom experience. You can now begin your student teaching practicum. Here's how it works from a distance:

    This is a supervised in-classroom teaching experience lasting anywhere from 12-20 weeks, depending on your placement and is considered a full-time practicum. WGU will ask you to decide which local districts you would like to hold your practicum at. The university will then work with the "host" teacher at one of these consenting districts. You will be observed by the host teacher and what they call a Clinical Supervisor (a veteran educator) where they will evaluate your teaching performance and lesson instruction in 6 weekly visits. This supervisor will then report to your achievements and assessment results to WGU.

    Completion of this portion of the bachelors program, will quality you to take the next step in receiving your state licensure and certification.

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    Walden University- M.S. in Mental Health Counseling

    There are two major field experiences in this degree program. These include a practicum, an internship, with a required 100 hours of clinical experience for the practicum and 900 hours for the internship.

    For your practicum, Walden will help you choose a local site for you to practice client care and you will then be observed by a supervising professional in the field.

    There are several places you can do your practicum at. These include: mental health centers, hospitals, college counseling centers, social service agencies, and of course private practices as well. The site you choose, however, must be approved by Walden prior to the start of your field work and you are report back and discusses cases with the school's practicum faculty twice a week.

    The internship works in a similar manner, except that it is a longer field experience. You are to demonstrate all off the knowledge obtained in your online coursework and put it into practice. You will be observed and evaluated by a licensed mental health practitioner Walden's field experience coordinator will work with you to determine which site will be best suitable for you and your interests. This coordinator acts as your "academic advisor" and will be the mediator between the supervising practitioner and the internship faculty at the school. You will be assessed on your application of skills and interaction with your clients and evaluation of their cases.

    In addition to these field experiences, there are two 6-day residencies, where on campus attendance is required that focuses on more in-depth training and preparation for the field as well as peer and faculty interaction. The first of these involves workshops and is a prerequisite for the practicum and the internship. The second involves individual sessions and a 10 hour group session.

    If you are interested in becoming an online student in the field of education or health care, there are options for field experiences or practicum experiences prior to graduation. It is possible to fulfill the requirements of online coursework in the same manner as traditional coursework, but at more of a convenience for you!