Student Professional Development Center

What is Cooperative Education

Cooperative Education (Co-op) as the name implies, is education based upon a cooperative arrangement by the university and employers to provide practical and academically relevant work experience for students. Cooperative education combines classroom study with related employment and is based on the principle that learning works best when academic achievement is combined with practical experience.

Elon University’s co-op program is an academic program taught by the Director of Experiential Education and the Director of Internships.  The program is designed for students who want to explore career options, and for students who may have already experienced an internship in their majors/minors, yet want more work opportunities where they can learn and earn academic credit.  Employers have said that students who have more than one internship experience are more marketable for graduate schools and future employment, and co-op can provide students with those opportunities.

Cooperative Education Requirements & Courses

How does the Co-op Program Work

The Co-op program is a credit bearing experience that prepares students to connect their academic work with the world of work.  Students collaborate with their co-op site supervisor to develop strong goals and objectives to be achieved during the work period. 

Prior to the work experiences, a director prepares students for their professional experiences and discusses academic assignments which will facilitate the learning.  Students are awarded academic credit once they have completed the academic assignments as stated in the syllabus.  The co-op program satisfies the experiential learning requirement and is noted on the academic transcript and the Elon Experiences Transcript.

Who is eligible for the Co-op Program

Sophomore (by permission), Junior or Senior
2.0 minimum GPA
Completion of departmental prerequisites
Retroactive work experiences do not qualify for co-op
Approval of the Co-op Director
For an appointment call: 336-278-6538.  Office location: SPDC:  Career Services, Moseley, 140.
Credit Hours Awarded
Students must work a minimum of 40 hours for every credit received during the term.  Students may co-op more than once. Students will receive elective credits only (not in their majors/minors.). The experience could relate to the student’s major/minor, but more often it is a career exploration experience. Students may co-op during any semester and the co-op is included in students’ full-time tuition.  A co-op is a regular course for credit, taught by the director, with a letter grade.  Regular tuition charges apply.

The Co-op Syllabus

Students complete academic assignments that help them deepen the learning at the work site.  The academic assignments will help them synthesize what they have learned in the classroom as it relates to their work experience.

Sample Timeline

  • First, students meet with the co-op director to establish co-op program eligibility requirements.
  • During the meeting, students are presented with a syllabus, and the director will explain each assignment in the syllabus.
  • Students will learn the importance of establishing strong goals and objectives with their work site supervisor for the co-op term.
  • Students will meet with their site supervisor for two formal feedback sessions, documented with provided evaluation forms. 

During the co-op term, students must journal their experiences. The syllabus provides students with guidelines on how to write an effective journal entry.
Toward the end of the term, students are required to write a reflection paper, based on the reflection guidelines.  Students must also submit a signed timesheet that verifies the hours they completed at the work site, and the goals and objectives document that indicates progress with the agreed objectives. Students will meet with their site supervisors several times during the term to receive valuable and documented job performance feedback.
When possible, site visits may be done by the co-op director.
Academic assignments are sometimes customized to fit the work experience, and
are based on the number of credits students plan to receive.

How Students are Evaluated and Graded

Academic credit is awarded for the learning gained during the work period.  Grading standards are as high in the off-campus “laboratory” as they are in the on-campus classroom. Students are evaluated on two levels – their performance on the job (10-20%) and their reflection upon that experience (80-90%).  A letter grade will be assigned for a co-op work experience only after academic assignments have been completed accurately and submitted.  Late, incomplete or missing objectives, poor final evaluations, and incomplete time/wage form will affect final grades.

Learning theorists point to the conclusion that practical experiences, coupled with continuous feedback and reflection are necessary components in a complete cycle of learning. 

Students must understand the importance of compliance between the employer and Elon University.

Students who require legal documents for the organization where they co-op/intern, must pay for internship credit tuition.  A credit letter will not be sent to site supervisors until students have registered and paid for co-op/internship credits.  Students who do not comply with this process are not eligible to report to the work site, and will not receive academic credit.  Also, students who register for co-op may not drop the course without permission of the co-op director.  Failure to turn in co-op academic assignments will result in a letter grade of F. 

Students who need a legal document sent to the work site are required to sign an agreement which states that they understand the compliance process. 


A co-op/internship is a regular course for credit, taught by faculty, with a letter grade.  Regular tuition charges apply.

If you would like to find out if your potential work site could count for co-op elective credit, contact SPDC: Career Services.  Ask for an appointment with Pam Brumbaugh, Director of Experiential Education/Co-op or Debby Wall, Director of Internships/Co-op at 336-278-6538. 

careerservices@elon.edu / Moseley Center, Room 140 / 336.278.6538 / Open Weekdays 8-5 p.m.