COVID-19 Off-Campus Experiential Learning (e.g. Internship) Protocols
The health and safety of faculty, staff and students is Western’s number one priority during the coronavirus pandemic. If a student does not feel safe continuing with an experiential learning activity, they should be encouraged to inform their faculty or staff advisor, and/or host site supervisor, of their concerns. Keeping a respectful, open dialogue will allow students, faculty or staff advisors, and host site supervisors to work together to help resolve student safety concerns regarding their experiential learning education.
Experiential Learning Defined
Experiential learning programs integrate the resources of the University with the resources of an off-campus host site in order to provide students with an opportunity to gain supervised practical experience by applying their classroom knowledge, theory, and skills. Experiential learning programs may include internships, applied learning, practica, service learning, student teaching, or similar kinds of off-campus student placements that satisfy a University requirement for academic credit or otherwise.
Experiential learning programs are not field courses or field trips involving student research in a natural environment under the supervision of University faculty or staff. And they are not on-campus research, scholarly or creative instruction (i.e. on-campus face-to-face instruction). There are separate COVID-19 protocols for these activities available here.
Supplements Existing Risk Management Protocols
This document, Western’s COVID-19 experiential learning (e.g. internship) protocols, is intended to supplement existing, general risk management protocols that may have been adopted by faculty or staff advisors as part of their normal planning and preparation for their students’ experiential learning education. Protocols for general risk management of experiential learning programs are available online at:
University Policy: POL-U2100.03-Managing the Risk of Off Campus Experiential Learning Programs
Host Site Evaluations
Generally, if a host site is still accepting our students, then internships, student teaching and other experiential learning that is currently in place may continue as planned.
Faculty or staff advisors commonly evaluate the acceptability of a host site for meeting the objectives of their department’s experiential learning program and a formal relationship with that host site is established. As a precaution, and if practical, advisors may wish to ask their host site supervisor what they are doing to protect their employees, clients and student interns from transmitting and contracting COVID-19. That information, and copies or links to any written policies and procedures, should be passed along to our students.
Students who are responsible for evaluating and selecting their own host site for their experiential learning activities may wish to ask their host site supervisor about COVID-19 protection measures as well. Students should request copies or links to any written policies and procedures for reference. Students should be instructed to weigh the risks and benefits and then make the best choice for the own health, safety and well-being, and notify their faculty or staff advisor of any concerns.
Students should be instructed to closely follow the COVID-19 policies and procedures of their host sites, including required prevention measures, screening for symptoms, personal protective equipment (e.g. face coverings or masks, disposable gloves and gowns), social distancing, and reporting when they feel sick or suspect they may have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Notwithstanding the above, host sites that are experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak should be avoided for the safety of our students. Requests for exceptions should be directed to Paul Mueller, Director of Risk, Compliance and Policy Services at x3065.
Students Can Help
Faculty and staff advisors should affirm with students the ways in which they can help protect themselves and others during their experiential learning activities:
- Closely follow Western’s and the host site’s COVID-19 policies and procedures.
- Always practice essential COVID-19 protective measures - Wear a face covering or mask, maintain social distancing whenever possible (at least 6 feet), wear disposable gloves, wash or sanitize hands frequently, practice cough/sneeze etiquette, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, and understand COVID-19 symptoms.
- Stay home if sick, if anyone in the student’s household is sick, or if the student believes they may have been exposed to an individual known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19. Immediately notify the host site supervisor and faculty or staff advisor. Avoid any close contact with other people, and immediately contact a healthcare provider and the Student Health Center at 360-650-3400.
COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Fever (100.4 F or higher) or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Respiratory symptoms, such as a runny nose
- Muscle pain
- Loss of taste or smell
- If feeling unwell at the host site, immediately notify the host site supervisor and faculty or staff advisor. Avoid any close contact with other people, go home right away, stay there, and immediately contact a healthcare provider and the Student Health Center at 360-650-3400.
Relaxed Credentialing Standards
Faculty or staff advisors are encouraged to consult with professional credentialing organizations to determine whether or not they are relaxing the student field experience and clinical practice requirements in light of COVID-19 and then make adjustments accordingly. For example, the Washington State Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) has done this for student educators.
WA State Governor COVID-19 information:
Local, state, and federal guidelines:
- Find local health authorities:
- State guidelines:
- Federal guidelines:
- Coronavirus information: https://www.wwu.edu/coronavirus
- COVID-19 Information for Faculty: https://provost.wwu.edu/covid-19
- Online Toolkit: University’s Experiential Learning Online Risk Management Toolkit
- University Policy: POL-U2100.03-Managing the Risk of Off Campus Experiential Learning Programs