Internships offer a way for students to gain practical work experience while completing their studies. Learners can experience the workplace and show future employers their skills and potential, while also enhancing their future employability and career-readiness. And with career-readiness such a prominent strategic focus for Excelsior College, we are currently developing a virtual internship program for our students across the various schools and disciplines.
The development of a virtual internship program allows us to provide workplace experiences that might otherwise be denied to online learners, regardless of where they are located. A soldier on Guam, for example, could be involved in the social media for a small business in New York; a student in Nebraska could participate in a project for a Silicon Valley start-up. A virtual internship is conducted remotely from the organization for which the intern is working, and utilizes technology to enable the learner to participate in a workplace experience and complete tasks or projects that fulfill the requirements of the internship.
How Would It Work?
After applying and being accepted into the internship program, the student would identify a suitable opportunity with a potential organization for placement as an intern. The student would be allocated a worksite mentor by the placement employer. This person would play the traditional role of supervising the intern during the 15-week internship. The student would also have a faculty mentor appointed by the College, who would supervise some of the academic work, such as completing a reflective journal, but the regular day-to-day contact would be between the student and the worksite mentor.
At the start of the internship, the organization would provide the student with a project brief; this would be the primary project that the student would be expected to complete during the internship. The culmination would be a report beneficial to the employer and that provides an opportunity for the intern to explore an issue that has immediate and practical value for the organization, while enhancing the career readiness and workplace experience of the intern.
The worksite mentor must be available to the student on a regular basis. There would need to be a weekly meeting to ensure the engagement and progress of the student. This weekly meeting could be facilitated via Skype or some other suitable video conferencing platform. The worksite mentor should also be available via phone or email, within reason, to assist with any issues that may arise and for the advice and guidance of the intern.
The project should have some practical value to the organization and represent a true learning experience for the student. In pilot projects that have been completed so far, students were engaged with a community solar panel company that wanted to understand the regulatory and legislative environment in other states where community solar was more successful. Student reports helped to shape future strategic development and marketing campaigns. Another project explored the SaaS (software as a service) market in the Northeast U.S. for an Australian start-up company seeking to enter the North American market.
- The company identifies a project that is suitable and practicable for the student to complete during the 15-week internship.
- The organization appoints a worksite mentor to supervise and interact with the student and to provide help and guidance in the completion of the project.
- The worksite mentor is accessible to the student on a day-to-day basis and meets with the student via a weekly video conference call.
- The student provides the organization with a report at the culmination of the internship, but also completes some minor regular tasks to help provide a suitable workplace experience.
- The worksite mentor completes a mid-semester and end-of course evaluation of the student, as well as provides suitable feedback on the final project.
For further information, contact Will Trevor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-608-8189