A unique “virtual internship” model has been a hot topic of late at the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) and principal investigator Ann Beheler touts the value of Virtual internships every chance she gets. While the model was developed for an IT curriculum, it could be used in most any discipline.
Internships, as we all know, give students practical, real-world experience outside of the classroom. It’s a great system, but it may not always be feasible. What about the community college student who has a full-time job and can’t take time off of work for a traditional, weeks-long, in-person internship? Or what about situations where you have more students than you have internship openings? The Virtual Internship solves those problems and adds further benefits by stressing “soft skills” with group work and by exposing faculty to the same business culture as your students.
Here are the five key elements of a Virtual Internship:
- You need a project of sufficient complexity to both merit group work among your students and attract business mentor involvement. You can have more than one team/project in the class. The project’s impetus can come from your faculty, but, ideally, the final decision will be made by your business mentor.
- The business mentor – perhaps pulled from your program’s business leadership group – participates via e-mail and webinar during the semester, while the college faculty member serves as the project lead.
- Students build a solution for the project, then, make a formal presentation to a business panel to answer questions and “defend” their work.
- The faculty member may learn just as much as the students do about real-world challenges and realities; knowledge that can impact other classes and students.
- By working in groups, students develop important “soft skills” and also walk away from the class with the kind of detailed project solution for their portfolio that hiring managers crave.