Online internships, also known as remote and e-internships, are conducted remotely via online collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. These internships can be cost effective for both company and intern – no relocation costs or requirements for office space or equipment, but are thought to be potentially more difficult to manage in terms of social communication and practical tasks. Online internships have become an important avenue for student employability both in terms of the current Covid-19 crisis, and longer term for companies who employ a percentage of their workforce remotely and view online professionalism favourably.
The current research project was conducted as a summer internship project with two interns: Leah Hillari and Darja Wischerath, supervised by Dr Amy Irwin and Dr Joy Perkins. There were two main aims: 1) conduct a literature review and develop a set of information leaflets to support online internship management (see leaflets below), and 2) conduct an online research study designed to examine attitudes towards online internships across three stakeholder groups – students, academics and employers.
The results of the study indicated that stakeholder groups reported similar attitudes towards online internships. Overall, online internships were viewed as valid, flexible, work experience, linked to skill development and likely to enhance student employability. However, concerns were raised regarding communication protocols and development, intern isolation and a lack of organisational immersion. Based on our research we make three recommendations to continue to enhance and develop the online internship experience:
- Ensure multiple methods of regular communication between student and organisation
- Attempt virtual immersion in the organisation
- Assign each intern additional support beyond their immediate supervisor.