Key Elements for a Successful Project in Virtual Business Education
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This article is addressed to those interested in the concept of Virtual Internships in Business Education. It is based on the INTERN Project, which was supported by the European Commission’s Minerva programme.
A complete description of the project can be found at this site.
The idea behind INTERN was to explore the extent to which Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) could support a system of Virtual Internships – where European business students take part in in-company placements, supported by ICT rather than by physically re-locating to the company premises.
Based on our experiences, we have identified some key elements for the development of a successful project in virtual business education.
Choose assignments from companies that involve useful work, where the project is well defined and achievable within the given time schedule. Try to ensure there is a written and explicit working agreement with the company, which explains the roles and responsibilities of everyone taking part. Choose students who are independent and able to work on their own initiative, and with the appropriate educational background. Involve academic and teaching staff who support the idea of learner-led activities and who are dynamic and open to new ideas. They should believe in the essential link between learning and the workplace, independent of time, schedule or distance constraints.
Choose an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Infrastructure carefully and try to select tools that are generic, fit-for-purpose and user-friendly. The ICT infrastructure is particularly important as it supports a range of communication and collaboration activities, and is also part of the learning experience. Students and others used the Virtual Internship to improve their skills in the use of tools like videoconferencing, collaborative workspaces and tools and content management systems.
Plan the Internship carefully, allowing enough time for familiarisation with the company, the commercial sector involved and the technology to be used. Make sure the task is shown to be serious work and introduced by a senior representative of the commissioning company
Right from the start, make sure that students understand the company and what it does. Company representatives should also be familiar with what it is that characterises the students, what is needed for their success, how they perceive instruction and what they expect. Make sure that everyone is equipped with the appropriate language skills and that inter-cultural communication is well supported.
During the Internship, monitor progress carefully to make sure everyone is meeting their responsibilities, including administrative staff in the educational institution(s) taking part. Virtual Internships can significantly improve students’ overall project management, language, cultural understanding and ICT skills, so try to ensure these aspects are highlighted and supported.
Finally, evaluate and record carefully. Not only does this provide necessary feedback about the current Virtual Internship, but it will also help you make improvements in the future.
In conclusion we recommend that
1. Students must be competent, well-prepared and able to work independently.
2. Students and faculty must be prepared and committed to meet deadlines.
3. There must be a clear and transparent set of aims and conditions.
4. Students and faculty must be able to see the benefits of the Virtual Internship.
5. The Virtual Internship needs to be an integrated part of the curriculum.
6. The management at each institution taking part should support the project.
7. The company must be able to see the benefit of gaining new knowledge through cooperation.
8. The company needs to be prepared to meet its commitments.
9. The ICT infrastructure to be used needs to be user-friendly and appropriate to the project.
10. The task(s) to be completed need to be recognized as serious and meaningful work by all involved
We believe Virtual Internship to be a professional way to build partnerships between business life and the educational system.
See a related article about INTERN Project in this portal.The INTERN management team:
Eija Källström, ARCADA, Julie Ann Svenkerud, Buskerud University College, Stephen Murdoch, Institut de Formation International and Regitze Kristensen Tietgen Buisness College