In the era of social media, Skype, and GoToMeeting, many professionals are able to accomplish multiple tasks without ever leaving the comfort of their homes or offices. Improving technology has made working remotely and the virtual office a trend of resource conservation and convenience. But do these benefits extend beyond the skilled worker to a student? Can a virtual internship develop the skills and provide the same quality of experience as a traditional internship?
According to NACE’s 2012 Internship & Co-op Survey, 8.6 percent of employers anticipate hiring virtual interns in 2012. It is understandable why the virtual internship is appealing. It allows an employer to tap into a much larger candidate pool. Internship recruiting is no longer limited by geographic location, but instead students from literally anywhere could complete an internship without leaving their residence hall room. The need for office space and time spent directly supervising an intern would also diminish. The virtual internship can also benefit the intern by allowing projects to be completed when it is convenient, thus eliminating class schedule conflicts. In addition, most students are quite comfortable utilizing the technology needed to communication at a distance, so this experience taps into their established skill set.
Our current policy does not allow remote or virtual internships to be completed for academic credit. While there are obvious benefits to both the employer and the intern, we feel that a virtual internship can make it difficult for a student to build those much needed professional and interpersonal communication skills which are core competencies of our internship curriculum. And perhaps some employers agree, as the number of virtual internships is down 3.9 percent from 2011.
What do you think? Are virtual internships the wave of the future, or just a passing fad?
Originally published on LinkedIn.