Next Generation
International Internships

Designing on-site and remote internships for a new era of international learning.

Spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in remote international internships in recent years. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that more than half of companies moved their summer 2020 interns to a remote program. Most of this acceleration was in reaction to the need for global opportunities for students to gain international work experience while international mobility was not possible. Internship program providers quickly adapted their international internships to a remote format.

Some international internship organizations have, in fact, been offering remote internships since before the pandemic. Virtual Internships and NEXSTEP, for example, are two organizations that began offering remote internships in Asia in 2017 and 2018. These organizations observed the global trend toward remote work, particularly in Asia, and responded accordingly by offering well-designed remote programs. Other global internship program providers such as Global Experiences (part of AIFS, Inc.), provided additional pathways for remote global internship study through GE Virtuoso program. These pioneers demonstrated early on the many benefits and advantages of remote internships.

Interest in remote internships has only grown during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The growing consensus is that remote international internships are here to stay. Remote and on-site internships are two distinct modalities of international internships with their own intentional design and student learning outcomes. Remote internships are not a replacement for on-site internships but rather reflect an expansion of how students can learn and engage internationally. They each have a role to play and meet the needs of different students and employers.

Understanding the Differences

Remote internships have been called by many names including virtual, remote, online, tele-working, telecommuting, computer-mediated, micro- or e-internships as a way to differentiate them from in-person, on-site, physical or traditional internships. The terms “remote” vs “on-site” internships are used here as they seem the most appropriate parallel terms. Whereas in an on-site internship a student is physically located in the offices of the employer with which they are interning, the remote intern is working from another location or country and interacting with their employer via a computer or other technology.

Key differences between Remote and On-Site Internships

While some of the differences between on-site and remote internships may be in degree or emphasis, they have a great impact on the internship experience. The differences create real challenges and opportunities for interns and the employers who take them on.

Remote Internships: Opportunities and Challenges for Students

On-Site Internships: Opportunities and Challenges for Students

Each modality presents both opportunities and challenges. One is not better than the other, simply different. Key differences in time, place and cost, for example, bring flexibility and access for different interns. The reduced cost and travel barriers of remote internships have created access to international opportunities for students who could not otherwise afford or be able to travel to another country. However, these same differences in time and place impact how interns and job placement supervisors communicate about the work assignments, expectations and workplace culture.

One of the biggest criticisms of remote international internships is that the remote intern may have some international exposure and cultural learning but it will be less immersive and mediated by technology. The differences in the internship modalities may also impact the working modes in terms of collaboration and teamwork and the types of intern projects and outputs produced by the interns.

Opportunities and Challenges of Each Modality for Employers

Just as employers are recognizing the value of remote work for their employees, they are increasingly well-positioned to host remote interns. Remote interns, like on-site interns offer employers opportunities to, 1.) steward the next generation of workers, 2.) gain insight from an emerging workforce, and 3.) gain input from educated and passionate employees. Remote interns give employers worldwide access to a more diverse pool of candidates regardless of location and reduces their responsibility for caring for the interns outside of working hours.

Implications for Program Design

Remote and on-site internships share the same goals to provide career exploration, work experience, direct industry exposure and increased transferable skills for students. They also face some of the same challenges such as managing intern and workplace supervisor engagement, intern support and completion, and assessing and unpacking the skills development after the experience. All internship programs include certain essential components and features in their program design such as an application, orientation, curriculum, intern support and assessment services to the intern in accordance with the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) internship criteria.

NACE identified eight competencies that capture necessary career readiness skills. Many incorporate these competencies within the stated learning objectives to prepare students for the 21st century workforce. They are:

These competencies are often applied in experiential learning programming to guide and assess student development. The practical learning outcomes derived from internships can increase students’ likelihood of employment, smooth their transition into the workforce, and support their success in the field.

With the rapid shift to remote internships during the global pandemic, it soon became apparent that simply taking an internship program designed for in-person learning and moving it online was not going to be effective in the long term. Facilitating a remote internship requires intentional design for an online context in order to better maximize student learning and reduce challenges. For example, more attention must be given to the interactions and support the intern requires before, during, and after the internship in order to provide an effective and successful learning experience. Remote internships also require the internship provider and the employer/supervisor to provide more structured project goals and clear communication with the intern.

Remote Internship Design

For the interns themselves, a remote internship may also require students to:

On-Site Internship Design

Student Learning Outcomes

As an educational high-impact practice, an internship offers students a powerful learning experience, placing abstract concepts learned in the classroom in context and making them more meaningful. This newfound understanding can influence academic and career outcomes. Participation has been linked to students’ job-specific knowledge, better understanding of the industry, clearer career values, and reduce the shock of entering the professional world. International internships can further help students sharpen cognitive and soft skills they can expect to use in today’s global knowledge economy.

The intended learning outcomes of on-site and remote internships are generally similar although they may differ in emphasis and in the means used to attain them through program design elements. Both on-site and remote internships target similar competency development but just as the internships are designed differently, so are the expected learning outcomes.

Because of the different design features of remote and on-site internships, the learning outcomes differ in terms of types of skills and degree of skills gained just as, at the outset, they present different opportunities and challenges for students and employers. They are two different modalities that, when well-designed, can lead to significant learning and development that is equally effective and valid.

Learning Outcomes of International Internships

The learning outcomes of international internships, whether on-site or remote, can generally categorized be characterized as:

  • Career readiness and employability:

    this includes the student’s career and self-development, professionalism in the workplace and confidence in their ability to succeed in the job market and workforce.  

  • Workforce skills:​

    This includes “hard” skills such as field specific skills and technology as well as “soft” skills and transferrable skills such as communication, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork etc.. that employers are looking for in their 21st century workforce.

  • Global citizenship skills:

    Gateway works closely with individual faculty members to determine which experiential learning modality best aligns with course goals and objectives and would be most attractive to students.

Because of the different design features of remote and on-site internships, the learning outcomes differ in terms of types of skills and degree of skills gained just as, at the outset, they present different opportunities and challenges for students and employers. They are two different modalities that, when well-designed, can lead to significant learning and development that is equally effective and valid.

While on-site internships can be accomplished in almost any discipline and professional field, it has long been argued that not all fields can be accommodated in an online environment. In fact, remote internships were initially seen as most suited to the business fields. While the types of projects and learning outcomes may need to be modified, internships can be done virtually in most any field today. For example, even if an engineering student may not be able to get hands-on engineering design experience, they may still benefit from practicing the important communication and cross-cultural skills they will need in their future workplace while collaborating on projects in multicultural teams.

On-Site Internships: Goals and Learning Outcomes

Remote Internships: Goals and Learning Outcomes

In much the same way, the types of employers willing to host interns has also expanded in recent years. Today, some employers prefer on-site interns due to the nature of their business and the workplace learning available to interns. Other employers, especially those now operating in complete remote contexts, may prefer or even may be limited to remote interns. In either case, employers are driving primarily by the workplace learning they are able to provide to international interns.

Goals and Outcomes for Employers

Next Step Connections

Asia leads the world in the new global workplace. Even before Covid, digital transformation has fundamentally changed the way we work. Shouldn’t international internships reflect this new global workplace?

NEXSTEP has been providing exceptional and affordable educational and professional opportunities for students since 2008 as the exclusive partner for GlobaLinks in Asia, and pioneering virtual internships since 2017.

Whether virtual or in-person, NEXSTEP takes a holistic approach to ensuring participants are supported through every step of their placement and provided with the best tools for a successful internship experience.
In this changing world, choose NEXSTEP to design and support your needs for Next Generation experiential learning programs.
Victoria-Bailey-Thomas
“Throughout the process I found that my supervisors were extremely accommodating and willing to provide tips and guidance wherever possible.”
Victoria Bailey Thomas
Utah State University, United States
Eli-Gregory
“NEXSTEP was extremely helpful in the application process of applying to my internship, as well as placing me with an organization and during my internship.”
Eli Gregory
Long Island University, United States

On-Site and Remote Internships: Emerging Research

Research on the outcomes of remote international internships is only just emerging, but there is evidence that remote internships can replicate many of the learning outcomes associated with on-site internships. As remote work becomes more mainstreamed, additional research will be needed to better understand on-site and remote internship learning outcomes and the program practices, curricula and supports required to optimize them. Research on effective assessment methods is also needed to better understand both the differences and the similarities in learning and career readiness outcomes between on-site and remote internships. This is especially true for assessing global and intercultural competency, which will only become more important as the workplace becomes more globalized.

Existing research comparing on-site and remote internship outcomes seem to show overall comparable program impacts and learning outcomes for participants. Students who participate in remote internships that incorporate targeted support, guidance, and reflective opportunities, experienced the same or better gains in skill development as their peers who participate in an in-person international experience.

Key publications on remote internships include:

For more information

This site is provided through the generous sponsorship of Next Step Connections and written by Ms. Juliette Monet, jmonet@gatewayinternational.org.

Gateway stands ready to work with you on designing, implementing and assessing your international internship programs. Contact us today to start the conversation and learn more about our innovative approaches for next generation education abroad.

So that we can connect you with an appropriate international education professional, please complete this brief intake form.

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Mark Beirn

AFFILIATE

An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development

 

Stephen Appiah-Padi​

AFFILIATE

Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

Specialization Areas:

– Education Abroad
– International education leadership development
– Intercultural education and engagement
– International partnerships and linkages

Rosa Almoguera

AFFILIATE

Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.
 

Specialization Areas:

– Student services
– Education abroad programming
– Institutional partnerships
– Education and training