Work Integrated Learning (WIL) and particularly internships are areas in higher education heavily impacted by Covid-19. Internships have been cancelled, student progression is delayed and there is a reluctance from hosting businesses to commit to future internships. WIL coordinators are left with little choice but to implement WIL experiences through online and remote means.

Professional courses at UTS such as engineering, teacher education, nursing and the allied health professions – to name a few – contain mandatory internship/placement experiences where hands-on skills are required to be assessed. Unsurprisingly internships are now the main focus of professional accreditation bodies.

Some questions that are being posed right now due to the current situation include:

  • What is the impact of the non-availability of internships on student progression?
  • How can students who only require one final internship/placement still graduate mid-year?
  • How can hands-on skills still be assessed under social distancing conditions?
  • What learning outcomes and professional capabilities/skills can be assessed using simulations, case studies and virtual placements?
  • What does a remote internship/placement look like?
  • What are the guidelines for student supervision when internships are moved to work-from-home and what are the insurance and OHS implications?

Strategies moving forward

There are many challenges and we do not have all the answers. These are truly novel times that call for flexibility and creative, collective problem solving. What we can do is support each other by sharing resources and experiences, and learn from those who are already delivering virtual and remote WIL experiences.

Here are actions you can take:

  • Join colleagues from Australia and New Zealand in a joint ACEN/NZACE webinar to hear from those who have successfully implemented online WIL programs.
  • Join the conversation and share resources in the dedicated channel Internships and Covid-19 in the TEAMS Careers space; contact Julieanne Cutrupi or Franziska Trede.
  • Sign up to ACEN’s newsletter to receive the latest developments in WIL. It is free because UTS is an ACEN member
  • Register for ACEN Covid-19 webinars and online coffee chats
  • Read ACEN’s response to Covid-19 virus

Please contact Franziska with your questions and ideas.

Photo by Matese Fields on Unsplash

  • This is such an interesting time for internships and WIL Franziska. The students in Engineering Practice Preparation (in which they prepare to undertake an internship) have been attending virtual careers’ fairs and connecting with potential employers online. I think students need to work on their networking skills more than ever now. It’s harder to create connections when they are virtual and people are stressed. But if this time teaches us anything, it’s that our students are resilient.

    • Thank you for your comment Aurora! Yes, indeed these are interesting times for WIL. Careers and academics have been amazing in adapting and responding to novel conditions due to the pandemic. You can check out the special edition of the International Journal of WIL dedicated to sharing innovative and alternative practices during the pandemic
      perhaps more virtual workplaces and therefore more virtual internships are the new normal. It makes international internships more accessible as well. And too right – networking , online and offline, remains key. It builds and grows professional capital which often lead to work opportunities

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