We are all operating under exceptional circumstances. Both students and supervisors may feel overwhelmed and under prepared. It is not be business as usual. This guide has been created for UTS academics to support students on remote internships.
Communication is key in professional life. Nobody works in isolation so advise students to practise their communication and negotiation skills. This can be exercised in two ways: a) students need to articulate clearly what they expect to achieve and b) supervisors and employers need to be clear about what are expecting of students while on (remote) internships. Ensure your students clearly communicate with host placement supervisors about:
- Working hours; are they set (9am to 5pm) or are they more flexible?
- Responding to emails – especially expectations around out of hours replies?
- Well defined aspects of the role, particularly those that differ in the online space.
- How to establish early contacts; supervisor, bosses, colleagues.
- What are the methods of communication they are using (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Slack, email, Zoom, Skype, social media formats, etc)? This may include the student being available and offering to attend online meetings with (or for) supervisors.
- How often are students expected to contact their supervisors?
- Keeping clear records of what they are working on and the time spent on each task, in a diary or workbook.
- The subject or the workplace may have specific tools or templates for recording information.
- Any reflective tasks can be enhanced by good notetaking after tasks are completed.
- Setting up ways to connect with university peers whilst completing the internship.
- Encourage proactivity asking employers to suggest connections or networks to join. LinkedIn may be a good place to start.
- Identifying effective feedback channels.
- Determine the regularity of this feedback and how to maintain this.
Working from home is not the same as a workplace. Productivity is directly proportional to a suitable environment. Draw student attention to the following:
- The host internship might have guidelines for setting up good working environments at home, outline these if applicable.
- Planning the week and each daily routine.
- Healthy habits like getting up early and exercising or writing in a journal can pave the way for a productive day.
- Reach out to academic staff, supervisors or employers if there are concerns.
- UTS has a buddy system where students may connect to peers for informal meet ups online
Working from home requires access to a smart device and a high-quality internet connection. Here are some issues for your students may want to consider:
- Identity the technologies required before commencing the internship and ascertain whether software will be provided.
- Check the internet connection and ensure they have a plan B if the internet goes down (e.g. Zoom or Teams on a smartphone).
- When collecting or analysing data or research establish what technologies will be used to house the information and ensure they are managed in a robust backing up system. Shared documents platforms such as Google Docs or Microsoft teams may be used.
- Ensure confidentiality is practised when working on work-based documents. If sharing a computer with others, securely shut down browsers when work is finished.
- Create a separate user profile may be most appropriate.
It is very important that students address their mental and physical wellbeing, throughout the course of the internship. Remind students to:
- Reach out to supervisors if they have questions, especially if something is unclear and the student feels stuck or concerned.
- Include some exercise in the day, where possible.
- Eat regular, healthy meals.
- Stay hydrated.
- Carve out time to spend with family and other household members.
- Consider that COVID-19 has created an extenuating set of circumstances which may raise anxiety levels (see: science-based-strategies-to-cope-with-coronavirus-anxiety).
Credits: Dimity Wehr and Ian Zucker
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