8 Tips To Develop A Successful Virtual Internship Program
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How To Develop A Successful Virtual Internship Program

Virtual internships give participants the opportunity to be part of the corporate team from the comfort of home. This is the ideal approach for corporate learners who need practical experience, minus the daily commute. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones become the tools of the trade, and web conferencing tools are used in lieu of boardrooms. But a successful virtual internship program relies on an effective implementation plan. Here are 8 tips to develop a mutually beneficial virtual internship strategy.

1. Choose The Best Platform For Online Collaboration

Virtual interns and organizations need a place to share documents, assign tasks, and communicate regularly. An online collaboration platform ensures that everyone is on the same page. Ideally, there should be Video Conferencing and Project Management online tools in place to aid this process. Interns can also use these online platforms to clarify tasks and ask questions. Likewise, managers are able to send reminders, delegate online projects, and offer advice. The key is choosing the right online collaboration tool for your needs. For example, certain tools offer more flexible scheduling features and template integration.

2. Appoint An Internship Coordinator

Your interns need a point of contact within your organization. This may be a manager, supervisor, or online instructor. As the old saying goes: "you can't have too many cooks in the kitchen." One key individual should be in charge of intern online assignments and communicate with them directly. The coordinator is also responsible for answering questions, resolving issues, and offering one-on-one support. In some cases, they may even act as a mentor who utilizes their personal experience and skills to enrich the online training experience.

3. Incorporate Real World Activities To Build Practical Experience

Simulations, case studies, branching scenarios, and online training examples give virtual interns real world experience in a supportive online setting. They also allow them to apply what they've already learned. Virtual interns don't have the opportunity to shadow an employee in the workplace. But online training activities immerse them in real world environments so that they can put their online training into practice. Virtual intern coordinators or managers can provide feedback after the fact to address performance issues. As their virtual internship program progresses, they're able to use online training activities as knowledge refreshers. For example, before their first client meeting or to troubleshoot a problem.

4. Schedule Weekly Webinars

Weekly webinars give interns, managers, and coordinators a chance to touch bases. They can discuss the virtual intern's progress and create a plan to help them improve. If you're working with a group of virtual interns, these webinars allow them to interact with each other and share online training experiences. These webinars also provide helpful tips that they can use on the job. To make them even more interactive and engaging, invite virtual interns to host an online training event. Assign topics and tasks and ask them to create an online presentation. Define expectations in advance so they know what to include and give them plenty of time to prep.

5. Develop An Incentive Virtual Internship Program

Many internships involve some sort of compensation. However, you can further motivate participants by adding bonus incentives. They don't necessarily have to be monetary. In fact, earning certificates that they can help them land their next job might suffice. You can also gamify your internship program by adding badges, points, and leaderboards. The one with the most credits at the end receives a special reward. Just make certain that friendly competition doesn't become all-out war, as this can put a damper on your community atmosphere.

6. Conduct Online Pre-Assessments And Surveys

You cannot know how experienced your virtual interns are or which skills they have until you assess them. Conduct online pre-assessments, surveys, and interviews to find out how much they know and how well they know it. This also allows you to place them in the right position and department. For example, a virtual intern with tech experience may be ideally suited for your IT troubleshooting team. Surveys help you determine their expectations and preferences, as well. For instance, how many hours they expect to work per week and how they wish to communicate.

7. Create Personalized Online Training Plans

Every intern who enters your virtual internship program is there for a specific reason. But these reasons vary, based on the individual's career goals and future plans. Which is why you need to develop personalized online training plans for your participants. They should have the opportunity to set their own objectives and supplemental online training activities. In fact, you might consider setting up a "moment of need" repository where they can get the information they require. For example, microlearning simulations or online tutorials to help them complete a task.

8. Offer Ongoing Online Support And Feedback

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is leaving your virtual interns to their own devices. You cannot simply set the ground rules, give them a list of tasks, and then send them on their way. Virtual interns need ongoing online support and feedback so that they can continually improve. They have chosen to participate because they wanted real world experience and insider knowledge. As such, you must be able to provide them with one-on-one guidance and help them identify strengths and weaknesses. Turn every mistake into a learning opportunity and give them the tools they need to expand their knowledge. This may be in the form of peer-based feedback, manager evaluations, or online self-assessments that identify areas for improvement.

These 8 tips can help you create a successful virtual internship program for your organization. Virtual interns get the experience they need, and you have the opportunity to vet potential candidates. Ultimately, the secret to an effective virtual internship strategy is opening up the lines of communication and staying actively involved.

Mentorships are also an ideal addition to your corporate eLearning program. Read the article 7 Tips For Developing An Effective Mentorship Online Training Program to discover some tips for developing an effective mentorship online training strategy for your organization.

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