Making the Best of Remote Internships



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

A large number of UofL students found their recent internships and co-ops changed to online work.  As we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak,  many of these experiences continue to be either fully or partially virtual/remote.  That means adjustments need to be made so that students have a good, meaningful experience.  But the Graduate Internship Manager for the UofL College of Business, Jennifer Applebee, believes students and employers can both adapt to make the best of the situation. 

Applebee says for students to get the most out of the remote experience, they should be willing to ask as many questions as needed and also be able to self-manage. “It is important for students to be disciplined in working their scheduled hours and completing the work while not getting distracted by other things that pop up.”

To that end, remote internship students should find what type of work environment works best for them. “Having a designated, focused workspace where they go to ‘work’ also ensures they will be successful in their internship.” 

Applebee says regular communication with the employer is vital in a remote internship.  Employers should have a designated supervisor who is comfortable managing remote interns and who is able to ensure that instructions/projects are understood. “Even though interns are working remotely, they should still find ways to connect with their team members and supervisor. The companies we work with have individual one-on-one daily calls between the supervisor and the student but they also have weekly calls between the whole team. These calls are usually done on virtual platforms where everyone can see each other.” 

Because different technology can be tricky, students should orient themselves with the software and virtual platforms that the company uses. Applebee says, “The supervisor/company should hold orientations where they go over the necessary technology and allow students to practice using the technology before starting work. Students who are working remotely should also ensure their equipment is compatible and they have all they need, such as internet capability, to be able to access all required materials.”

Part of the reason why practice is necessary is the wide variety of tools and platforms that can be used for remote work.  Robert Shindell, the president of InternBridge which consults with employers, says a number of technology platforms are used for virtual internships.  These include:

  • Meeting platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Facetime, Skype, Cisco WebEx, Zoho, Slack, Instant Messenger, and MicroSoft Teams
  • Work sharing sites like Google Docs, Dropbox, SharePoint, Box, GoFile
  • Project management tools including Asana, MSoft Project, and

Finally, Applebee wants remote internship and co-op students to realize that even though they are working in a virtual environment, they are not alone.  “Remote interns are still part of a team that wants them to get the most out of their internship and experience and to be successful.”

The article, 6 Ways to Make the Most of a Remote Internship, has more advice on having a good remote internship experience.