Filling the Void for Students with Academic Projects
April 21, 2020 | By NACE staff
Matthew Hora is hearing about employers canceling their internship programs with increased frequency and is offering some guidance and suggestions for navigating in the current landscape.
“Many organizations are in entrenchment and layoff mode, and are not bringing in students for internships this year,” says Hora, director of the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Cancellations are happening, but there is also a massive movement to online internships, so in those cases, it is less about cancellations and more about a migration to a different modality.”
What can be done to provide experiences for students for whom online internships aren’t available or viable?
Hora, who has written What To Do About Internships in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic?, recommends that faculty and academic departments work together to create projects or learning experiences that are as similarly robust and authentic as traditional internships.
“These different kinds of academic projects could hopefully mimic or adopt some principles of experiential learning,” Hora suggests.
Some ideas that he shares for these projects include:
- Problem- or case-based learning projects that require students to conduct background research on a real-world problem, interview experts in the field, and prepare a report or paper that summarizes a solution or approach to the problem. Faculty and departments should try to work with employers to identify real-world, problem-based projects;
- Service- or community-engaged learning during which students work directly with members of the community to conduct a project focused on meeting authentic real-world needs;
- Short reflection papers that require students to reflect on their own progress throughout the experience, including the successful (or not) achievement of their learning goals, issues or challenges faced, and things to work on in the future;
- A virtual meeting with students to periodically review their progress in the project.
- Preparation of career-related materials, such as cover letters or resumes; and
- Projects that focus on important competencies, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. These can be embedded in projects mentioned above, e.g., problem-based learning, or can be emphasized in shorter activities, such as developing virtual presentations or creating datasets for an assignment.