Internships and other work experiences
Internships and other work experiences

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Internships and other work experiences

2 The pros of a virtual internship

An attractive element of the virtual internship is its potential for flexibility and part-time commitment, allowing you to fit it in alongside other activities or responsibilities.

It offers the opportunity for international work experience but can also allow you to work for employers elsewhere in your home country that might not be easily accessible to you. This gives you a much broader range of potential employers to target.

The information you covered in Weeks 4 and 5 about finding and securing work experience is equally applicable here, but you might find that the recruitment processes used are more likely to be online, e.g. video interviews.

Other key advantages include the opportunity to develop and enhance your experience of remote working. According to Merchant Savvy (2020) ‘across the globe, working from home and remote locations has grown 159% since 2005, more than 11x faster than the rest of the workforce’. This trend is predicted to continue, so experience of working in this way will be advantageous.

The development of digital skills that a virtual internship encourages will also bring benefits and increase your future employability. Microsoft (no date) suggests that ‘within the next two decades, 90% of jobs will require some level of digital proficiency’, despite Lloyds Bank (2019) stating that ‘more than half of UK employees (53%) do not have the digital skills needed for work’.

Open University student and Online Marketing and Public Relations Intern, Lily Beach, says about her internship:

The internship at Nubis Aviation Training has developed my business, digital marketing and written skills. It has been great to work and collaborate with a small team and take on responsibility for developing an area of the company.

Virtual internships provide benefits not just for you as an employee but also for employers. You’ll consider what these benefits are in Activity 1.

Activity 1 Why do employers use virtual internships?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity

Think about the potential benefits for an employer in recruiting a virtual intern and make a note of your ideas in the box below.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


You could have listed several potential benefits, including:

  • the ability to recruit from a much larger pool of candidates, extending far beyond their local area and including those who need to have flexible working hours
  • as students can potentially do a virtual internship alongside their studies, employers have greater access to new talent all year round rather than having to wait for the traditional summer holiday period
  • reduced costs in terms of providing a workspace and equipment etc. for the intern
  • flexibility in recruiting an intern for a particular project.

Now watch this clip of employers explaining the value of virtual internships to them.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2
Skip transcript: Video 2

Transcript: Video 2

[TEXT ON SCREEN: Why a virtual internship?]

As an employer, one of the reasons we opted for the virtual internship was we felt the project maybe was slightly more unusual, and so it was good to have a wider pool of people applying.
What made a virtual internship more appealing to us was the fact that we could reach a wider talent pool. So our virtual intern came from Northern Ireland. So we were able to tap into a greater pool of skills and be able to put in more knowledge into our organisation.

[TEXT ON SCREEN: Would you recommend virtual interns?]

I would highly recommend having a virtual intern. The workplace is constantly changing, so we are completely turning on our head what a workplace will look like in the next few coming years. So for an employer standpoint, getting into virtual internships, trialling virtual internships is a must. It's not a passing fad. It is necessity.
End transcript: Video 2
Video 2
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371