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New Webinar Series on Internship Research in 2020

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
3pm CST
Dr. Leopold Bayerlein (University of New England in Australia)

E-internships and work-integrated learning in higher education

>> Matthew Hora: Today, I’m very excited to speak with our guest Leopold Bayerlein. Okay, I’m very excited to speak to Leopold today and his research on e-internship and instructional design. Again, for those of you who are joining us for the first time, we’re doing these webinars as a bit of a replacement for our annual Research Symposium that we usually hold in September here in Madison, Wisconsin. We won’t be holding it because of the pandemic, and I’ve found that these webinars have been a really great way to get to know new scholars that I haven’t met yet. And also, just to educate the entire research and practitioner community on internships. It gives us an hour to have a nice informal conversation about cutting-edge research.

And today, we have Leopold Bayerlein, he is a senior lecturer in accounting at the University of New England in Australia. He has a Ph.D. in accounting and is a chartered accountant, a certified practicing accountant, and a senior fellow at the higher education academy. Leopold is an active business and accounting education research with a focus on the development of future focused curricula in higher education. His research aims to enable future graduates to provide meaningful contribution to societal challenges through developing frameworks that embed holistic education principles in the Australian and international university environment. And I came across Leopold’s research in a paper that he co-authored with Deborah Jeske on online internships, and I hope to speak about that paper a little bit in our conversation. But first, just wanted to thank you again Leopold for taking the time to speak with us, and if you’d like to just briefly introduce yourself and maybe tell the group something about yourself and your work.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Absolutely happy to, I should point out that Deborah is also logged on a participant today I saw, so I hope I will do her proud if you ask me any questions about our joint work. Yes, so I came to the University of New England in Australia about ten years ago, and we are as a university situated in a quite rural area of the country where we actually were the first university outside a capital city. And we have a long history of education by correspondence at first, where materials were sent out in paper format so that were huge stacks of paper that were sent out to each and every student for every semester. And I just caught the tail end of that and then we moved into everything went on CD and then obviously online education came along about eight and a half years ago. So, really just caught the tail end of the paper world.

And from then on, we have established ourselves as one of the leaders in online education in Australia and I would say in the Asian Pacific as well. And as part of that sort of setting, I got really interested in doing internship and work-integrated learning activities online, and how could we do that and how can we do it effectively. What works, what doesn’t work, and I think there’s hopefully all of you agree, there’s some things that work really well in that space, and there’s some other things that we still need to think a little bit about as a research community and as a practitioner community. So, that’s really just in a nutshell a bit of background about me. In my spare time, I love gardening, I have a hate for inefficient workflow management processes at coffee shops, so hopefully that tells you a little bit about my personal life as well. But yeah, fire away with your questions.

>> Matthew Hora: So, I was reading your most recent paper Leopold that you had send and it struck me that there’s a common feature that is uniting the type of research that you and I do that’s not internships. And that has to do more with contextualized learning, and I found that this is a big emphasis in a lot of different subfields in education and higher education. Especially in STEM education, there’s a lot of researchers looking into getting away from the route memorization and lectures in a classroom and having more problem-based or case-based learning. Obviously, people involved in experiential education are really focused on contextualizing theories and academic concepts and real-world situations for students. So, it was just a really nice thing to see within this smaller focus on internships, there’s broader interest in contextualized learning. And I wanted, if you could just explain to the audience because I came across two terms, work-based learning and work-integrated learning for the first time when I started looking at some of the literature in Australia, so can you just briefly describe what those two categories mean and how they’re different.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: So, I can tell you what the Australian environment, how the Australian environment uses them. Work-integrated learning is really used in Australia as a summary term that encompasses all things that are traditionally workplace-based. So, that would be volunteering, that would be internships, that would be some sort of co-ops that would be you know, activities were a student uses classroom theoretical knowledge in a practical setting. Over the last five or six years, that has expanded out to really encompass all of the other ways in which students can apply practical knowledge in real-world settings or make an impact on the real world. So, for example there’s research coming out of the University of Wollongong, which is quite nice where they use work-integrated learning processes and principles to allow students to create a database of how ethically corporations around the world behave and that gets released to the world. And so, the work of the students has a real-world impact across the globe on decision-making for investors, for customers, for businesses. And so, all of that in the Australian context would sit into the work-integrated learning space, it’s a quite broad term. And to be quite frank, one of the reasons why I’m using it is because this paper that I sent you gets published in a journal in a special edition that was focused on work-integrated learning. So, I had to make myself fit into that space as well, but it fits very, very neatly.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, and the distinction with work-based learning happening outside of the classroom, outside of the college.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Yeah, so the work-based is really that you need to have the student, or the participant needs to be embedded in a workplace in some shape or form. So, it would be that either physically or in a new environment, be that through a remote working arrangement, working from home arrangement but there is always a real workplace where the student or the participant is doing work. Whereas that’s not necessarily true for all work-integrated learning activities, so that’s the main distinction.

>> Matthew Hora: Right, and hopefully it’ll be clear why I wanted to ask you about that later as we talk about simulated internships and e-internships, because that was the paper that I first came across with you and Debbie. And before I ask you the question about that, because I’d really like you to explain to the audience what’s the difference between an e-internship and a simulated internship? Take it away, simulated internships and e-internships.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: So, simulated internships is really what my work has been focusing on, and as you’ve pointed out earlier it’s an extension of an online or blended learning activity. So, in the simulated internships that I write about, there is no real employer organization, the students don’t go out and do work for an employer. All of that is simulated, so you need someone behind the scenes and that’s typically the university where the student is based who create a simulated work environment. So, for my own simulated internships I’ve created an imaginary company with imaginary employees and imaginary backstories, and they interact with each other. And then, my students they take on the role of interns, so they sort of put on the persona I am now an intern and they get assigned from the manager of our accounting department, an imaginary person that I invented, work that they have to complete and then have to submit back to the accounting department. So, they work in teams to do that and there’s a lot of flexibility. The good thing about a simulation is that the person who’s creating the simulation has control over what happens in that simulation. So, you can set participants tasks where information is incomplete or where they’re forced to interact with certain individuals or as groups. And you can really decide where is the focus on the student’s learning activity.

An e-internship is something that my colleague Debbie Jeske is focusing on, and that is an internship where there is an actual employer organization and the participant, the intern does work for the employer organization but it’s all computer-mediated. So, in a sense that means instead of being placed physically in an organization, you would have a working from home arrangement, you don’t have to relocate to do the internship, you can stay where you are. You engage with your employer organization through digital means, and it is really reflective of the new world of working. The intention behind both is very similar, it is there to help students make the step from university or college to the world of work. It breaks down slightly different barriers for the participants, but the overall intention is very similar.

>> Matthew Hora: Okay, thank you Leopold. And one of the reasons I wanted to ask about that is when we did a literature review of online and virtual internships, we found some research papers on virtual reality simulations, and the types of simulations you’re talking about. And I have a colleague here at Madison, David Schaefer, he’s been working with some engineering professors to developing kind of virtual reality simulations where students within the classroom can go into these virtual spaces where they’re actually on an authentic engineering problem that meets the accrediting requirements of ABET. So, it’s tightly integrated within the disciplinary content, the practicing the skills that the students should be developing before they go out in the profession, but it’s all controlled by the professor, by the instructional designer. And that was one of the selling points of what they were creating, that the quality of the educational experience is high because they’re in control.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Yeah, I think two point I’d like to make, I think there are examples of very beautifully made, immersive virtual environments. I’ve actually found through both experience and my research that the effort that it takes to make those very neat, very professional looking immersive environments is immense. And that students don’t really, it doesn’t really benefit the students greatly. So, I always talk about, there needs to be emotional buy-in from the students, there needs to be an emotional connection. The student needs to believe that this is actually a workplace activity. Now, you can do that through an immersive environment, picture the video gaming kind of environment. To do that well is immensely expensive, so personally I steer completely away from that, I do everything yes, online but quite low-tech. And I build on an emotional connection that I try to create for my students, and the rest is based on a standard learning management system without any frills. There are some video snippets that the students watch, so to create an emotional buy-in I’ve created an online kind of TV show video series about one of the employees in my company. And the intention there is that the students really emotionally connect with that character, and then assist that character throughout their work.

To me, that emotional buy-in far more important than making it look very nice and neat. As you’ve pointed out, one of the big advantages is absolutely that as an instructional designer, you can control what happens. The quality of the experience then is completely up to you as the instructional designer, and how well the activities that you set enable students to meet learning outcomes. So, it puts a lot of pressure on the instructional designer I would say, whereas in a normal, a traditional internship or in an e-internship, you give control of that over to the employer organization and you just see what happens and you deal with the fallout. So, that comes back to how do you prepare these two versions. In a simulation, you just have to be more proactive, you have to think it through well, you have to plan well, you have to really ensure that the way everything is set up will achieve an outcome at the end. Whereas in an e-internship, yes support needs to be there, yes support should be proactive for the participants, but if something happens then the proactive support can kick in, you can say okay, how was your last week? What should we do about it, how can we assist you? In the simulation, you know what you want experiences you want to come out for the student, so you can already design things into the activities that either challenge a participant or support a participant, depending on what you want to do.

>> Matthew Hora: Great, thank you Leopold. I’d like you to speak a little bit more Leopold about this idea of the emotional connection, because I think it’s extremely important in any type of internship. But especially right now with so many internships being remote or online, we’re getting some indications that some students are pretty dissatisfied with them. In large part because they’re losing the social element of being in a company, in an organization, hanging out with maybe a cohort of peers their age, getting to know coworkers, socializing into a new profession. Can you speak a little bit more of what you’ve studied or learned as a practitioner with respect to this emotional connection, and how we as educators can really cultivate that?

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Absolutely, it’s tricky, it’s tricky. We also in Australia get the same reports, without having evidence my suspicion is that we are currently dealing with a group of students who actually initially signed up for an internship where they went out to an organization, though they were embedded in their organization, looked forward to all of those interactions that you’ve been talking about. And now, circumstances have forced them to do something different. That I’m not sure if the reports that we’re seeing right now is reflective of the true e-internship experience or the virtual working environment for an internship, but what we have found, Debbie and I in some of the research that we’ve been doing together is that it’s incredibly important for any form of simulated internship or e-internship to prepare the participants appropriately.

So, all of those activities that helps help interns gear up for the experience become really important because once the internship starts, the person might sit on their kitchen table by themselves, and so that means they have to be resilient, they have to be proactive, they have to be able to deal with uncertainty, they have to have an internal locus of motivation. If you are a person who is easily distracted and hates asking questions and doesn’t want to bother their supervisor or their colleagues at work with things, the organization might not notice for days that you are struggling. And then come back and say well what have you done over the last week and you say oh, I don’t know I didn’t really know how to do it and that’s where the problems start. So, there I think it becomes really important to tell and to tell participants and to have them practice up front what are the behaviors that you have to adopt in order to be successful in that environment.

In the past, I think if I think of all the activities that we do at my institution and in Australia to prepare students for an internship experience, they are not that. They are more about be on time, dress appropriately, you know, the very basic things. Because we rely on the workplace then to keep an eye on our interns and to support them, and we actually work with the workplaces to say well these are the signs that you can look out for to support our interns. And this is what you should be doing, and these are the points in time when you should contact us for assistance. All of that, or not all but much of those responsibility gets shifted to the student, so we now have to prepare the student better and my argument is we haven’t prepared this first wave of e-interns very well. And we should learn from that experience and prepare the next wave much better.

>> Matthew Hora: I agree with your sentiment there, and you made a great observation to the traditional internship. We as educators, we do see control of the structure of the experience to the employer. You know, and I’m just thinking now since it’s not that educators have more control, but to a certain degree we could play a stronger role in shaping the student’s experience. But what can we do to help the student forge that emotional connection or that investment in their experience that they may be struggling with because they’re sitting along in their kitchen with a laptop?

>> Leopold Bayerlein: I would argue there’s a lot of research and a lot of good suggestions from the online learning literature. And I actually see um an e-internship or a simulated internship, the support structures that sit around it, I see the support structures that sit around an e-internship or a simulated internship being extremely closely related to the support structures that we know are important for online learning. So, I don’t think there’s a need to reinvent or to you know, what those structures should be, let’s look to online learning and let’s take the best things there and apply it to particularly in a simulated internship environment. It is really a form of online learning, it’s just you mentioned earlier it’s situated well within a context, it’s contextualized learning. You could think of a simulated internship really as case-based instruction, and case-based instruction has been around for decades. There are lots of resources and support materials for case-based instruction. Combine that with online learning and you get pretty close to what you would need to run a simulated internship successfully. And I think similarly for an e-internship, many of those support systems and support materials would apply.

>> Matthew Hora: Well, this is one reason I love doing these webinars, because I mean that seems common sensical to me now that you mentioned it Leopold, but I haven’t really heard it put that way. That all the things we’ve learned about distance education and online learning which we’ve been studying for 20, 30 years now, we should be applying some of those ideas to online internships now. I mean this actually dovetails nicely with the question from Paula: What is your take on software management programs for e-internship that try to streamline the internship experience and enhance the feeling of belonging to the organization?

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Look, yes incredibly important. The comment I would make, I’ve seen some software tools that do that, I’ve seen many but I’ve seen a couple that I thought were working quite well and I’ve seen a couple that I as a user would feel they’re very much based around processes and making sure that there’s a checking point, let’s check in. And it comes back to, not just does it fit for purpose, but does it work for particularly the organization. Any software system that you use to support remote working arrangements needs to fit into your organizational culture I guess is the point I would make. And even the best software platform in the world won’t achieve its outcomes for you if the way your organization operates doesn’t neatly fit into the process that are mapped in the software.

So it’s a sort of forces for courses kind of argument, and I know that in Australia at least, many organizations have ran out in the last couple of months and bought all sorts of new software tools that they’re not using to supposedly support their staff members who work from home. For some that works well, for others it doesn’t, we will still have to wait for the research to come out to identify really why that’s the case. But, as a gut feel kind of argument, I would think that the mapping to organizational culture will play a role in that. And an organization that plans well, who thinks about what kind of software should we use, they will have thought this through. An organization that just ran out and bought software, they will be the ones who experience problems I feel. But as I said, at this point in time I think we don’t have a definitive judgment on that so that’s a conversation for next year maybe.

>> Matthew Hora: Yes, and it’s interesting because you mentioned earlier, you’re a fan of low-tech solutions and some of the things that I’ve heard employers doing to try to replicate what a traditional on-site internship would look like. Socially speaking is to just facilitate after work hours happy hours online for the interns so they can just chit chat with each other, maybe have a senior person from the organization be there just on an informal basis. That doesn’t seem like it’s rocket science or too expensive and I just wanted to mention that because there’s a comment here that also strikes me as something that could be low-tech where you’re trying to really create for the intern something that’s similar to the traditional internship experience.

Eric writes: Interns in my program are normally based in Washington D.C. so I’ve been taking responsibility for sharing virtual opportunities to experience the city, whether that is virtual panels from think tanks that they might have gone to, virtual tours of museums, and even sending physical books that take place in D.C. And I’m not sure Leopold if you know much about the tradition and culture of internship in Washington D.C., but they’re a pretty big deal for a lot of students, whether they’re interested in politics of government or non-profit management, whatever it is. Thousands of students go there, and part of the allure is to be in the city and see all the monuments and just get the buzz of the city. So, just wonder if you have any thought about Eric’s observation about trying to recreate some sense of the physical location where students normally would be going.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: It’s a very good question, I think I completely agree and thinking back to my days when I was a student and I was an intern, going to a new place, experience a new place, being in a new environment there is contextual learning that happens outside your workplace. And by learning, I mean contextual experience, life experiences that you have that shape you as a person that sit outside the organization from which you work. And yes, that incredibly important if we are trying to develop students as people and not students as I guess economic resources for organizations. And my argument always is helping students get their first job is one step, it’s one day in a student’s life. Surely, I as an educator do not have the responsibility of helping the students get their first job. I have a responsibility to prepare them for their future, so that they open up a much broader conversation around what is it that I would like to do with my students, what do I want to achieve, what experiences do I want them to have? And I completely agree these things that sit around an internship are important. How do we do that online? It depends.

Things like what Eric pointed out, sharing all of these digital opportunities that we see more and more emerging every day now is a good way of doing it. It needs to be done in a way that lets interns participate in them without feeling that it’s a requirement of their internship and it’s a forced thing and they just attend. And it leads to these awkward social zoom sessions for our workplaces where it is everyone has now two minutes to share about what they cooked last night for dinner. And it feels contrived, it doesn’t feel natural, it doesn’t work in many cases. I’ve seen it done very well, and it comes back to do something that works for you in turn, works for your context, and that is a low touch kind of activity that draws people in, and that people find interesting to do.

So, for example I’m on the organizing committee for a conference for Saturday, and it was planned as a physical activity, we had to move online and one of the questions was instead of having sort of entertainment at the conference, what do we do? I then came up with well, let’s invite a dance instructor that I know who now teaches dance through Zoom to come and give us a 15-minute dance lesson and at the end we’re going to record all the conference participants on the screen doing a distributed flash mob dance. And you know, why do we do that, it’s just a fun activity that gets us into, that sets the scene for our social hour so that people say well that was fun, hopefully it works I don’t know yet. But getting a fun activity to start with and then hopefully conversation and interactions will naturally come out of that.

So, I think Eric has a follow-up question in the chat as well. In my virtual internships do I pay interns? I would love to but unfortunately no. They get academic credit towards their program, but there is no payment involved in that and that’s simply a budgetary constraint from my institution. But it would be lovely to pay them for a simulation as well. We’ve thought about, a colleague and I, about how we could do that, and we came up with the concept of getting businesses to give us low-level kind of admin work tasks that we would then run through our virtual internship. So instead of creating work tasks for the students, we would get businesses giving us tasks that we feed through the process. You get into problems a little bit with the quality of work, with supervision arrangements, with timelines. It’s a challenge, so at the moment all the simulations that I’m aware of and Matthew pointed out in an engineering example and there’s a couple of very good engineering examples as well, they all rely on tasks that are designed by the creators of that simulation by the instructional designers. They’re inspired by real-world events, but they’re not real-world tasks and I’m not aware of any simulation that actually pays its interns.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, I would think that those would fall in the category of work-integrated learning that’s embedded in the academic course where there’s probably some legal issues with paying students that are involved in that. But I’d like to kind of transition a little bit into this recent paper you have coming out, Leopold, The impact of prior work experience on student learning outcomes and simulated internships. And again, for our audience if that’s a new idea, again we’re talking about work-integrated learning, so something embedded within an academic program where there’s a simulated kind of workplace experience. But it looked like one of the conclusions or findings Leopold was that student learning outcomes were strongly influenced by their prior real-world work experience. Can you explain that finding and what that means?

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Yes, so it was actually, this project started out as a series of interviews I did with participants in my own simulation to find out how do student learn in the simulation. We always had reports from students that say I achieved this list of learning outcomes and we had some evidence to support that that’s actually true. But it was unclear to us how, what kind of cognitive process the students used to get to that learning outcome. And I’m particularly talking about these transferable learning outcomes, the soft skills if you will. And throughout these interviews, it came out that students who’ve never had any exposure to a workplace, so not as interns, not as part-time work at the supermarket, nothing really nothing. They came from school, came to us, did their degree and then at some point said oh I probably should think about what I want to do in work, oh let’s become an accountant. And the first time they were really exposed to anything that looked like work was our simulation. Those students, they achieved learning outcomes and particularly the transferable learning outcomes that we set at a let’s call it much lower level than students with prior experience or exposure to a workplace. That prior exposure doesn’t necessarily have to be an internship, so we had interviewed participants who did internships beforehand then did our simulation, did internships after, we had students who did nothing beforehand, did our simulation and gained some experience after. And we had people who just worked at the supermarket or worked at McDonald’s, and even those who worked at McDonald’s they could link some of those soft skill learning outcomes that we want to achieve of our students, to experiences they had at work to interactions they had at work with people. Often the comment was around oh yeah, I’ve had a similar issue of dealing with someone at work and I didn’t really know how to handle it and now I’m feeling better equipped to do it. Without any prior exposure to a workplace, those sort of lightbulb moments are much rarer and much more difficult to achieve for the students because they don’t have necessarily the contextual understanding to say yes, I’ve actually learned something here.

Interestingly, we had a couple of participants who said who were in that group and they didn’t realize at the time that they learned something, but then went out and got a job afterwards not due to our internship but they just went out and got a job. And then when we interviewed them six months or twelve months later they said yes, I thought you were preparing me for a workplace in your simulation, but really the lightbulb moment didn’t happen for me until I was in the situation I said oh yes, actually we’ve talked about this, we’ve done this. And so, I’ve come to talk about simulations as preparatory activities that assist students in their transition to work. So, it’s not really a replacement of all the things that you do in an e-internships or in a normal placement internship, but it does some things that you can carve out of that environment very well. And it prepares students more generally to do that, to be successful in a real-world work environment.

That’s the gist of the outcomes, it’s an interesting paper it took some twists and turns, starting out we didn’t anticipate that prior work experience would have such a big impact. But through the data analysis we really saw that most of the comments were somehow linked to levels of work experience. And if you separate out different levels of work experience, you could identify really tight groupings of participants and how they shared different experiences. So, to me it’s really a sign that we need in a simulation where you control all the different factors and everything, we need to think about what kind of students will we see coming through that experience. Is it students that have extensive work experience, students that have no work experience, or is it a mix of activities? My view is the mix of activities is actually best because then you can create a cross-fertilization. The ones with lots of experience, they can share that experience and contextualize the learning inside the simulation for those without that experience. And my paper there shows quite a bit of evidence where that happened, where some learning outcomes weren’t achieved because participants with extensive experience peer assisted others. So then, the simulation doesn’t really create the learning outcome it just creates the contextual environment in which peer support creates the learning outcome for you.

>> Matthew Hora: Okay, thank you Leopold. And one thing I’d like to pose to you Leopold, it’s a predicament that I’m seeing here in Wisconsin where a lot of employers are small or medium-sized businesses. The really big ones that had established internships programs, some of them they’ve been able to pretty smoothly segue into a remote or e-internship model. But a lot of the small and medium-sized businesses they haven’t, and it’s difficult because they not have the staff to do it or the I.T. support or just even the knowledge to convert their traditional internship experience into something that’s remote or online. So, I’m just working out ideas on the fly here, but it seems like as educators there’s something we can do to help, maybe talk with the employers or the organizations about well how do you structure the experience in a way that’s going to be really meaningful for the student and beneficial for you. Because if it’s not beneficial for the organization or the company, then they’re probably not going to be doing it. But do you have any thoughts on that? If you were sitting at a table full of medium-sized businesses and they said what are some key principles about how should we set up our e-internship, what would you tell them?

>> Leopold Bayerlein: I’ve had these conversations with some of the businesses that we work with. And we have a couple of programs that were scheduled for later in the year and that are currently on hold because the organizations are small, and they’re worried about can we do this effectively and will we get value for our time and money invested. I think the key hurdle for small and medium-sized business, there’s two. One is a hurdle of belief, the belief that it’s possible without spending many extra dollars on technology solutions and the other one is to think about how you are currently working with the employees that you have. At this point in time, any organization that sent their people home to work from home has to have worked out some way of doing that. I know that somewhat some transitions to work from home arrangement for permanent staff members have been not very successful. For those organizations, adding an e-internship on top is probably not ideal because they are still clearly stuck in dealing with the mechanics of engaging with their staff, of supporting their staff, of workflow management. Organizations where the workflow management has been solved and even if that’s just email correspondence or Facebook groups or regular Zoom chat sessions, but there is a basic structure there that lets people interact effectively and achieve the work outcomes they need to achieve. Then I think they’re at a point where they can add an intern.

And then the advice I would give is you need to be careful as to which intern you select, because they need to be someone who has the skills to work from home, who has the motivation, who can deal with uncertainty, they things I’ve talk about before, so it comes down a bit to selection of the intern. And you as an organization have to be incredibly clear with the intern, this is what we would like you do to, obviously a nicely contained project is best because then there’s a little project, here’s the material we first want you to read, then we have a meeting about how we should do it, then you know. The day-to-day assisting someone or looking over someone’s shoulder whilst learning how your organization operates types of internship, I think that’s on the way out. But I think it was on the way out beforehand as well because the learning outcomes for the student are not as good and the value that you get as an organization are not as good.

But if you have these clearly defined tasks and you tell an intern we would like you to do this, these are the resources, this is the way we communicate with each other. In the first couple days and weeks you obviously need to be proactive in supporting them and doing it, checking in more regularly, practicing the way that you would like communication to happen and workflow to happen. I think it’s achievable and for those organizations who have these rudimentary structures in place, it comes down to belief that they can do it. And I think they can, the big risk is that they transitioned face-to-face interns now into an online work environment and had a really bad experience and are scared away from doing that again because they feel that what they’re experiencing now is how all e-internships will unfold. And I just think that’s not the case and that’s not true.

>> Matthew Hora: Right, thank you Leopold.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Harry asked about equity students.

>> Matthew Hora: Thank you, sorry for posing this question.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: So, we actually, Debbie Yesker, myself, and another co-author we have a paper out that talks about e-internship and their relationship to equity and having equity students and equity groups that participate in an internship and opening door for those equity groups. Our view is that e-internships, because they don’t require you to relocate, they have very low entry barriers, they break down the barriers of placement and interns needing to be in the same location. They help and they help organizations to become more diverse, they help equity groups which previously had sometimes very extensive problems of accessing internships to access opportunities. So, we see it as a real way of leveling the playing field if you will, for both applicants and helping organizations become more diverse at the same time. Yes, there are still challenges involved in that, but the challenges are much fewer and their severity is much less and much lower than in a traditional face-to-face internship. So, I think my view is in the space of e-internships and simulations, they’re really good for equity, diversity. There are opportunities there, absolutely.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, and one thing that strikes me about that question and for those of you that didn’t see Carrie Shandra’s question is about how might simulated and e-internships matter for issues of student access and equity. The simulated internship or the work-integrated learning within the academic course is really interesting to me because students are already there, they’re already taking the courses. There’s no issue of access because they may not be in the classroom, they may be sitting in their kitchen on a laptop, but they’re in the course already. And so, it just strikes me as something that higher education needs to be exploring more of, is embedding simulations and work-integrated learning within our traditional academic courses.

And on that note, I wanted to pose, it’ll be my last question to you Leopold. Another thing that we’re seeing here is Wisconsin and I’m sure a lot of you are seeing it in your states or countries, is the economy is looking really bad and so it doesn’t just get to the point that Leo mentioned about some firms may not be equipped to have an intern. Some firms are closing or laying off thousands of workers, and so it’s starting to cross my mind a little bit that maybe higher education needs to not be thinking about converting employers or convincing them to start an e-internship. But instead, we need to start thinking more proactively about creating more simulations and more work-integrated learning experiences within our courses. I personally have a hard time speaking to employers now about how they can create an online internship because I know they’re struggling with so much. So, I’m just curious what you think about that Leopold and also what people on this webinar think, just because it’s looking like the economy isn’t getting better anytime soon. And some economists are saying that we haven’t yet been honest with ourselves about how rough things may get in some sectors.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: One hundred percent agree. The Australian experience if I can share that with you is that we had several large nationally important employers cancel all of the internship programs, cancel their graduate student intake for 2020 completely. So, they were at points big banks, big consulting firms, big accounting firms that issued contracts for graduates for next year and they were through many, in some cases all of those contracts. So, we have thousands of students and particularly very high achieving students who thought their future was assured and now suddenly it isn’t.

Two points I’d like to make, one is what I talked about earlier. If we see higher education and internships not as a way of getting students into the door for their first job but helping them develop as a person and ensuring their future, then this is a temporary setback. For the individual student, it’s a terrible experience, the world comes crashing down because you’ve studied for many years. In the U.S. experience, you would have a lot of student debt, in the Australian experience fortunately you have much less debt. But you were planning I’m going to university; I’m going to college and then I’m starting my work and that is on hold. So, what do we do with those people now to meaningfully equip them for the new world and the new work environment that we can all see? I mean, we all know that going forward the ability to work remotely will be part of a selection process. If I would be an employer and I would have a selection, I would ensure that the person I employ no matter what role is equipped and has the capabilities to work from home. The way we do that with the large number of people that we have currently comes back to simulations, experiences where we can have large groups of people, where we don’t have the bottleneck of supply of placements. To give them these skills, equip them for the future of the new work environment, and go from there. The short-term solution, I don’t know, if we would have a short-term solution to that I think we would be advising the government, but we’re not so hopefully someone else comes up with a solution very soon because it’s critical that we do.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, and I don’t intend to end our webinar on a Debbie downer not, but you know right now a lot of higher education institutions are not equipped to be creating simulations themselves because there’s a lot of budget cuts and a lot of questions are facing our sector right now. I just think it’s worth exploring or considering that these simulations or simulation-based internship or work-integrated learning, maybe something that higher ed needs to think more carefully and seriously about moving forward.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Yeah, if I can add there, I think the challenge for individual institutions is to create simulations is great because there’s skills involved, there’s time involved, there’s financial resources involved. I actually see a big opportunity in professional associations, you mentioned engineers, the Australian term would be engineers, I don’t know what the U.S. equivalent is. But you know those sorts of industry bodies, if they would take the lead, partner with a small number of institutions to create a simulation that’s then shared with engineering programs across the country, they could do much of the heavy lifting, they can provide the real-world input and content. It can be designed once and it can then be amended to fit into the context of every institution, into the learning management system of every institutions. And that would save us all a lot of headache, a lot of money and a lot of time. So, I think there that’s the opportunity that I see. And those organizations just need to step up at the moment and be encouraged to step up and do that.

>> Matthew Hora: Yeah, well we’ve come to the end of hour together, this has been a great conversation Leopold. I suspect it may be new to some of the colleagues on our webinar, and as you were just making your last comments I had this image in my mind of legions of students out there sitting in their kitchens with their virtual reality headset plugged into some industry-created simulation. And who knows, that may be closer than we think, and it may not be as bad as we think, although it is a little scary. But I just wanted to thank you Leopold that you’ve taken to meet with me and to answer questions. It’s been great getting to know you and your work.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Thank you Matthew, thank you very much for inviting me and thank you everyone else for listening. A little plug, if you are interested most of my work obviously is available online and you can Google me, and you will find an easy link to Google Scholar where you can download that and cite me widely. Thank you.

>> Matthew Hora: All right, thank you Leopold and have a great day.

>> Leopold Bayerlein: Thank you Matthew, bye.