The present reality of digital era brought the necessity of digital skills and competence development also in Higher education students work experience sector. It has clearly pointed to the importance of virtual internships and its potential effectiveness for all parties involved, which has been aslo supported by a recent enabling of virtual internships within Erasmus+ program. During this times of Covid-19 pandemic and connected restrictions, the realization of standard physical Erasmus+ internships has been quite limited across all countries. Virtual internships remain now for HE students almost the only possibility for getting the international work experience. We also believe that apart of current situation, virtual internship is a valuable complementary option for getting work experience now and in a future "new normal". For the people with different barriers it is the only option regardless to current situation. We believe that acquiring work experience via internships is a necessary part of skills and competence development of Higher education students and to be able to fully use the potential of virtual internships too, it is necessary to target the gap in skills and specific knowledge areas this topic requires not only at the side of students/trainees but also among university internship coordinators as well as host organization representants. The option of having internship virtually/online is an efficient alternative but the current reality has showed that since the Erasmus+ has included them into the program there has been quite low number of students and companies joining. One of the main reasons is that comparing to standard physical internships there are new specific skills and competence needed to be learned at the side of all parties involved and more then ever before the digital access to such learning content is nowadays a must.
The objective of our project is to develop a digital learning portal "Virtual Internships Academy" (VIA) , offering the complex digital learning content for trainees, university coordinators as well as host organizations for successful preparation, execution and closure of virtual internships while assuring the good quality for all parties. Our project will help to carry out virtual internships as a supporting learning source which will help increasing their number not only within Erasmus+ program (with direct positive effect on graduate employability) but will also help to encourage all parties using innovative digital learning tools. Moreover with our project University internship coordinators will be able to switch their preparation activities for students, done in present form, for a modern and effective digital learning tool.
Our project team consists of 6 experienced partners who either have experience with virtual internships, or plan organize virtual internships as a new opportunity of Erasmus+ program or are host organizations and company consultants which will be able to use the project to motivate and couch the other companies for offering and successful execution of virtual internships.
All together we cover the required skills at all levels needed for the project from identifications of needs to multilevel and cross-sectoral expertise. The team has also a great possibilities for analysis and dissemination of the project outcome among regions of partners and their networks, together covering all the target groups of the project users. Only incorporating the VIA digital learning platform into the work practice of the project partners as a first step after completion, will have a huge impact to their networks of different target groups, which will have a natural domino effect to further multiply the users with fast sharing of its benefits.
The expected impact of our project is mainly in helping to carry out virtual internships with our project as a supporting digital learning source, which will help increasing their number and quality not only within Erasmus+ program and with direct positive effect on graduate employability. The project aim is also in helping to encourage all parties using innovative digital learning tools. VIA digital learning portal will be freely accessible to everybody interested to learn how to prepare for and successfully execute virtual internships. There will be a certification of completion issued to every participant completing all the lessons with all modules of selected target group. The VIA certificate will serve for the further recognition and awareness of virtual internships and need for their quality preparation. VIA platform will be a digital tool and we will use the full potential of online promotion possibilities and digital measurements of its impact to all target groups in all regions. We believe our project will help students to be confident joining virtual internships, university internship coordinators to successfully coordinate them and companies to be more open to offer virtual internship opportunities.