The Dawn of Virtual Work-Based Learning: Students Weigh In

October 6th, 2020

Category: Partnerships, Postsecondary Success

When it comes to career pathways and work-based learning experiences for students —Delaware occupies rarified air. We’re considered a national leader for our tight-knit partnerships between high schools, higher ed, and local businesses. Nearly 20,000 high schoolers are gaining in-class instruction along with real-world work experiences like internships, job shadowing, apprenticeships, and more, in areas that span from computer science to patient care to culinary arts.

But how exactly does work-based learning work during a pandemic?

Local partners are intrepidly exploring virtual work-based learning. We talked to three Delaware students about their (paid) summer internship with Diamond Technologies—a partnership facilitated by Strive, Dual School, Rodel, Delaware Tech’s Office of Work-Based Learning, and Delaware Futures, among others.

The students worked in groups via Zoom to identify and research a problem and then develop a project that would solve this problem. They did this with guidance and advice from a diverse group of IT professionals. Students spoke with the professional mentors “employers” and presented their finding and projects midway and at the end of the project in early August.

. . .

Ahmad Mays, junior, Brandywine HS

On the virtual internship experience:

It was a group project, so as soon as we introduced ourselves and got used to each other on Zoom, we increased our chemistry. We weren’t afraid to talk or ask for help.

Even though it was virtual, you still had to be professional, ask questions, assert yourself when you have trouble. It helped me speak up more in presentations.

Technically speaking…

I’m in the computer engineering pathway in school. Outside of school, I always used to code and make PCs for fun. I was 9 or 10 when I started coding. There was a school assignment that I had to do, and I actually enjoyed it, so I started learning more about it myself.

The internship culminated in a big presentation on data protection: How to keep your personal information safe, your social media, credit card numbers. I was happy with how it came out—once we put everything together.

Challenges and rewards:

It’s definitely possible to do internships online. One challenge was time management. You think, being at home, you’ll get a lot done, but you get caught up.

Getting paid and coming away with college credits—it was a big benefit. Especially since I want to go to a four-year college at the moment.

. . .

Keturah Belgrave, junior, Laurel HS

On the virtual internship experience:

I’m used to in-person meetings with Delaware Futures. It was kinda weird for me that I had to be online. Nobody knew what to expect, neither did the people I reported to. It turned out so much better than I thought it would. It might’ve even been better online.

Technically speaking…

Technology is always growing, it will always be around. I used to be obsessed with my mom’s Blackberry, now we have new iPhones coming out every year.

So that’s part of why my group decided to focus on iPhone security updates, how to identify and avoid scams.

Challenges and rewards:

They based the internship around us, what we wanted to do. The challenge was learning to work with different people’s learning styles—but once we got that, it was fun.

I’ve gained new skills, new knowledge, new sense of self. I also know how to find empathy for others and just in the community, how to face the problems we face and make them into solutions. This internship has helped me manage my time better, between school, practices.

I know how to do an interview. I know how to call out of work if I’m sick. How to present myself, be a professional. It’s not taught in school, but now I know at 16.

. . .

Dakota Wilkerson, junior, Laurel HS

On the virtual internship experience:

I was confused on how they were going to give job experience virtually. I wasn’t really tech savvy at all. But I learned so much that I didn’t know; I was so glad I did it.

The first week was a challenge because you’re meeting new people, learning new things. But it boosted my motivation to keep working. It wasn’t what I was expecting—it was better.

Technically speaking…

Our group was a little behind at first, but we learned from it. We did a lot of research, getting a lot of feedback. We built a website…the idea is to help people who are not tech savvy work around viruses, scams, security updates, and our audience was people over 55.

Challenges and rewards:

We learned a technique of saying, “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…” so that we can keep building on ideas and not limiting your opportunities.

I feel like I’ve come a long way. This internship has really helped me. Getting paid for it is a bonus; it helps me learn to manage money as well.

It wasn’t easy. You had to put in the effort, your thoughts and ideas, and give feedback on other thoughts and ideas. It was a lot but it was a huge learning experience.

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Matt Amis



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