Examining gains and pains of a new virtual internship design

Qian Wang, Jiyao Xun, Na Li*, Henk Huijser, Juming Shen, Jian Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This study investigated how student effort and the course design influenced an online internship in China. A cohort of 95 postgraduate students became distance learners in a credit-bearing internship course due to COVID-19. The course leader applied the action learning framework to prompt student online collaboration and group inquiry. The framework assumes the importance of self-reliant learner autonomy in virtual internships. After the course, researchers analyzed the effects of self-directed learning with technology on a multidimensional community of inquiry in a virtual environment. The study also identified students’ narratives that explain how self-directed learning with technology interacted with three elements of virtual communities of inquiry: social, cognitive, and teaching. Findings explain how virtual internships can be facilitated through a community of inquiry model. Educators and practitioners may consider the model to demonstrate student-staff partnerships (Fitzgerald et al., 2020) to achieve quality transformation of internships from face-to-face mode to distance education.

Original languageEnglish
Article number164112234
Pages (from-to)246
Number of pages266
JournalDistance Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


  • action learning
  • community of inquiry (CoI)
  • self-directed learning
  • virtual internship


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