Maintaining Connections: A Web-Enhanced Approach to Undergraduate Internship Supervision

Article excerpt

Abstract

Academic departments in kinesiology and physical education have historically struggled with the important issue of interdisciplinary collaboration in the areas of teaching, research, and service. The resultant lack of coherence can prove problematic as undergraduates attempt to complete the often difficult transition from student to professional during culminating field placements. Student interns frequently experience difficulty with a variety of challenges that can be partially attributed to the lack of interdisciplinary connection and collaboration across the undergraduate curriculum. In an attempt to improve both the academic rigor and level of student connectivity during the senior year internship experience, faculty members at a regional public university designed, implemented, and evaluated a web-enhanced approach for internship supervision.

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Across college and university campuses, the senior year experience represents a critical developmental period as undergraduate students prepare to make the difficult transition from their familiar academic surroundings to the world of work (Gardner & Van der Veer, 1997). In addition to the usual academic and social pressures of college, seniors are suddenly confronted by a multitude of new possibilities and challenges related to their own continued personal and professional development. In the interest of supporting students during this potentially difficult time and establishing meaningful relationships with graduating seniors, universities should assist students in completing a successful transition to post-college life. In various academic programs, this assistance may come in the form of a senior seminar, career services workshops, academic advising, senior research project, and so forth.

For undergraduates studying kinesiology and physical education, transitional issues are commonly addressed through the completion of a semester-long internship or field placement. Experiential learning requirements provide students in a wide range of academic majors with the opportunity to apply the technical knowledge, skills, and abilities that have been developed in an authentic work environment. This type of practical experience is thought to be a critical factor for graduating seniors attempting to complete the transition from student to self-directed, lifelong learner. Internships provide students with a number of other significant advantages that are unlikely to occur in more traditional teaching-learning environments (e.g., career exploration, resume building, professional networking, practical application, knowledge integration). For the participating employer, a quality internship program represents an excellent opportunity: (a) to infuse new ideas and concepts directly from institutions of higher learning; (b) to recruit and observe new talent; (c) to train prospective employees at lower cost; and (d) to help improve the quality of undergraduate preparation in the field through the provision of regular mentoring and feedback regarding student intern performance (Grantham, Patton, York & Winick, 1998).

In some instances, student interns unfortunately gain considerable experience but do very little meaningful learning during the course of their internship placement. Several factors contribute to this less than desirable educational outcome including inadequate academic preparation of the intern, lack of accountability of the intern, inadequate university supervision, and inappropriate internship site placement (Campbell & Kovar, 1994). It is also not uncommon for student interns to experience some measure of isolation and disconnection while engaged in off-campus field placements (Casey, Bloom & Moan, 1994; Mayer, 2002). In an attempt to improve both the academic rigor and level of connectivity during the internship experience, faculty members at a regional public university developed a web-enhanced approach for internship supervision. …