New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Maximising productivity and learnability in internships

Alex Vakaloudis, Nimbus Centre, Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland)

Kostas Anagnostopoulos, Nimbus Centre, Cork Institute of Technology (Ireland)


Internships are intended for students before their final year or unemployed people- in any case personnel with limited knowledge of teamwork and technical procedures who wish to gain hands-on experience. While the educational intentions of an internship programme are pure and potentially fruitful, it is not easy to achieve a positive outcome because of constraints limiting the impact of an internship for both the intern and the hosting organisation. The timespan of internships could be limited to a few weeks, the intern may not take the assignment seriously since the payment is low or they are with friends or abroad during the (relaxing) summer time. The outcome of an intern’s work is regularly discarded as problematic, incomplete or unsupported.


The aim of this study is to maximise the benefits for all stakeholders during the duration of an internship in an IT organisation. More specifically for the trainee to acquire technical skills and also get a good taste of professional procedures and for the organisation to make use of their effort, for example successfully integrate bug-free and complete code produced by the trainee.


We devised and applied a framework to cover the full project lifecycle providing good exposure to trainees. It includes tasks in Competitive Analysis, Test Driven design, development (C++), code revisions and teamwork (SVN/GIT), project management and delivery with Agile.


Our method initiates with a research survey exercise to familiarise students with the fields of study while presenting them with alternatives for concentrating on issues interesting to them. At the same time, they attend a crash, short training course in C++ programming with API examples and exercises. Specific implementation tasks are agreed with them for which they produce test plans. 


The second part of our framework focuses on software development. The interns become part of a team that operates under Agile principles and as such they attend daily stand up meetings, determine and undertake tasks during sprints. The team works in a continuous integration environment and each intern is mentored by a junior member of the team.


Exposing the intern into a professional environment is obviously is beneficial for them. The gradual approach, realised via familiarisation by research, target setting with test plans and coaching by a non-senior person eases the intern’s transition into a productive team member. For the organisation, the risks are minimal since test-driven development is followed while junior members get a first taste into human management.


We have applied our framework to both student and professional internships. It has proven to be flexible with regards to the duration of internships (6-13 weeks) and the level of the internee. Our conclusion is that although Agile is predominantly a professional tool, trainees can–through an introductory research phase-be brought and work effectively very quickly and their performance/progress can be measured.

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