Students seeking internships have long been limited by the number of opportunities within their geographic area. Is an increase in virtual internships changing this model and offering more options for students?

According to a recent post on MentorNet, virtual intership opportunities are on the rise. At Urban Interns, an intern-job board that connects small business owners and startups with people who want to do part-time jobs and internships, about 40 percent of the listings on the site this year are for virtual internships, up from 30 percent last year, says Cari Sommer, the company’s co-founder.

Students are drawn by the flexible nature and the experience they gain, while employers like them because they don’t have to worry about providing office space and can assign projects to interns in other states or countries, say career experts. Career-services officers and those who run national intern job-search boards say they have seen an uptick in the last few years in such offerings—most of which are unpaid—especially from small ventures and startups seeking additional help to take their businesses to the next level. Larger companies, too, are starting to explore offering these types of internships. Even the U.S. State Dept. has started the Virtual Student Foreign Service, which pairs college students, or “eInterns,” with internships at diplomatic posts overseas and at State Dept. domestic offices.

Will the Learning & Development field catch on...or be a late adopter?