Supporting the success of online students who are deaf: Lessons presented at #SWDE2017

Matthea Marquart

Beth Counselman-Carpenter

Matthea Marquart, MSSW, is the director of administration of the Online Campus at Columbia University School of Social Work as well as an adjunct lecturer, and Beth Counselman-Carpenter, LCSW, PhD, is a full-time lecturer of direct and advanced clinical practice, gender and sexuality,  with her current research focusing on technology in social work pedagogy.  In this blog post, they share highlights from their recent presentation on supporting the success of online students who are deaf.  If you have questions for them, they can be reached on Twitter at @MattheaMarquart or @ElisabethAnneCC.

On April 13, 2017, we presented a roundtable session on “Supporting the success of online students who are deaf” at the third annual Social Work Distance Education Conference sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake University’s Worden School of Social Service.  

We chose this session topic because social work values, as well as the law, require those of us involved in online education to ensure that we’re providing equal access to all of our students.  As the field of online education grows and new technologies develop, it’s important to us to make sure that we’re inclusive in administration, planning, and teaching.  We also wanted to host a conversation on the topic, so that we could learn from the experiences of our peers at other institutions.

You can access a copy of our handout, which includes details about the tools & strategies we’ve used to support online students who are deaf, here:

From our perspective, there are three critical components to success:  never assume, attention to a solid time line, and thorough preparation with a back-up plan for live course sessions.  

Never assume: My experiences (Beth) with deaf and hearing-impaired students over the past year has made me a stronger and more thoughtful instructor.  It forced me to actively challenge certain assumptions I had previously held about equal access and thus deepened the creativity in and outside of the classroom to look at access through a more critical lens.  When choosing media for your course, never assume that the captions provided are of the level and caliber in terms of accuracy.  YouTube videos are NOT equal access compliant, as they are often inaccurate or their timing is off.  All media selected by the instructor must be captioned by the institution’s captioning services or be reviewed for accuracy by the Office of Disability Services prior to being assigned, shown or posted.  This also includes transcribed videos shown from the library, when transcription has been completed by outside sources, and for podcasts.

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FERPA & Social Media: Thoughts for Social Work Education

Laptop computer with yellow caution tape wrapped around itWhat about FERPA?  This is one of the most common questions I hear when presenting about using social media in the classroom.  FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is the US federal law that protects the privacy of students’ educational record, and ensures that students have some control over their records.  Examples of what is included in an educational record at the post-secondary level include grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, and student financial information.  Social work educators are often very aware of privacy and disclosure of personally identifiable information because of our practice backgrounds and the NASW Code of Ethics, so FERPA makes sense to us.  It is understood that we should abide by FERPA and our professional standards of privacy and informed consent while modelling appropriate ethical standards for our students.  However, this does not mean that social media is off-limits as an educational and professional development tool (Drake, 2014).  Rather it means that as social work educators, we can use social media with students as long as we do so in ethical and legal ways (Rodriguez, 2011).

The purpose of this post is to provide some examples and best practices for FERPA-compliant social media assignments based on my understanding and experiences, and insights from colleagues.  As with any ethical challenge, there are no black or white answers, but it is my hope that information in this post will provide insight on how social work educators can embrace the benefits of social media assignments while being mindful of the risks.  And there are many benefits to using social media as social workers such as contributing to public conversations, building relationships with other practitioners, and staying current on news and research.  Further, helping social work students develop the values and skills to professionally and ethically use social media is included in Council of Social Work Education’s 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards.

Here are ways I work to ensure that I am being ethical and professional with social media in the classroom:

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Harnessing Social Media for Social Good at #CG4SW

Last week, Melanie Sage and I led a discussion at the Social Work’s Grand Challenge Initiative Conference (#GC4SW) held at the University of Southern California (April 25-28, 2017).  We attended the last day of the conference, which focused on for Harnessing Technology for Social Good.  If you are not familiar with this challenge, its focus includes leveraging digital and social technologies to enhance, improve, and expand the reach and influence of social services, evidence-based social work practices, and innovative programs.  Two white papers outline how social work can use technology to help individuals, communities, and organizations:

The use of social media is omnipresent in our daily lives, and ahead of policy and ethics in social work. Technology policy standards typically do not address concerns of social workers, including communication with clients, and professional values of privacy and confidentiality, safety, and self-determination.  As a profession, we have few research studies about the use of social media in practice and mixed professional guidance around how to best engage with social media as part of our work with clients, constituents, and communities. Some in social work take a risk-averse approach to social media, limiting how and who they interact with on virtual platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, this Grand Challenges supports broader thinking and creativity in how social workers can engage with social media, especially to address the 11 other grand challenges.

As part of our discussion, we proposed that social media can be a tool to help social work academics and practitioners to discover and share knowledge as well as build relationships for collaborative work. Social media platforms are well-placed to allow social workers across the professional continuum to engage with each other, creating communities of learning and practice that bridge the gap between practice and research in social work. We suggested four practices with social media for advancing the Grand Challenges for Social Work:

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Day Two of #SWDE2017 – Professional Learning Networks for Social Work

On April 13th, Melanie SageNancy J. Smyth and I presented at the third annual Social Work Distance Education Conference sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake University’s Worden School of Social Service.

Our workshop informed participants about the mechanics as well as the advantages and disadvantages of professional learning networks (PLN), both as a scholar and in the classroom.  A professional learning network (also known as a personalized learning network) includes technology-based tools and processes used by a social worker to stay up-to-date and share information about current news, practice knowledge, and the latest research findings. Participants learned how to establish and grow their own PLN, integrate PLNs into a classroom or curriculum, and appreciate how the theory of Connectivism (Siemens, 2005) informs the practice of PLNs.

You can access a copy of the slides here:

A copy of the Professional Learning Network (PLN) Worksheet shared during the session is available here:

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