Social Work Distance Education Assessment of Readiness Checklist (SW-DEAR)

This post was written and edited by Nancy J. SmythMelanie Sage, and myself. It will be included in our forthcoming book, Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology, to be published by CSWE Press in 2018.

This is the checklist titled Social Work Distance Education Assessment of Readiness (SW-DEAR).Social work programs develop online social work programs in different ways – converting courses overtime until the entire curriculum is online; launching designated online cohorts; insourcing (hiring faculty to teach online); or outsourcing (hiring an outside firm to put your program online), including varying degrees of faculty autonomy in developing and teaching an online courses. Regardless of the approach, a first step in the process is assessment of a social work program’s readiness for online programming, and a reason for a struggling online program often has to do with stretched capacity. Many campus-wide issues must be considered before launching any type of fully online programming. These considerations include the ways in which online programming makes education more, or less, accessible to different populations of students, gatekeeping concerns, and implicit curriculum issues. To help social work programs consider capacity issues related to online programming, we have collaborated with the faculty members Carol Schneweis, Carenlee Barkdull, and Randy Nedegaard at the University of North Dakota’s Department of Social Work to develop the Social Work Distance Education Assessment of Readiness Checklist (SW-DEAR) which programs can use to assess readiness to launch online programming, and identify opportunities to strengthen current programming.

This checklist is a self-assessment related to best practices and resources for distance education.  The assessment includes 43 items that cover the following areas of capacity:

  • University Capacity (9 items)
  • Program (college/school/department) Capacity (23 items)
  • Faculty Capacity (6 items)
  • Student Capacity (5 items)

For each of these areas, users rate their current capacity on a scale of 0 = No Capacity to 3 = Full Capacity.  There is no minimum score; users should address areas in which scores are low and make efforts toward continuous quality improvement. In total, 129 points are possible.  Users may find it helpful to score the checklist as a committee and discuss how to further develop capacity in areas that are currently under-resourced.

A PDF copy of the checklist is available here:

Please let us know if you have questions about the checklist. If you used the checklist to assess your own program, let us know how it worked, or if you think anything is missing.  The checklist is free to use under a Creative Commons License 2017 with attribution and no derivatives. This means that if you use it, you should use it as is with credit to the authors.

Citation for the checklist: 

Schneweis, C., Sage, M., Barkdull, C, Nedegaard, R., Iverson Hitchcock, L., & Smyth, N.J. (2017). Social Work Distance Education Assessment of Readiness [Instrument]. Retrieved from

How to cite this blog post:

Hitchcock, L., Smyth, N.J. & Sage, M. (2018, January 17). Social Work Distance Education Assessment of Readiness Checklist (SW-DEAR). [Blog post]. Retrieved from:

Author: Laurel Hitchcock

Dr. Hitchcock served as the editor for this blog post. The author is the Guest Educator.

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