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:

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Review of Teaching & Learning in Social Work for 2017

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the year is to read all of the “year-in-review” lists.  Books, records, movies, top ten social work journal articles – it doesn’t matter what the list is about, I’ll read it.  I am always curious how and why people choose to rank their favorite things from the year.  This must be because I find it hard to choose a favorite book or movie when there are so many good options, and how can I exclude anything as a social worker, the profession that loves diversity and strives for inclusion. So for 2017, I offer a list for the Teaching & Learning in Social Work Blog.  Not the top-ten blog posts, but the entire year.  Here are the numbers:

Number of Blog Posts in 2017 –  My goals was to write or publish at least two posts a month, which happened more months than not:

Total Blog Posts = 25
Highest number of Blog Posts published in one month = 6 (October)
Lowest number of Blog Posts published in one month = 0 (August)

Guest Educator Posts in 2017 – Another goal I have for this blog is to provide a space for others to share their work, particularly work that does not fit into the traditional academic publication venues.  For 2017,  I am thrilled that eight social work educators wrote seven different blog posts about their scholarship of teaching and learning for the blog.  I want to thank all of these authors for sharing their work and for all they do to educate future social workers!

Scholarship Dissemination Posts – My final goal for the year was to write more about my own scholarship by sharing content from conference presentations and any published articles.  I published seven posts about national conference presentations with colleagues, and wrote about one article I had published in 2017.  Clearly, I am doing more conferencing than publishing.

Below is a list of this year’s post grouped around the topics of assignments, projects, guest educator posts, and conference presentations.

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Technology in Social Work Education: Educators’ Perspectives on the NASW Technology Standards for Social Work Education and Supervision

In 2017, newStandards for Technology in Social Work Practice were issued to address the intersections of professional social work practice and technology. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), along with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Association of Social Work Boards, and the Clinical Social Work Association cosigned the Standards, developed by a committee of primarily social work practitioners. CSWE clarified that the standards are not part of the 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards competencies and are not part of the accreditation process (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE],personal communication, June 30, 2017). The authors of the Standards also offered brief interpretations of each of the Standards and sub-standards.

Hearing a call for more thorough guidance, the editors of this document reached out to social work educators and supervisors with specialized knowledge of teaching and supervising with technology and asked them to help us think about Section 4, Social Work Education and Supervision.  In the early Fall of 2017, twenty-five people responded to the request to contribute their best practice and research wisdom.  We used technology to crowd-source (obtain input of a number of people online), which allowed us to co-create, co-edit, and get rapid feedback on this document over the course of a month. The result of this effort is a document (see end of this post to access a copy of this document) that includes the original standards published by NASW, followed by interpretations developed by the group of twenty-five social work academics and supervisors.  It offers considerations for decision-making related to the benefits and risks of technology use in teaching and supervision, developed by those who have direct experience in these arenas.

We extend our appreciation to the contributors, and to all social work educators and supervisors who strive to see all the potentials and benefits of technology, innovate while holding up our professional values and ethics, and understand and educate about risks of technology while working with and on behalf of people who are the most vulnerable.

Thank you,

Laurel Iverson Hitchcock, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Melanie Sage, University at Buffalo
Nancy J. Smyth, University at Buffalo

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Using Technology for Collaboration: Virtual Communities of Practice

This post was written and edited by Nancy J. SmythMelanie Sage, and myself as part of our collaboration on our forthcoming book, Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology, to be published by CSWE Press in 2018. 

Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoP) are professional online communities that exist to improve work and education around disciplines and professions (Hara, Shachaf, & Stoerger, 2009; Adedoyin, 2016).  In this blog post, we asked our colleagues (social work educators) to share their best tips for collaborating with others professionals using digital tools.

Christine McKenna Lok of Dean College in Franklin, MA, participates in a VCoP called Academic Writing Club:

They set you up with a group of a dozen faculty in the social sciences (or health sciences, or whatever) and you have a private community to set goals for each 12-week cycle, check off which dates you’ve accomplished your goals, and write messages to each other about the process of writing rather than the content. They also have chat sessions available at various times with the entire enrollment for that session so you can log in at, say, 8 AM Central and say hello to other folks who have committed to a half-hour of writing and then wish them well at the end of the time. It’s not free, but it’s a worthwhile investment (C. McKenna Lok, personal communication, September 11, 2017).

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The Flipped Classroom: Harnessing technology to teach clinical skills to MSW students

Dr. Elisabeth Counselman-Carpenter

Dr. Elisabeth Counselman-Carpenter, PhD, LCSW is a lecturer in social work at Columbia University and maintains a private practice where she works with children and families.  In this blog post, she talks about the reasons why she flipped her course on clinical practice with children & families and the practical steps she took to achieve the flip. If you have questions for Elisabeth, you can tweet her at @ElisabethAnneCC 

This course was designed as first semester, second year elective called “Advanced Clinical Practice with Children and Families”.  Built on previous content from other courses about life span model and ecosystems perspective, students are expected to leave this advanced clinical course understanding the context and application of evidence-based social work practice with vulnerable populations.

After teaching the course for a year using traditional lecture format, I surveyed students regarding their learning preferences as well as goals and objectives for the semester. Some of the questions I asked included:

– What are your personal goals and expectations from this class for the next 14 weeks?
– What would strengthen your experience in this class?
– What have been some of your key take-aways from other practice classes?

Feedback indicated that students were most interested in focusing on play therapy and other forms of evidenced-based practice with skills be directly taught in class (i.e. modeled and then time for practice in the classroom). Uniformly, students reported that they felt unskilled in putting into place any form of direct practice with children because they only had a surface grasp of “how” to use certain skills with children.  All students requested that the course focus on direct application, with a ‘walk-through’ of the skills and interventions, by the professor, covered in the course readings and lectures. Additionally, students felt unsure about where to gather accurate information on how to implement their skills, and reported they were not often given time in field to observe and practice these skills with other staff members.  They requested digital case examples, such as training videos, in addition to single case study research articles to enhance their knowledge.  This course had rich material in the texts, but students struggled with the “how to” and were bored by simply reading about the techniques.

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Using Technology for Productivity: Managing the Academic Workload

This post was written and edited by Nancy J. SmythMelanie Sage, and myself as part of our collaboration on our forthcoming book, Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology, to be published by CSWE Press in 2018. 

Today’s academic work environments are fast-paced and rely on digital technologies to handle the flow of communication and information such as email, digital calendars, and electronic to-do lists.  In this blog post, we asked social work educators and practitioners to share their best tips for using technology as a tool for productivity.

Managing email can be a difficult and time-consuming task.  Andy Berkhout, the Data Quality Coordinator from the St. Patrick Center in St. Louis, MO shares his guidelines for managing email:

Clients and colleagues will notice if you are paying more attention to checking email on your phone than you are to them.  Instead, set a dedicated time at the beginning or end of the workday to catch up on electronic communication.  When it is time to pay attention to the person in front of you, do just that; put your phone away and give your complete focus.  Your text messages and email will be still be there later, but the chance to connect with a client or provide meaningful input during a meeting might pass if you’re not giving the present moment your full attention (A. Berkhout, personal communication, September 6, 2017).

Shelly Richardson, an Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Social Work at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN, uses her prior practice experience to cope with her email:

In my role as an associate professor and director of an undergraduate program, I only check emails twice a day and spend no more than 45 minutes doing so. This forces me to prioritize activities and responses quickly. I only “touch” things once. If I need to take care of something or respond, I do it immediately upon receiving the request. I also have files with names of my frequent contacts (such as co-workers, dean, chair) emails that are initiated by those individuals are easier to find. I also use folder titles for activities I am responsible for (advising, to be graded, coordinating, and committees). These folders allow me to clean up my inbox as I read through emails, I flag emails that are in progress or I need to follow up on and review the flags once a week (usually Monday or Friday). These flagged items stay in my inbox and I work to keep this number around 15-.  I also have a rule, if I have to respond more than twice, I make a phone call immediately or schedule a face to face to follow up, this is usually indication that communication has broken down somewhere and needs to be resolved (S. Richardson, personal communication, September 20, 2017).

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