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Fully synchronous degree programs in social work to be offered this fall

By

Mark J. Scarp

Responding to the needs of social work students who seek the flexibility of online learning, this fall Arizona State University’s School of Social Work will offer new, fully synchronous online programs leading to master’s and bachelor’s degrees in the field, respectively called MSW LIVE Online and BSW LIVE Online.

BSW LIVE Online will be offered to Arizona residents with the goal of expanding the program’s geographic reach in the future. Meanwhile, MSW LIVE Online will be open to students living both inside and outside Arizona.

Before the pandemic, the school had been offering in-person and asynchronous online programs toward an MSW degree, and its curriculum for a Bachelor of Social Work degree had been taught solely in person, in classrooms, said Kellie MacDonald-Evoy, a clinical assistant professor at the school and its MSW admissions coordinator.

When the BSW program was converted during the pandemic to ASU Sync, a hybrid of in-person and livestreamed video instruction, the strong positive response from students led the school to decide to offer a fully synchronous option permanently, MacDonald-Evoy said.

“We discovered students loved it,” she said. “The faculty loved teaching it, too. We determined there was a need for getting a BSW online as well.”

Now, both programs will add the fully synchronous option, via ASU Sync.

Both will be taught by the school’s full-time faculty with similar class sizes to the immersion (in-person) program, around 25 to 30 students per class, who engage in live lectures and discussions with their instructors and peers.

Students in each program will apply what they are learning in the classroom through in-person internship experience in their local areas. Each MSW LIVE Online student will complete 960 hours in internships, while each BSW LIVE Online student will complete 480 hours.

Students can pursue either degree through full-time study depending on the demands on their time in other aspects of their lives. Students who had been learning part time could accelerate to full time if they wish. They can also complete an associate degree at a local community college or transfer previously earned college credits to complete the BSW in two years. 

“We’re really excited and optimistic to bring the BSW program to Arizona students who might not be able to gain access to this in the past,” MacDonald-Evoy said. “It is a real exciting option.”

During the pandemic, School of Social Work faculty learned how to teach and learn using Zoom and other video conferencing tools, giving students the vital chance to continue their educational experiences, said Foundation Professor Elizabeth Lightfoot, director of the School of Social Work.

“For some students, video conferencing increased the accessibility of our MSW program, and they asked for an opportunity to take all of their classes live online, while keeping their field experience in person,” Lightfoot said. “We think our new LIVE online BSW and MSW programs will open up our social work curriculum to students who wanted a synchronous experience but couldn't make it to one of our four campuses in person. It's a great complement to our online and in-person options.”

MacDonald-Evoy said students from rural communities, those who are employed, who work nontraditional hours or who had child care, transportation, commuting or parking challenges were among the many undergraduates who responded favorably to being taught via the Zoom platform.

The degree program appeals to not only college students in their late teens and early 20s, but older students who may have had their collegiate studies interrupted when they were younger, MacDonald-Evoy said.

The growing presence of social workers in hospitals and other medical facilities has also drawn interest in BSW and MSW degrees from health care workers, she said.

A webpage, flyer and FAQs for the BSW LIVE Online program will be coming soon to the School of Social Work website, MacDonald-Evoy said. The website has information about the MSW LIVE Online program and an FAQ page.