It is no secret that the University of Southern California (USC) has a great social work school. It is also no secret that there is a shortage of trained social workers, especially in rural areas.
Thanks to a recent innovation of the USC School of Social Work, that problem may be solved! Using the latest web sharing technology, students in training to be social workers around the world can now take advantage of a live classroom at USC with their instructor.
Their instructor is somebody like Dr. Lynn K. Jones (me!), who is sitting at my desk in Santa Barbara, and talking to my students with my video webcam. My students are sitting in their own homes and offices around the country with their own video webcams. We can all see each other. No putting yourself on mute and social networking in this class!! Want to hide out at the back of the class? Forget about it—every seat is a front row seat.
Today, two of my students will be presenting to our class. They have a powerpoint that they will share that they developed and they have a handout that they will pass out. We will then go into virtual breakout groups for small discussions and then come back together to exchange ideas as a larger group. All the teaching features that I have in a face-to-face class are part of the learning experience of this virtual classroom.
Professional social work training has long cornered the market on “process.” To create a rich experience of that process on-line, without the face-to-face experience of a traditional classroom, however, is a supreme challenge. The USC School of Social Work Virtual Academy has figured out how to bridge that gap.
Social workers who want to be licensed in their state may need to go to a school that is accredited in their state. This is additional issue for nontraditional social work programs, but not for the USC School of Social Work Virtual Academic Center, as it is accredited in 38 states.
USC Dean, Marilyn Flynn, discussed with the LA Times not only how the USC School of Social Work Virtual Academic Center is meeting the growing demand for social workers, but also how they have developed specialized social work programs to meet special needs populations, like veterans. The school was the first in the nation to offer a graduate specialization in military social work, where social workers learn the latest treatment approaches for the growing legions of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and head injuries. Now that program is also available through the Virtual Academic Center.
Making excellent social work training available to social workers around the world is good for our communities and the people in all our lives that we care about.