Building a High-Quality Online Master of Social Work
In 2018 when Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work first engaged Everspring to bring their Master of Social Work (MSW) program online, the stakes were high. The market was in the midst of rapid transformation driven by increased student demand for online programs. At the time, the school had no online presence and they needed to bring their MSW online without sacrificing any of the quality or engagement of their on-ground program. Program differentiation posed an additional challenge, as MSWs must adhere to established curricular and fieldwork requirements.
Faculty were concerned that an online modality would compromise the closely tied relationship between coursework, where students learn theory, and fieldwork, where they apply theory in a real-world setting. Incorporating opportunities for interaction and discussion—components that are important to the MSW experience—was vital for the success of the online program.
Wurzweiler sought a partner to build a high-quality, differentiated online MSW that offered students flexibility to take courses on a full- or part-time basis and either on-ground or online. The program needed to ensure all students in the program would be able to meet fieldwork and licensure requirements regardless of location. The partnership also needed to support this initiative without spending university capital to build, launch, and scale.
Working closely with the Wurzweiler team and its faculty, Everspring built and implemented an online MSW with flexible learning options, robust preparation for fieldwork, and a path for students to obtain licensure regardless of location. The program is further differentiated by its highly engaging coursework and an interactive virtual learning environment. Distinguishing features of the program include:
- Flexible options for students: The 60-credit-hour program consists of a total of 27 courses, and students can choose to enroll full or part time. They can opt to complete the program on-ground, online via a live virtual classroom, or as an asynchronous online program. Additionally, through the Advanced Standing option, students with a Bachelor of Social Work can complete the MSW in just 30 credit hours.
- Virtual learning environment: Everspring collaborated with faculty to design The Heights, a multi-student, real-world simulation that enables students to engage in critical thinking scenarios and gain real-time experience as a social worker. This virtual community includes urban, metropolitan, suburban, and rural settings to represent a range of communities and demographics for students, enabling them to engage in simulated high-stakes decision making and practice the types of real-world scenarios they will encounter once they are working in the field.
- Impactful coursework: Everspring’s learning design team collaborated with Wurzweiler faculty to create online courses with interactive discussions and group projects to share perspectives, along with journaling activities for students to share experiences with their instructor or peers. The coursework allows students to effectively synthesize social work theory with their fieldwork and report back about how they’re applying the skills and tools they’ve learned.
- Certification opportunities: Students have the option to pursue a joint MSW degree and CASAC (Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor) certification. They also may earn a certification in Gerontology & Palliative Care as part of their MSW.
- Fieldwork placements: The courses Everspring has built, as well as the real-world simulation feature, prepare online students for completing their fieldwork requirements. Wurzweiler has a Field Instruction Office that has strong relationships with placement sites across the U.S. and in Canada and Israel. These relationships make it possible for the school to place online students to complete fieldwork wherever they are based and in their chosen concentration.
- Licensure pathway: As an online program, the online MSW, which has accreditation from the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE), meets licensure requirements for students in all 50 U.S. states, as well as Canada and Israel.
The success of the Wurzweiler and Everspring partnership can be seen in the results. The online MSW has enrolled more than 750 new students since 2018, has graduated 176 students, and has generated over $4,700,000 in incremental tuition revenue for the university. The program is also extremely popular with both faculty and students, with a student satisfaction score of 95% and a faculty satisfaction score of 100%.
Wurzweiler’s online MSW program offers students a flexible path to earning their degree, allowing them to complete courses online, pursue in-person fieldwork, and obtain licensure. By leveraging technology and creative design features, the program provides students a safe space to explore social work topics and gain real-time experience, preparing them for social work careers that will have profound impact in their communities.
The Heights is an extremely important aspect of the program because it allows students to dive into the community and tackle social injustices they will see in real life.