Today we would like to congratulate the School of Social Work as it launches its first course of the online Master of Social Work program from Boston University! With a convenient online learning format, the BUSSW Online MSW program will allow 30 new students from across ten different states within the US to begin their journey towards earning a MSW degree from a highly respected institution with a world-class faculty while continuing to live and work in their communities.
We asked Mena daSilva-Clark, MSW, LICSW, and Assistant Dean for Off-Campus & Online Programs here at Boston University, to share her thoughts about this new and exciting endeavor for the BUSSW.
Q: When did you or the SSW start to realize that an online degree program might be a good fit for the MSW program?
A: BUSSW has always been a leader in developing innovative programs. More than 25 years ago we developed our Off-Campus Programs which offer classes on weekends at three different campuses in Massachusetts. These programs are specifically designed for working individuals. Our non-traditional students would not be able to earn a degree without these programs. Our philosophy is “educating social workers in the community and for the community”. With the economic downturn and the developments in technology we have been keenly aware that there is a need to revolutionize the way we offer graduate education. We realized that we could expand our philosophy of educating individuals while they live and work in their communities by providing an Online MSW Program. We are also very fortunate to have Metropolitan College’s award winning Office of Distance Education at Boston University to assist us in this process.
Our philosophy is “educating social workers in the community and for the community”
Q: Stepping back a year and thinking about how you had envisioned what the online environment might look like, and now seeing a fully developed online MSW course – are they similar or is it entirely different from what you had envisioned?
A: I had a vision of what the program would look like and it “took a village” to develop the program. There were many meetings with faculty, administration and staff. There were several different permutations on the same theme. We had three major goals in mind: develop a program that would allow individuals to continue to live and work in their communities while earning and MSW degree, thus giving back to their communities through this process; develop the best educational program, showcasing our faculty experts and faculty affiliated with BUSSW, using state-of-the-art technology to enhance the educational experience, while ensuring best practices; and provide supports for the students through the school community and within the students’ communities by engaging our alumni in this process. I think that we are on target with these goals and I hope that our students will feel both challenged and supported by the program. We are very excited about this venture and we look forward to working with our online students.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of getting the program online?
A: The most challenging aspect of this process has been the ‘fear of the unknown’. Online education is fairly new. Social work is a pretty interactive discipline and we wanted to ensure that our online program offered the optimal opportunity for ongoing interaction with our students. It took us awhile to wrap our mind around how we could teach social work online. Using state of the art technology and innovative systems we discovered a whole new world of possibilities. We have a great team within the School of Social Work, and our partnership with BU’s Office of Distance Education has made all this possible. We are very aware that there will continue to be challenges along the way but we feel that we have a great product and good supports available for our students and faculty. We will continue to grow and make changes as the program evolves.