Partnership and Innovation
August 13th, 2012 - Filed under: Cover Story
The School of Social Work, like the rest of the University, continues to grow. To keep up with booming enrollment and a constantly evolving professional landscape, the School of Social Work has made significant curriculum innovations. The school has partnered with the UA School of Law to establish a dual-enrollment program and expanded its online master’s program to replace its distance education programs across the state.
Professional social workers and lawyers alike are devoted to promoting social justice and individual well-being through advocacy, organizational management and public policy. Each profession requires familiarity with strategies for improving lives and a broad understanding of fields such as forensic social work, the justice system, human rights, domestic violence and child protection.
The new dual master’s (MSW/JD) program offers comprehensive preparation in these fields to students who specifically seek positions as leaders of their community, state or nation.
The need for the program became evident as many students in recent years who have had to choose between the MSW and the JD programs expressed strong interest in dual-enrollment.
Sean Hudson, an undergraduate in the School interested in the dual-enrollment program, said, “I have always wanted a career that combines law and social work. I hope to pursue this option when I am ready for graduate study.”
Program planners anticipate that in the first through third years, the program will enroll three to five students per year. In the fourth and fifth years, the number is projected to increase to five to eight students per year. Each enrolled student is expected to complete the integrated program in 3.5-4.5 years.
The dual-enrollment program is the first of its kind in Alabama. The program’s model will draw heavily from the well-established and successful dual-enrollment programs between the School of Social Work and UAB’s School of Public Health and between the School of Law and the Culverhouse College of Commerce.
In order to maintain consistency and integrity, current prerequisites will remain in place, while electives will be shared in order to reduce the amount of time required to complete each degree.
Students seeking the dual degree will follow the first-year curriculum prescribed by the School of Law, after which the dual-degree program will take effect. Students will then work with advisers from both programs to assure an appropriate plan of study is developed and sufficient progress is made to satisfy the requirements of both degrees.
Three curricula will be tailored to the current MSW two-year (60 hour) and spring and summer advanced standing programs. These curricula allow a number of credit hours to be integrated between the MSW and JD programs.
Graduate students, particularly those who don’t live in Tuscaloosa, now have a more detailed MSW curriculum. The School of Social Work has tailored its distance learning program to include a 60-hour MSW program, which features a new adult concentration and a faculty-monitored distance learning club.
Thanks to increased enrollment and strong student interest, the School of Social Work is expanding offerings in the MSW advanced standing distance learning (DL) program for the 2012 academic year.
The DL MSW courses allow students to set their own pace to complete course content and assignments, which are based on the same syllabi and expectations provided in the on-campus program.
Some 100 students were admitted and enrolled into the Primarily Online advanced-standing summer program when it debuted in summer 2011. In fall 2011, the number of students enrolled necessitated four sections for each required practice course.
The primarily online two-year (60-hour) DL MSW program launched in May 2012. The current program is developed only for a concentration in children and family, but will be expanding to add an adult concentration this summer. The School has also been developing online access to licensure exam practice tests.
Primarily Online students stay in touch with fellow students and instructors in both asynchronous and real-time formats, as some courses require students to attend Saturday skills labs. These labs are conducted by qualified lab instructors in several cities across the state, including Birmingham, Montgomery, Gadsden and Mobile. In the labs, students learn and demonstrate intervention skills through exercises carefully orchestrated by faculty development teams. Skills-lab coordinators monitor the progress of lab sessions by observing them in different cities.
Students have responded favorably to the skills-lab sessions. They generally welcome the opportunity to interact and learn skills with other DL students.
The DL program is replacing all distance education programs in Gadsden, Montgomery and Mobile and Tuscaloosa’s Saturday Program. The School will continue to offer traditional on-campus courses and has not seen any sign of reduction in participation in these courses as a result of the strong enrollment in the Primarily Online program.
Primarily Online students have access to an online DL club, launched in summer 2011 to promote communication and a sense of belonging among students. The club was developed and is monitored by a faculty adviser.
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