Innovative Strategies for Building Community Among Faculty Who Teach in Virtual Environments

  • Sara L. Schwartz University of Southern California
  • Eugenia L. Weiss University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
  • June L. Wiley University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
Keywords: Social Work, Virtual Education, Faculty, Community, virtual teaching, dispersed faculty, community of practice


A previous qualitative study (Schwartz, Wiley, & Kaplan, 2016) described the faculty experiences and reflections of delivering Master of Social Work (MSW) education via a virtual platform at the University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work during its initial years of operation. Thematic analysis revealed a need for community building amongst geographically diverse faculty. Given social work’s emphasis on the person-in-environment perspective, it is imperative to consider the experiences of those individuals responsible for executing virtual technology-supported programs and delivering education via virtual platforms. The current paper describes innovative institutional and programmatic interventions implemented to promote community and collaboration among faculty who teach virtually. Creating strategic opportunities for virtual and ground-based faculty to connect informally and formally has the potential to foster a culture of inclusivity, connection, and a productive community of practice.

Author Biographies

Sara L. Schwartz, University of Southern California

Sara L. Schwartz, PhD, MSW is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work's Virtual Academic Center.

Eugenia L. Weiss, University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Eugenia L. Weiss is a Clinical Associate Professor in the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck's School of Social Work


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