Effectively Teaching Social Work Practice Online: Moving Beyond Can to How
Keywords:Distance education, online education, social work, direct practice, asynchronous learning
Schools of social work are increasingly developing online courses and programs. While the majority of research comparing online and face–to-face courses has found equivalent outcomes, skepticism still exists, particularly about the ability to teach practice courses effectively online. This study adds to the growing body of research within social work that specifically examines the comparative effectiveness of online and face-to-face practice courses. Using an anonymous survey, 23 face-to-face and 12 online students enrolled in two separate sections of social work generalist practice rated the quality of the learning environment, the extent to which the course objectives were met, and the effectiveness of the teaching strategies from the students’ perspective. In addition, scores on assignment rubrics and student course evaluations were also compared. Results indicate no significant differences in learning outcomes as measured by assignment rubric scores, student perceptions of the extent to which learning objectives were met, the quality of the learning environment, and the effectiveness of five of the six teaching strategies used. We recommend that research moves beyond determining if online practice courses are as effective as face-to-face courses, and instead focus on a closer examination of the factors responsible for teaching effectiveness.
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