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Survey Shows Social Work Students Eager to Return to Classroom

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) recently presented research which shows that more than 9 in 10 social work students who had in-person classes move online during the spring 2020 semester would be interested in returning to the classroom this fall. 

The survey, conducted in partnership with faculty from California State University, Sacramento, Division of Social Work, showed the impact to students when social work education moved online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also asked about students’ intentions to enroll in fall 2020 courses under different scenarios and how students had been personally affected by the pandemic. 

Specifically, the results show that 91.1% of students who had face-to-face classes in the spring would reenroll in face-to-face classes this fall if offered by their programs. If programs moved their courses online for fall 2020 due to the pandemic, 82% of those students would enroll in online courses. Nearly all respondents (95.6%) reported that they did not want to switch their major because of the adjustment in course delivery. 

“Nothing is more important to CSWE than the health and safety of social work students, faculty, and program staff,” says CSWE President and CEO Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW. “We are encouraged to see that so many students are eager to continue their pursuit of social work degrees despite these necessary changes in the delivery of accredited social work education.”  

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought on incredible and pervasive changes throughout higher education, and the survey shows that the sudden shift from classrooms to ‘Zoom rooms’ has been challenging for social work students, educators, and programs alike. We appreciate the partnership with Sacramento State’s team to produce this information and will continue to support students, faculty, and programs deliver safe and quality social work education,” Coffey says. 

The respondents also voiced support for face-to-face field experiences over virtual ones. The survey showed that 68% of students who are required to complete a field placement experience in fall 2020 would prefer that to be in person, whereas 21.5% of respondents would prefer that it not be in person. 

When it came to communicating with students, most respondents (62.5%) reported being generally satisfied with the clarity of information received from their professors. More than one-half (56.1%) were satisfied with the clarity of information coming from their universities. 

However, students voiced concerns with the unexpected change from in person to online learning. A majority of social work students (61.1%) who had classes shift online in spring 2020 felt that they learned less as a result. Across all degree levels, an overwhelming 80.8% of students who were taking in-person classes in spring 2020 said they did not prefer the change to online delivery of all their classes. 

In terms of the personal impact on students, a majority of respondents (80.7%) indicated that their mental health had been adversely affected by the pandemic. Nearly two in three respondents (64.6%) also indicated that they had experienced a disruption to their financial security.

Source: Council on Social Work Education