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Faculty embrace tech as university brings social work curriculum online

Rural Students Can Earn An Online MSW Degree from University of Nevada, Reno

In order to help students in rural areas attain positions in the clinical social work industry, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) has officially launched an online master of social work (MSW) program. Dr. Goutham Menon, the director of the School of Social work at UNR, noted that clinical social employment in the U.S. is currently on the rise—the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the industry will experience a growth of 19 to 25 percent over the next decade. However, as Dr. Menon noted, a position in this industry often requires not only a MSW degree but also a clinical social worker certificate, as well.

Much of Nevada is rural. According to the USDA, Nevada’s population in 2015 stood at around 2,890,000, and of that number, roughly 300,000 reside in rural areas. Students living in rural parts of the state who desire well-paying clinical social employment usually lack the resources needed to attain the required education and certification. As Dr. Menon stated, students in rural Nevada simply “don’t have an option to get a degree in social work.” So, with the intention of providing these students the educational resources needed to acquire a clinical social degree, Dr. Menon set about to try and establish an MSW degree program at UNR. Earlier this year, UNR didn’t have the resources to support a new program, so Dr. Menon contacted a number of different online program management vendors to help facilitate the process, and UNR chose Pearson Embanet—the company specializes in online program management—to help launch UNR’s MSW degree program.

Since rural students will be the primary target audience for this particular program, Pearson and UNR strived to ensure that the program would be as affordable as possible. Dr. Menon stated that Pearson “readjusted the pro formas and came back to us with a very affordable degree for in-state students.” Due to the hands-on, people-oriented nature of the business, social work can be difficult to teach online. Dr. Menon pointed out that social workers often have to observe the “real-life presence of people” (such as nonverbal cues) in order to properly deliver aid. So, UNR worked with Pearson to craft courses that, while still remote, focus heavily on firsthand instruction.

Additionally, UNR hopes that the establishment of the online program will help the school to grow its on-the-ground program as well. UNR is optimistic about the future of the online program. “I think we will be better instructors in the on-the-ground program because we will have prepared for the semester in advance for the online program,” said Dr. Menon.

Ready to make your contribution for social good? Learn more about your role in social work’s future with the University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Social Work program today. The School of Social Work at University of Nevada, Reno has a long history of educating Nevada’s social workers and professionals in the United States. Its focus is to educate, advocate and empower.