New Innovation in MSW Practicum Experience: Virtual Practicum Simulation

New MSW virtual field placement optionsThe current COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need to provide alternatives to in-person practicum training, and the Master of Social Work (MSW) team at UNE has responded. In 2009, UNE was one of the very first MSW programs in the nation to be offered 100% online in an asynchronous format – and now the MSW program at UNE is continuing that tradition of cutting edge innovation.

The MSW program is excited to introduce the Simulation and On-Site (SOS) model of practicum education, designed to develop long-lasting foundational social work skills.

With this new SOS practicum program, students now have the option to complete a portion of their practicum hours in a virtual, online environment. This enhances the generalist and specialization skills of students prior to practicum, increases accessibility, and ensures that students are grounded in competency-based skills.

Accredited by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE)

CSWE is the accrediting body for MSW programs. CSWE has recently reexamined its accrediting methods and now accepts the SOS method of delivering skills and education.

“The SOS model was formulated to satisfy the rigorous CSWE accreditation standards, but we believe that the model can be easily adapted to meet other accreditation standards,” says MSW Practicum Faculty Christine Rogerson. “If this SOS model approach can be adapted to other UNE masters-level programs such as Public Health, Health Informatics, and Applied Nutrition, it has the potential to open up a vast field of opportunity to people who may not have the time or opportunity to meet their practicum requirements otherwise.”

Delivering a consistent practicum experience

Historically, there have been several barriers and inequities brought forth by practicum requirements. Offering the SOS virtual practicum simulation strengthens practice skills while reducing barriers for the next generation of social workers.

New MSW virtual field placement options

An additional benefit to offering an online practicum experience option is that the program is able to have a larger degree of control over the skill sets that students learn. In the past, learning outcomes would vary slightly by type of practicum and preceptor involvement. Now, students can build necessary skills, tailored to specific learning outcomes, prior to entering direct practice.

This allows students to feel confident and competent in practice abilities prior to engaging in their direct practicum experience. It also provides partner organizations with a foundational sense of our students’ skills prior to practicum entry.

About the SOS virtual practicum hours option

With the introduction of the SOS simulated practicum experience, students are now able to choose to complete their practicum requirements in a partially simulated/direct practice practicum or to engage in a traditional fully onsite practicum experience.

The option to complete practicum hours virtually is one more way that UNE is working to make higher education more accessible to a larger number of people.

This SOS model was initially a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented students from being able to engage in direct practice. The UNE MSW team has evolved this challenge into an opportunity to grow – and really make a difference in the social work community.

SOS virtual practicum simulation supports diversity

The SOS innovation in practicum education supports students of diverse backgrounds and serves to mitigate the inequities inherent in traditional models of social work practicum education – all while strengthening practice competencies.

The SOS model supports growth and diversity within the social work profession and helps prepare the next generation of social workers for service to our communities.

Thinking holistically about the evolving needs of our students

Social work has a rich history of being a profession of holistic thinkers. Social workers work with communities and individuals by taking into account not just the situation at hand, but also but the environment and context in which that situation exists.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront issues of racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities in many aspects of higher education, particularly how practicum education is administered.

The MSW team at UNE saw the need to adapt and explore the delivery of next-generation online and virtual practicum simulation options, and they have responded by creating a learning environment that more completely meets the evolving needs of our students.

Interested in attending a webinar all about the SOS experience?