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Interview: Craig Stanley, Director MSW Program, Florida State University

Craig Stanley, Faculty Administrator & Director of the MSW Program at Florida State University joins us today to discuss distance education.

1. Tell us about the online Masters in Social Work (MSW) programs offered at Florida State University.

The Online MSW at Florida State University offers students the opportunity to earn a clinical degree by completing their course work online and participating in a field placement within the area in which they reside. The program is offered in an asynchronous format and typically caters to the full-time professional in search of a high-quality program that provides enough flexibility to allow participation in the program. Currently, we offer only the advanced-standing MSW program. Students wishing to be considered for admission to this program must have either earned a BSW degree from a CSWE accredited institution or must have completed their first year of graduate study in a CSWE accredited traditional MSW program.

2. What is the typical duration of your MSW program?

The program is designed to be completed in six semesters over a two-year time period. Students interested in completing the program at a faster pace may finish the program in as few as four semesters.

3. What would you say makes Florida State University programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

We were the first to offer an online MSW degree program to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). For this reason, we have more experience in providing the MSW degree in this format than any other MSW program in the world. Students participating in the online MSW program receive the same level of high-quality instruction as students who participate in our campus-based MSW program. The same instructors who earned our college a # 4 ranking in research productivity are the instructors who teach in our online program. Many of our faculty now have almost a decade of experience in teaching online. Additionally, the asynchronous nature of our courses is a departure from many other online programs that utilize a synchronous format. This allows students an additional amount of flexibility in planning their studies during the course of a semester. In summary, Experience, high-quality of instruction, and flexibility for students are what set us apart from other online MSW programs.

4. How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an online college?

For students considering an online MSW program, CSWE accreditation is critical. This accreditation assures students that they have chosen a program that is consistent with the high educational standards set for all legitimate schools offering a Social Work degree. For students who wish to become licensed practitioners, CSWE accreditation of their MSW program is almost always a requirement of State licensing boards and agencies. Regional accreditation of an academic institution is definitely not enough when considering where to obtain your MSW degree.

5. There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. What steps does Florida State University take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

Our college strives to maintain high academic standards across all of our programs. Florida State University is also very committed to Distance Education. The university provides support for our online courses to ensure that instructors have access to instructional designers and other resources necessary to ensure that course material is effectively translated through the online platform. Our college issues a pretest and a posttest to all of our students. This evaluation helps us to compare student's knowledge and skills at the beginning of their program with their knowledge and skills at the end of our program. We have analyzed that data to find that there are no significant differences in outcomes between our campus-based students and online students. We are continuously engaged in research and assessment to look at this issue and to ensure parity in our instructional delivery.

6. What would you say are some of the benefits of earning a degree online rather than in a traditional classroom?

The degree earned is equal whether it is earned at one of our campus-based programs or whether it is earned online. For that reason, there are really no benefits to earning the degree one way or the other. However, many students who might not have had an opportunity to participate in a high-quality MSW program are now able to do so because we offer the degree online.

7. If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

Internships are required of all MSW programs. I am told that many online programs ask their students to locate and secure their own field placements. We do not conduct our field placements this way. We contract with Area Coordinators in all of the areas that we serve students. These employees work to foster relationships with agencies in those areas to ensure that students have the opportunity to participate in high-quality placements that are relevant to the student's area of interest. Because of this setup we assist all of our students in acquiring internships.

8. Does Florida State University offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

All of our online students have access to the Florida State University Career Center. The Career Center is linked to a large network of alumni and employers who are looking for graduates to employ. Additionally, the Career Center offers other services to include career counseling and electronic portfolio management. Because the college has over 10,000 alumni who live throughout the nation and overseas, there are many networking opportunities for our graduates.

9. Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Students in our online program are encouraged to apply for our Fall scholarships that we award each year. Several of our scholarships prioritize part-time students. Traditionally, our online students have been very competitive when seeking these awards. Additionally, students who take the recommended six hours of course work per semester are qualified to receive full federal financial aid.

10. Do you have any advice for students enrolling in online classes for the first time?

Online learning provides students with a good amount of flexibility in terms of when they address their course work. There are no set meeting times for any of the courses that students take. However, courses have set due dates for participation and assignments. This can be problematic for students that do not structure their time to address their studies. Online education does not equate with "easier". Students who do not manage their time wisely find themselves quickly overwhelmed by their courses. If a person decides to participate in an online graduate program, self-discipline and time management are definite keys to success.

Many of our students are working professionals who have decided to continue their education after being out of school for several years. Many times, they are very apprehensive about the idea taking online classes. They are worried that the technology will get in the way of learning and creating relationships. Many of those same students have traveled to Tallahassee to participate in our commencement ceremony at the end of their studies. Some have traveled from places as far away as North Dakota. It is always enjoyable to see students graduate from the program. However, it is especially rewarding to see our online students make the trip to meet the other students and professors that they have come to know so well throughout their studies.

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For more information on distance learning MSW programs available at Florida State University, please visit them online.

Thank you Craig, for sharing and participating in this piece

That concludes our interview!



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