Social Work Students Eager to Return to Classroom

Published on : June 25, 2020

MEDIA CONTACT: Patrick Dunne, [email protected], 703-519-2057
Alexandria, VA, June 25, 2020 – The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) today 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 re-enroll 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,” said 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,” said Coffey.
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 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.
A total of 3,564 surveys were completed by students representing 151 institutions in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Response numbers per institution ranged from 1 to 322, and per state ranged from 1 to 1,146. The number of respondents from California was disproportionately high (32.2%) when compared to enrollment data collected for the 2018 Statistics on Social Work Education in the United States (7.8%), probably due to Sacramento State’s involvement in the project.
More Information
Download a brief here with key highlights from the research.
About CSWE
Founded in 1952, the Council on Social Work Education is the national association representing social work education in the United States. Its members include over 800 accredited baccalaureate and master’s degree social work programs, as well as individual social work educators, practitioners, and agencies dedicated to advancing quality social work education