The University of New England College of Graduate and Professional Studies (UNE Online) is continuing its tradition of innovation by offering its Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) students a pioneering Simulation and On-Site (SOS) field placement model of education, allowing them to complete a portion of their field hours in a virtual, online environment.
With the introduction of the SOS simulated field experience, students are now able to choose to complete their field requirements in a partially simulated/direct practice field practicum or to engage in a traditional, fully onsite field experience.
The simulation model builds on UNE Online’s previous work to improve access to higher education. In 2009, the college was one of the nation’s earliest to offer a 100% online degree in an asynchronous format. The new model is designed to enhance both students’ general and specialized skills prior to placement, increase accessibility, and ensure students are grounded in competency-based skills in social work.
Historically, there have been several barriers and inequities in M.S.W. field experience requirements. The simulated field education model, accredited by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE), aims to upend that.
“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,” said M.S.W.
Field Practicum Coordinator 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 field requirements otherwise.”
The novel coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the need to provide alternatives to in-person field training. The SOS model was developed in response to the pandemic, which prevented students from engaging in direct practice. Using a holistic approach, the virtual field experience represents the next generation of social work education in creating a learning environment designed to meet the evolving needs of students and increasing the accessibility of higher education to a greater number of people.
Additionally, the program offers a greater control over other models in engaging students in specific learning outcomes prior to entering direct practice.