Ten Best Online Bachelor Programs in Social Work

Best BSWFor those who have already started looking into online Bachelor’s degrees in social work, you might be wondering what the point of this list is. After all, according to the Council on Social Work Education, which is the only organization recognized as an official accreditor of social work degree programs, there are less than 20 accredited online Bachelor’s degree programs in social work in existence. Of course the organization also admits that they do not keep information about online and distance offerings and readily says that their list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. But since we are using the CSWE list, it may seem like a pointless exercise.

The reason we think it is important is because, for the most part, online degree programs are viewed from afar and because they are so new, very little information is readily available about what these programs offer, why they are successful and what makes them worthwhile. Keep in mind, the methodology behind this list is by no means scientific and the 10 schools on the list have not been put in any specific order. We just feel that the more information about these types of programs that is available the students, the better chance the students have of making the right choice.

NAU LogoNorthern Arizona University

The smallest public university in Arizona, NAU was one of the first public institutions to dive headlong into the world of online degrees. The school now offers some 47 online Bachelor’s degrees and another 22 online Master’s degree programs. The Bachelor’s degree program in Social Work at Northern Arizona has been accredited since the late 1980s but the online degree program is much more nascent. However, thanks to the school’s comfortability with online degrees and how to build them, students in the online program have raved about the faculty’s genuine desire to see the students succeed and have been pleasantly surprised with how easy the content management platform has been to use and how available teachers make themselves to help.

What helps set NAU’s program apart from the others is that it is one of the few Bachelor’s degree programs in social work that is available to students in most parts of the country. In fact, according to the CSWE, the only states left off the list are Kentucky, New York, North Carolina and Puerto Rico, and that is because of state law. The school even admits international students on a case-by-case basis. The program is fully online, courses are delivered through Blackboard Learn and almost all of the courses are asynchronous, making them an appealing flexible option. The program includes traditional social work requirements but students generally tend to focus on case management, child services, disability services and victim advocacy.

Take a smoothly run online program and combine it with reasonable and agreeable pricing for both part-time and full-time options as well as an opt-out clause for students who would prefer an MSW program, it is hard to beat the well-rounded nature of the offering at NAU.

Learn more at http://ec.nau.edu/BachelorsDegrees/SocialWork-31/.

WNMU LogoWestern New Mexico University

Sometimes it can be the schools that very few people have heard of that can be the most pleasant surprises. Such is the case with WNMU, a school of less than 4,000 tucked away in Silver City that has one of the most flexible and comprehensive online Bachelor’s degree programs in social work that is available. Open to students anywhere in the country and also students that aren’t even in the country, the program at WNMU has become very popular thanks to the flexibility it offers students from outside of New Mexico.

For students who can’t travel to New Mexico, the school uses Canvas as its content management system and most online classes are administered via Skype or a similar live video streaming tool. The traditional BSW program has been accredited since 1994 and WNMU wasted no time jumping into the world of online degrees with both feet. The program has been accredited since 2013 and is chalk-full of the meat and potatoes of any social work education, but it also offers electives in things like human trafficking and social work with the military that can be completed from a distance. The school also offers tuition waivers and discounts for out of state students that help make tuition – that is already affordable– even more manageable.

The school pays close attention to teaching students self-care and to make sure that teachers and support staff are readily available for academic and non-academic needs alike. The students are always impressed by the robust discussions and the way their professors promote them and that teachers and staff members are proactive in ensuring student success.

Learn more at http://socialwork.wnmu.edu/bsw/.

CSU Chico LogoChico State University

Unlike the two schools listed above, Chico State has limitations on who can enroll in their mostly online BSW program and where they can complete their field work. The program boasts the same curriculum as the traditional program. However, the program includes mandatory, on-campus, face-to-face time two weekends a semester. The social work program consists of 60 total units and 480 hours of field education practicum experience. What might make sense after reading all of that is the program at Chico State is meant to serve more as a degree completion opportunity. The coursework includes only a few introductory classes in subjects like Social Welfare, Social Justice and Human Behavior, while most of the coursework is more advanced and niche.

The school is genuinely interested in the efficacy of the program and its students and things seem to be working well thus far. The numbers the school is reporting back to the CSWE show that most students are able to meet expectations and achieve the desired learning outcomes and the school also conducts an annual alumni survey which has shown that while students are somewhat unhappy with the restrictions on where field work can be completed, they appreciate the flexible scheduling, the price and are generally able to find work relatively quick after graduation.

It is tough to include a degree completion program in with more comprehensive offerings, but the degree completion program at Chico State is well thought out, well planned, well organized and seeming effective. And that is all anyone can ask for at this stage.

Utah LogoUniversity of Utah

Perhaps the largest school in the country to offer an online BSW program, Utah also has some restrictions on its offerings. Originally designed to allow students in rural areas the opportunity to earn a BSW degree from the University, the program has blossomed into a fully inclusive degree completion program that is open to any student with an Associate’s degree from an accredited institution. Essentially, Utah doesn’t offer most of its general education requirements online and thus students will be expected to complete their general requirements prior to enrolling or via on-campus opportunities.

Courses are both synchronous and asynchronous and also has a heavy emphasis on interactive learning that encourages back-and-forth discussion between the faculty and the students. The idea is that the discussion and interaction improves learning outcomes. These interactive learning opportunities include discussion forums, group projects and peer reviews. Teachers are intentionally available more often and office hours can be held both in person and via Skype or the phone. Teachers are also expected to answer and check e-mail often. The program graduates less than 40 students per year but has does an excellent job, at least according to themselves, of placing students in desirable employment situations.

When you add in the fact that the tuition is reasonable and that students have access to world-class resources and faculty members, it is tough to ignore the program in Salt Lake City.

Campbellsville LogoCampbellsville University

Right smack in the middle of Kentucky, just a few miles North of Green River Lake sits Campbellsville University, a school with an enrollment that barely passes 3,000 but is somehow home to more than 20 undergraduate and graduate online degree programs. Two of these online programs are an online BSW program that offers full-time and part-time options as well as a RN to BSN program that is obviously more succinct and to the point.

A faith-based school with coursework befitting its status as a Christian university, the online programs at Campbellsville have become some of the most well-respected programs in the country. This applies to the social work degree programs offered online as well. The core coursework includes all the familiar topics such as Social Policy and Planning, Human Diversity and Research Methods while the electives include classes in Marriage and Family, Aging, Addictions and many others. The school says that past graduates have gone on to work in government; family resource centers; adoption agencies; health departments; and parole departments.

There are some restrictions on who is eligible to enroll and who can be accepted. The emphasis is on finding students in Kentucky, but the school will also consider applications from students in what it considers surrounding states. These states include the Carolinas, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio among others.

Bemidji LogoBemidji State University

One of the newer entrants to the world of online BSW degree programs, Bemidji State in Minnesota has a program they call SWIM (Social Work Integrated Model) that is the online BSW program earned through a cohort-intensive online format. It is worth pointing out from the state that this program is primarily a degree completion program and does have four mandatory on-campus classes per semester, so students will need to be able to travel, but the program is also keeping the numbers of students low to focus on quality and student experience.

What this should show is that SWIM is not a gimmick designed to drum up revenue. It is a very purposeful step in the direction of online education and the future of personalized learning. They are taking things so slowly that the first cohort has already been picked and the second one won’t start until 2018. The breadth of coursework for the program is impressive. The program is also available to every student in the United States albeit the program will be competitive.

Applicants must have earned an Associate’s degree prior to applying to the program but once in the program, there is very little limit to the resources available. What makes Bemidji State’s program so exciting is that they haven’t chosen to ramp quickly. But instead kept the program small and made sure it met the same standards that the traditional program met.

Humboldt LogoHumboldt State University

One of the more unique online BSW degree programs in the country can be found at Humboldt State University in California. While many of these programs are designed to serve students in rural communities, Humboldt State goes one step further and actually puts an emphasis in its curriculum on working with indigenous and rural communities. The program is available to students all across the country, but unfortunately each online section is limited to just 25 students and only one section of the program is online every semester.

The program does require students to come to campus for a week in January for its annual intensive, but otherwise students are free to spread out their learning path and making their progress through the curriculum more personalized. The field experience requirement is specifically designed to cater to the program’s purpose. Students complete 60 hours of volunteer work assisting others and another 60 hours understanding policies. Despite the distance education component, the field work coursework is comprehensive and is designed to reflect the competencies developed by the CSWE.

The distributed learning aspect of the program means students engage in the coursework through a myriad of webcasts, chats, group discussions and projects. The program also has a live class session every three hours so students do need to remain organized.

The school is very intentional in the design of the program and the result is one of the more comprehensive programs in the country. Considering it is available to everyone in the country, it should be one of the first schools anyone serious about the process should consider.

Indiana Wesleyan LogoIndiana Wesleyan University

The Bachelor’s degree program in Social Work at Indiana Wesleyan University has been accredited by the CSWE for more than 25 years. Its online BSW completion program has been around for a much shorter period of time but it already becoming well-known for delivery a high-quality online education rife with resources for students to use.

Originally designed primarily for adult learners, the program now opens its doors to students all across the world, as long as they meet the pre-requisite course and credit requirements. The school’s online catalog has exploded in recent years, meaning the school now offers more than 80 online degree programs. This is a good thing because it means the school thinks highly of the future of the program and is willing to devote time and resources to the project to make sure it is successful for students.

Clearly, considering the online program is accredited by the CSWE, the plan is working and the students are meeting the competency requirements. Like any online program worth its salt, its classes mimic the classes required in an on-campus environment and the faculty members use a variety of different mediums to speak with students. The program also uses the cohort model to keep students moving in groups and ensure the success and interactive part of the program.

Briar Cliff LogoBriar Cliff University

Briar Cliff is unique in that it is one of the only degree completion programs that doesn’t offer a full-time option. The degree completion nature means that any student looking to enroll must first have at least 77 college transfer credits or an Associate’s degree, but the program is completely asynchronous and fully online. The only requirement baked into the program is that students schedule weekly face-to-face mentoring sessions with academic counselors or faculty members.

Briar Cliff uses Brightspace as its learning management system and what they call a “cutting-edge” learning platform that allows students to progress through the coursework at their own pace. The school does recommend that students be prepared to spend at least 3-6 hours per week for the course. The school also has a field director whose job is to work directly with students so they can meet their 450-hour internship requirement. The electives offered are in mental health, child welfare and gerontology.

Briar Cliff has been one of the first schools to really get the hang of the online BSW completion degree program and it shows. The program is professionally run, professionally staffed and stocked with resources and built-in checkpoints to make sure students don’t fall behind and remain inherently motivated.

AK Fairbanks LogoUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks

The online BSW degree program at UAF is not a degree completion program, which means interested students can enroll right out of high school. However, the program is designed specifically to enable students from across Alaska to earn their degree in their home environment. This means that only students in Alaska need apply, because others won’t be accepted.

The online courses are purposefully designed to be the same quality and thoroughness of the campus based program. The primary method for faculty-student interaction is audio conferences, which is intentional. The school believes the use of the audio conferences creates an accurate simulation of the reality of practice of social work in rural Alaska. Just like in the traditional format, students will be required to complete a 400-hour field practicum.

What makes the school different is that it also has a social work cohort specifically modeled for students in rural Alaska. The students come to campus for a week at the beginning of each semester and three days at the end of the semester for what the school calls “intensive classroom instruction”. The rest of the course is completed through audio conferences. The model is designed to bring students together and create an inherent support network made up primarily of fellow students.

Both models have proven successful and the fact that UAF offers the flexibility to choose makes it worth checking out if you are one of the lucky few who live in Alaska and want to study social work.

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