Fully synchronous degree programs in social work to be offered this fall

Master's and bachelor's degree programs designed for students who want flexibility of digital learning with a virtual classroom format

April 13, 2022

Responding to the needs of social work students who seek the flexibility of online learning, this fall Arizona State University’s School of Social Work will offer new, fully synchronous online programs leading to master’s and bachelor’s degrees in the field, respectively called MSW LIVE Online and BSW LIVE Online.

BSW LIVE Online will be offered to Arizona residents with the goal of expanding the program’s geographic reach in the future. Meanwhile, MSW LIVE Online will be open to students living both inside and outside Arizona. Stock photo, laptop computer, notepad, pens, coffee, student Stock photo by Avel Chuklanov/Unsplash Download Full Image

Before the pandemic, the school had been offering in-person and asynchronous online programs toward an MSW degree, and its curriculum for a Bachelor of Social Work degree had been taught solely in person, in classrooms, said Kellie MacDonald-Evoy, a clinical assistant professor at the school and its MSW admissions coordinator.

When the BSW program was converted during the pandemic to ASU Sync, a hybrid of in-person and livestreamed video instruction, the strong positive response from students led the school to decide to offer a fully synchronous option permanently, MacDonald-Evoy said.

“We discovered students loved it,” she said. “The faculty loved teaching it, too. We determined there was a need for getting a BSW online as well.”

Now, both programs will add the fully synchronous option, via ASU Sync.

Both will be taught by the school’s full-time faculty with similar class sizes to the immersion (in-person) program, around 25 to 30 students per class, who engage in live lectures and discussions with their instructors and peers.

Students in each program will apply what they are learning in the classroom through in-person internship experience in their local areas. Each MSW LIVE Online student will complete 960 hours in internships, while each BSW LIVE Online student will complete 480 hours.

Students can pursue either degree through full-time study depending on the demands on their time in other aspects of their lives. Students who had been learning part time could accelerate to full time if they wish. They can also complete an associate degree at a local community college or transfer previously earned college credits to complete the BSW in two years. 

“We’re really excited and optimistic to bring the BSW program to Arizona students who might not be able to gain access to this in the past,” MacDonald-Evoy said. “It is a real exciting option.”

During the pandemic, School of Social Work faculty learned how to teach and learn using Zoom and other video conferencing tools, giving students the vital chance to continue their educational experiences, said Foundation Professor Elizabeth Lightfoot, director of the School of Social Work.

“For some students, video conferencing increased the accessibility of our MSW program, and they asked for an opportunity to take all of their classes live online, while keeping their field experience in person,” Lightfoot said. “We think our new LIVE online BSW and MSW programs will open up our social work curriculum to students who wanted a synchronous experience but couldn't make it to one of our four campuses in person. It's a great complement to our online and in-person options.”

MacDonald-Evoy said students from rural communities, those who are employed, who work nontraditional hours or who had child care, transportation, commuting or parking challenges were among the many undergraduates who responded favorably to being taught via the Zoom platform.

The degree program appeals to not only college students in their late teens and early 20s, but older students who may have had their collegiate studies interrupted when they were younger, MacDonald-Evoy said.

The growing presence of social workers in hospitals and other medical facilities has also drawn interest in BSW and MSW degrees from health care workers, she said.

A webpage, flyer and FAQs for the BSW LIVE Online program will be coming soon to the School of Social Work website, MacDonald-Evoy said. The website has information about the MSW LIVE Online program and an FAQ page.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU course encourages high school students to get their heads in the cloud

April 13, 2022

It’s an early morning wake-up call for Trinity Smith, lead teaching fellow and student studying business data analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

This semester, Smith starts most mornings with 30 high school students who are enrolled in CIS 194 Cloud Foundations, a course delivered by ASU. ASU students serve as teaching fellows for the cloud computing course ASU students, faculty and staff drive the Cloud Foundations course for high schoolers. Pictured left to right (top row): ASU's John Rome, Jason Nichols and Lukas Wenrick; (bottom row) ASU students Bhavana Kanumuri, Trinity Smith, Luke Sherry and Justin Manila. Download Full Image

The online course was co-developed by ASU’s University Technology Office and the W. P. Carey School of Business, along with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the National Education Equity Lab.

The class offers an opportunity for high school students — targeting those who attend Title I or disadvantaged schools — to earn high school and college credit, as well as an industry certificate, in cloud computing.

Students nationwide participate in the ASU course  

Now in its second semester, the 13-week course is delivered in a hybrid modality to more than 185 high school students nationwide, including states like Iowa, Louisiana and New York. 

The course uses Canvas to manage the online, asynchronous portion of learning – this includes recorded lectures by ASU faculty, along with weekly assignments and quizzes. Students log into the course right from the comfort of their high school’s classrooms and computer labs, which reduces barriers for students to access the course and learning materials online. 

Many of the students do not have reliable access to the devices or internet connection at home, so it’s crucial that they have the time and space in school to complete the course. 

“As a teaching fellow, I came to realize that the digital divide is much more complex than lacking the right resources," said Smith, who is one of the five teaching fellows participating this semester. "It is deepened by a lack of exposure to opportunities in IT education and careers, which makes this course that much more important for these students.”

In addition to asynchronous learning, students are invited to join weekly office hours with the course’s teaching fellows, who are enrolled ASU students like Smith. Conducted on Zoom, students from across schools join to review the current learning module, complete homework and ask questions. 

On average, about 30 to 35 students join each of the live sessions. Smith notes the importance of this interaction for students.

“Although optional, these sessions are highly attended by students to review the current learning module and, even more effectively, get a baseline understanding of the upcoming content for the course,” Smith said.

And because the topics are quite complex, this time allows students to get a bit more comfortable with the content before diving into the next module.

The teaching fellows are critical to the success of the course. Not only do they provide opportunities for live instruction and discussion, but also take on the bulk of the daily tasks — including grading and communications with students — which takes pressure off the high school teachers.

W. P. Carey School faculty Raghu Santanam and Jason Nichols co-teach the course, along with UTO’s Deputy CIO John Rome.

“The next generation of jobs will require a working knowledge of cloud computing infrastructures," Santanam said. "It is therefore very essential for any student today to be familiar with cloud technologies and their potential applications. Getting this foundational knowledge while still in high school gives a great opportunity for these students to develop interest in technology careers.”

Welcome to the cloud: Soar into CIS 194 Cloud Foundations  

At a very high level, cloud computing is simply an approach to share central computing resources and infrastructure across multiple clients. The ability to use the same underlying infrastructure for multiple firms enables greater flexibility, security, reliability and efficiency for the clients. 

The course uses weekly modules to deliver content, with topics including an introduction to the internet, networks and the basics of cloud computing – from cloud architecture to storage.

The course builds off AWS content to teach more specifics about the cloud. This makes sense as AWS is the largest cloud provider, owning almost half the world's public cloud infrastructure market

In fact, “AWS provides a nice starter kit of cloud content that we could build off of to provide a great learning experience for these students," Rome said.

"In addition to getting college credit and the opportunity to get an industry-recognized certification, another benefit is getting the idea that going to college is more attainable in the students’ minds. How great that a course like this can change the trajectory of these students.”  

The course stretches students to explore the role of cloud technology in a modern business, identify appropriate cloud services to support business needs, configure basic cloud infrastructure through ASW and recommend improvements for basic cloud infrastructure changes. 

Smith notes that the course not only equips students with a foundation of cloud computing, but also teaches best practices for online etiquette. She gave examples of students learning how to properly format an email, participate in Zoom lessons and submit assignments on time

“In addition to the technical foundation they are learning for cloud computing, these skills will make students more employable and hopefully ease the transition into college,” Smith said. 

At the end of the course, students not only receive high school and college credit, but are also invited to complete the AWS cloud practitioner certification exam, free of charge. 

Aligning with careers of the future

Cloud computing is expected to continue to grow over the next few years, impacting career journeys for those working in this technical space and for organizations transitioning to a cloud-based infrastructure as part of their digital transformations. 

In fact, ASU embarked on its shift to become a fully cloud-based infrastructure as early as 2015. Major milestones include migrating ASU’s data warehouse to the cloud, resulting in faster speeds, lower costs and nearly infinite scalability. 

While it’s an early wake-up call for Smith, she said she is excited about working with leaders of the future.

“These students are so passionate about learning, they really give the course its heartbeat,” she said.

Strategic Communications Manager, University Technology Office