A Day in the Life ... Online MSW Student

Online student


As an online MSW student in the FSU College of Social Work's traditional degree program, I take two classes a semester and will graduate in 3 years. Two classes a semester doesn't sound overwhelming, and it's not, but don't be fooled - the classes are work, so be prepared. The course load begins with general social work information. There's a class on the history of social work and one about Human Behavior in the Social Environment - which is how social workers view people - in the context of their entire life. The program has classes on research methodology, policy practice, leading clinical groups, and developing clinical skills. Psychopathology examines the use of drugs to treat mental illness - or, problems in living - and Evaluation of Practice looks at methods to improve clinical relationships. There are three electives in which students can examine particular areas of social work interest: child welfare, family counseling, gerontological social work, human sexuality, etc. Interspersed in the program, one halfway through and one at the end, are two field placements, which can be full-time or part-time. In the placements, students learn practical applications of the skills and knowledge acquired through the coursework.

Canvas is the website by which online students interact with their peers, teaching assistants, and professors. When a new semester begins, each course a student is enrolled in shows up on their Canvas home screen. Each course's section contains the syllabus, the general course outline, and grading and contact information. Most professors divide their course material into modules, which can last for one or several weeks. Within a module, there are usually assigned readings, videos, and sometimes other activities. In addition, each module usually has a discussion component. Students demonstrate understanding of the module's materials by answering a prompt and engaging in discussion with their peers. Courses additionally have assignments, which include papers, quizzes, video roleplays, and tests.

So a day in my life as an online MSW student starts with checking my calendar to make sure no assignments snuck up on me overnight. Assuming none did, I follow that up by logging into Canvas and opening one of my courses. If there's a new module, the first thing I do is navigate to the discussion board topic page to see what I'll be writing about when I complete the module. That helps me focus when I read/watch the information from the module. Then I go through the module materials page by page - watching embedded videos, downloading referenced reading materials, and taking notes as needed. I usually think about topics for a day or so before writing my post, to process the information. Sometimes I know what I want to say immediately, and I dive right in. As a side note, it's a good idea to run anything you submit through Grammarly, which is provided to students. It is beneficial to have an extra pair of eyes edit your writings - even if they are electronic.

Some days, I just have light work - reply to a peer's discussion board post, or browse topics for an upcoming paper. APA formatting skills are essential, so some days I work to improve them. Trust me, it helps. 

The professors and TAs are all fabulous resources, available to answer questions and help if you need clarification or to work through a concept. The courses are definitely a lot of work, but it's meaningful - I never feel it's busywork. 

My first semester, I taught full-time while in the program, though since then, I've worked part-time in addition to the classes. Full-time is definitely doable, but time management is critical if you go that route. In any event, depending on the course (and how quickly you read/write), you can expect to spend 2-4 hours reading per module and an hour or more on the discussion board post and replies. External assignments - papers, quizzes, etc. - obviously take additional time. If you'd like to know more about a day in the life of an online MSW student in the Florida State University College of Social Work program, you can email me at lklopp@fsu.edu.