Digital Social Work

The GSSWSR launches initiatives to help students master technology.

Students in the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research (GSSWSR) often bring a breadth of experience and knowledge gained through years of dedicated work experience into the classroom.

However, the demands of being a social work professional and the singular focus many students have had on doing their job at an extremely high level can mean that, for many, their last classroom experience was markedly different from that of today’s technology-driven environment.

Last spring, the GSSWSR launched a pilot program to hire two students to provide onsite technical support for its students. The program aimed to help familiarize students with technology used at the school and to increase their digital confidence academically and in the field. The success of the program has led to permanent student positions and was the primary motivation for the creation of new Digital Competency Workshops, custom-tailored to meet the specific needs of Bryn Mawr’s social work students.

“While Bryn Mawr’s Library and Information Technology Services is an irreplaceable resource for our students, we wanted to provide more visible and easily accessible technical support, as our students are often only on campus one day a week for classes,” explains Susannah M. Sinclair, Social Work’s CRM and digital communications manager.

Over the spring semester the Tech TAs assisted GSSWSR students more than 80 times with a wide variety of technical issues. “It became clear that not only were these positions necessary, but that we had to do even more,” says Sinclair.

This summer, Sinclair applied for, and was awarded, a Digital Bryn Mawr Seed Grant to create the workshops. The workshops can be accessed by the GSSWSR’s part-time and full-time M.S.S. and Ph.D. students any time, any place. In addition to providing technical support resources, they include interactive learning content that familiarizes students with the technology they’ll use during their graduate program.

The workshops consist of four modules: Digital Survival Skills, Bryn Mawr Systems, Information Security and Privacy, and Digital Research. Each module includes interactive lessons; alternative lesson formats for students who prefer a less structured, character-based approach; additional resources; and more.

Sinclair and GSSWSR Dean Janet Shapiro were so excited by the potential of the workshops that an in-person introductory workshop series, called Prep 4 Tech, was created as a mirror for the workshops and repeated over fall break. The GSSWSR has also launched a series of monthly technical support services events, which are now housed under the Student Services umbrella at the school.

“Our team created the Digital Competency Workshops to provide a technological foundation that our students can build on for both their academic and social work careers,” says Sinclair. “We would not have been able to take this proactive approach to providing digital tools for our students without the award of a Digital Bryn Mawr Seed Grant, the support of Dean Janet Shapiro, and the invaluable help of one of our clinical master’s students, Allie DiTucci.”