Developing ethics courses for social workers
Most jurisdictions require that social workers take a certain number of hours of coursework in ethics to meet continuing education requirements for license renewal. And providers who want to offer courses in this area may be looking for guidance about developing social work ethics courses that meet ACE standards.
Did you know that ASWB ACE offers a resource just for that purpose? The Guide to Social Work Ethics Course Development was published several years ago by the ASWB Approved Continuing Education Committee after two years of research and development. Intended to help both jurisdictions and CE providers, the guide’s introduction outlines its goals:
The purpose of this resource is to provide a social work ethics course structure for continuing education (CE) providers that is informed by the perspective of social work regulators. The Guide to Social Work Ethics Course Development establishes standards for common course goals and objectives and core content as well as acceptable teaching methods, resource materials, and instructor qualifications.
The guide contains valuable information relevant to all ACE and New Jersey CE course providers. If you have not read it before or are new to creating and providing social work ethics courses, we encourage you to use this resource. You can also use the guide to ensure that your current social work ethics courses meet ACE standards. Also, please remember that ethics courses need to reflect the social work profession’s current code of ethics . Be sure to review the new NASW Code of Ethics, revised in 2017, for more details and information about the recent changes.
A primer on primary contacts
ASWB requires that ACE providers and New Jersey CE Course Approval Program providers have a person serving as a primary contact. The primary contact is usually the continuing education director (CED) or the social work consultant (SWC), but providers may designate someone else to fill this role. If you name someone else as the primary contact, please remember that the CED and SWC still have overall responsibility for making sure the application, the current courses being offered, and the overall continuing education program meet ASWB ACE and New Jersey CE Course Approval Program standards. Providers submitting to both ACE and the New Jersey CE Course Approval Program are permitted to have different individuals listed as the primary contact for each program.
Things to know about primary contacts
An important role: The primary contact has the important role of making sure that the CED and the SWC review all reports and requests for additional information from ASWB. The primary contact then ensures that any material needing revision or any additional information requested is submitted to ASWB accurately and on time. All areas in need of correction or revision must be addressed before the primary contact sends a response back to ASWB for review.
Avoid delays: One reason it is so important to have the right person listed as your primary contact for ACE or the New Jersey CE Course Approval Program is to avoid delays in your approval decision. Delays in communication can slow the process! It may take up to two weeks for ASWB to review course material revisions or answers to our reviewer’s additional questions about your program. If the primary contact does not communicate as needed with the CED or SWC or does not address all of the items identified in your review report before submitting it to ASWB, your approval decision could be delayed. That could result in a provider or a course not being approved in time for a planned course date.
As a reminder, providers are only allowed to provide CE credit for a course date that is offered:
- after approval as an ACE provider
- after the individual course approval date if the course was submitted to the New Jersey CE Course Approval Program
Time for a change: ACE receives a high volume of applications; therefore, it’s important that application materials or revisions meet program standards and that requested corrections be addressed accurately. ASWB expects all information it sends to be communicated to the CED or SWC. If the primary contact has difficulty meeting these responsibilities, ASWB may require the CED to take over or to assign a new person to this role.
Policy reminder: Submit your application materials electronically
Both ACE and New Jersey CE Course Approval Program applications and supplemental items must be saved and submitted as separate electronic documents. ASWB no longer accepts applications by regular mail, though course material—such as a book or DVD—that cannot be sent electronically may be mailed. We accept mailed payment by check or money order. The application is considered complete when ASWB has received all application materials and payment.
Virtual or augmented reality courses
Many universities have begun to use virtual reality or augmented reality to help deliver some courses. While reactions and opinions may vary about whether these new modalities are, in fact, valuable tools for learning, some continuing education providers are starting to explore whether VR and AR can be viable teaching tools. An article from Inside Higher Ed titled More Than Just Cool? explores this topic from a higher education perspective.
This exciting time for new technology may prompt you to consider whether VR might be an effective tool to use in your courses. It’s important to keep in mind that if your organization is thinking about offering continuing education courses that include VR or AR, the training still needs to meet jurisdictional requirements for continuing education. It must also meet continuing education standards that your approval organization, such as ASWB, requires.
Another thing to consider is the need to train social workers or other health care professionals about the VR and AR programs that are currently available. Which ones may be helpful for clients to use? What VR and AR software has been shown to be useful in evidence-based practice when working with social work clients in different areas?
For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs details in its article Virtual reality boosts job-interview skills for Veterans with PTSD how a VR computer program helps veterans who have posttraumatic stress disorder prepare for job interviews. A social worker who works as a case manager for veterans with PTSD might benefit from training on using this software.
Another study, The use of virtual reality technology in the treatment of anxiety and other psychiatric disorders, was published in the Harvard Review of Psychology in May 2017. The study looked into the effectiveness of virtual reality in treating specific mental health conditions. There are numerous other studies being conducted right now about how specific VR tools may help potential social work clients, including those with autism spectrum disorders, substance abuse issues, and phobias.