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Top Ranked Online Program

For two consecutive years, Widener University has maintained a number one ranking on the list of 2017 Top Online MSW Programs published by Director of the online master of social work program, Jenifer Norton, finds the ranking, which is based entirely on student feedback, to be a special honor.

“Social work is all about looking at people as individuals. We do a good job of building that culture, where we look at our students as individuals, so it’s affirming to be ranked number one on a ranking system based on student perceptions,” Norton says.

The curriculum for the online master of social work program is centered on trauma, which Norton believes to be its trademark feature. “No matter which course it is,” Norton says, “we look at trauma as a major factor that affects and precipitates an individual's behavior as well as affects their outcomes.”

Graduate students participating in the 64-credit online program work at their own pace with two days during a given week dedicated to turning in assignments. Faculty and staff assist students in their search for meaningful and fulfilling internships to complete their fieldwork during the foundation and concentration years as well as ensure students from every location feel connected to the Widener experience.

Recently, the online program introduced monthly “Coffee Hours” in which students and faculty engage via video conference to discuss all aspects of social work including clinical, research, and policy areas. The purpose is for students to not only hear what their instructors’ roles are in social work, but to give them a taste of what their roles can be while building connections. There are also regular town halls with the Associate Dean of the Center for Social Work Education and administrative staff to consistently fine-tune the program’s offerings through hearing the needs of the students.

Many students agree that geographical restrictions don’t hinder connections being made. For example, Donn Schroeder, a graduate student from Minnesota, believes the greatest benefit of the online MSW program is the shared learning experience. “There are parts of the student’s thinking, character, and capacities that are appropriately stretched and expanded in this program, providing the growth one needs to experience in order to impact the world for good,” Schroeder says.

According to, Widener also ranks among the top 10 schools in Pennsylvania for online learning with programs dedicated to receiving a master’s degree in business, social work, allied health, BSN, educational foundations, and instructional technology.

Leigh Ann Williams, a graduate student participating in the program from Georgia, believes the success of the online programs is due to the faculty. Williams says, “The faculty and staff at Widener strive to give us, as online students, a personal touch, which is achieved by encouraging interaction with classmates through dyads and group projects as well as introductory videos. I am really surprised at how heard I feel by the faculty and staff at Widener.”