Hotspot grant helps online social work students stay connected

June 18, 2012

DETROIT – Students enrolled in Wayne State University’s online bachelor of social work (B.S.W.) program will enjoy a year of portable Internet access thanks to a grant from the Detroit-based nonprofit Community Telecommunications Network (CTN).

The grant, worth nearly $14,000, will allow 21 juniors and seven faculty and staff in the School of Social Work’s online B.S.W. program to retain hotspot devices they received from CTN in fall 2011 for an additional 11 months, through April 2013. The devices, which allow multiple users to share a single high-speed broadband connection over Wi-Fi, enhance students’ online educational experience in the program, which is the first online B.S.W. in Michigan and one of only three in the United States.

CTN funds pilot programs that use wireless technology to support learning. The School of Social Work requested hotspot devices instead of wireless network cards due to students’ increased use of non-USB-driven devices, such as tablets and smartphones, to access the Internet, conduct research and interact with classmates. Students who received the hotspot devices in the fall said the devices have prevented them from being academically isolated from the program and their peers when studying or working at field placements where wireless Internet access is not available.

Janet M. Joiner, assistant dean for student affairs in the School of Social Work, said the program has been described by students as a “blessing” and a “gift.” “The majority of those participating in the CTN hotspot project were not familiar with hotspot technology prior to participating,” Joiner said. “The exposure of the faculty, staff and students to mobile technology through the project has underscored the need for increased research and training of students in technology as it relates to direct social work practice.”

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 31,000 students.