Challenges and opportunities for applying groupwork principles to enhance online learning in social work


  • Shirley R Simon Loyola University
  • Marcia B Cohen University of New England, Portland
  • Donna McLaughlin Boston University
  • Barbara Muskat Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
  • Mary White University of New England, Portland



The recent increase in the number of social work courses being offered in online formats raises challenges and opportunities for social work educators. Simultaneously, the literature suggests that group work principles can serve as an important foundation for effective online education. This article examines the obstacles and opportunities for using group work principles to advance effective learning in online education. Three examples of fully online social work classes - a BSW group work course, an MSW group course and an MSW field work seminar - are discussed in order to identify and assess some of these obstacles and opportunities. Recommendations for best practices in online education are identified. The potential role of group work educators as leaders in facilitating effective online learning is also explored.

Author Biographies

Shirley R Simon, Loyola University

Associate Professor, School of Social Work

Marcia B Cohen, University of New England, Portland

Professor, School of Social Work

Donna McLaughlin, Boston University

Clinical Associate Professor, School of Social Work

Barbara Muskat, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

Director of Social Work

Mary White, University of New England, Portland

Clinical Assistant Professor


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How to Cite

Simon, S. R., Cohen, M. B., McLaughlin, D., Muskat, B., & White, M. (2016). Challenges and opportunities for applying groupwork principles to enhance online learning in social work. Groupwork, 25(2), 53-74.