Mandel School Remote Course Delivery Change

July 31, 2020

Dear new and returning students:

We hope you are safe and well.

The decision has been reached that most, if not all, MSSA and MNO courses will be delivered remotely in the 2020-21 academic year. Please read this letter through thoroughly as it also outlines decisions you are being asked to make.

We have been working this summer to plan for your entry to the Mandel School in the fall. A few weeks ago you received an email from the school outlining plans to provide a dual-delivery course model. In that model, students may participate by physically attending class or joining via Zoom web-conferencing remotely. However, ongoing evaluation of how the classroom space would operate caused us to change our plans.

Our faculty conducted a vigorous evaluation of the dual-delivery model in our remodeled classrooms last week, which required them to have access to the classrooms that have been modified for physically-distanced instruction. They assessed every aspect of the student experience in the classroom and consulted with outside experts. Our faculty are dedicated to delivering a powerful education to you in the best possible manner, and we appreciate this careful and expeditious study done by them.

It was found that in the Zoom-enhanced rooms with ceiling microphones, lectures and whole-class discussions can be conducted very well. Participants in the classroom and on Zoom could hear the instructor and each other clearly. It was concluded that for lecture-oriented classes with whole-class discussions, the rooms will work.

Unfortunately, for courses that rely on breaking into small discussion groups, the rooms did not work well. The 6–9 foot distance separating people wearing masks in a small group required voices to be raised, and with two or more groups in a room, there was a distracting cacophony. Additionally, because masks obscure people’s faces, it was impossible to read facial expressions or work on developing social work skills that require one to be able to see the person’s face. Therefore, it was concluded that the use of small groups in the distanced classrooms will not work.

In contrast, the groups formed remotely over Zoom had excellent small group discussions, and because everyone’s faces were visible, learning and practicing social work skills worked well.

As our returning students know, the use of small groups is predominant in the MSSA curriculum. The use of this teaching tool has been promoted and supported over the last 10 years and now is a common tool for our flipped classrooms. Given the experience last week with small groups in the classroom, the decision has been reached that most, if not all, of the MSSA courses will be conducted remotely. This means that students will participate in their courses via Zoom.

In the shift from dual-delivery to remote-delivery, faculty are working on methods to engage students on issues important to social work, nonprofit organization practice, and career development. Mandel Council student leadership and the Mandel School student engagement team have already collectively determined that experiences such as conversations with professionals in different phases of their careers, discussions on practice experiences, and mentorship experiences would be invaluable for students. If you have ideas about topics for such talks, we would love to hear them.

In field education, students will be able to continue with on-site field placement experiences. A remote activities plan will be in place for students who may need to complete a portion of field placement experiences remotely. Please continue to engage with your assigned field advisors regarding your field placements. Some students have already requested new field placements in cities where they live, while others plan to relocate to or remain in the Cleveland area to complete field placements as planned.

In addition, all new MSSA students enrolled in the on-campus, weekly format will also participate in CWRU’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) program and Collaborative Practice I course as part of the generalist year field education requirements. Interprofessional education is a central component of the social work profession and the field education program at the Mandel School. MSSA students will work in interprofessional teams to engage in service learning projects that are mutually beneficial to both student learning and community organizations. IPE teams also include students from public health, medicine, nursing, dental medicine, physician assistant, genetic counseling, psychology, and speech-language pathology programs. On Wednesday afternoons from 3–5 p.m., students will work remotely on community-based projects or attend team-based learning sessions. As stated earlier, in the coming year, IPE activities will be completed remotely unless physical distancing guidelines allow in-person participation and students elect to work in-person with their team. Any student with a confirmed course scheduling conflict on Wednesday afternoons will be exempted from IPE activities. More information about IPE and Collaborative Practice I will be provided during orientation.

MSSA students in the Intensive Weekend format are not required to complete IPE, but are welcome to participate if they elect to do so and are consistently available on Wednesday afternoons. Please contact your field advisor for additional information.

Any new or returning MSSA student who anticipates not residing in the Cleveland area must notify the Mandel School by sending an email message to as soon as possible.

You will notice in SIS we are beginning to code courses to reflect remote-delivery. This message provides a course delivery framework for the MNO and MSSA academic program at the Mandel School. We want to remind you that the Mandel School staff and faculty are available for your education and support. If you have any concerns or questions about the changes discussed in this communication please contact associate dean Sharon Milligan.

We welcome you to the 2020-21 academic year and appreciate your patience as we work through the details of the next two semesters at the Mandel School.


Grover C. Gilmore, PhD
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Dean in Applied Social Sciences