Like many fields, Social Work can be highly dynamic. Changes in practices and research occur often. As technology continues to improve, this plays a large part in changing social work as well. Based on current movements, here are some forecasts for the future of Social Work:
Professional development is a key factor in ensuring social workers remain relevant to the field. In order to ensure social workers are up to date on the most recent research and best practices, it is crucial that these professionals enroll in classes.
However, given the time demands of the job itself, plus the schedules of those who may have families or are caregivers, it can be difficult to find the time to attend classes in person. For this reason, leaders within the profession will need to find ways to improve the availability of professional development resources using technology.
Social workers are extremely busy and rarely work in just one location. Often moving from client locations to offices to other places, it can be difficult to perform all necessary responsibilities without the support of technology.
An expanded role of technology that integrates all of the needs of a social worker from access to forms and client files to calendar accessibility and the means to do documentation is necessary in order to help all social workers increase efficiency.
As various forms of technology are integrated into the social work profession, the instance of peer collaboration and input will increase. Because of the necessary change in work habits from an individualized approach to a collaborative one will occur in the virtual classrooms of undergraduate, graduate, and professional development work, those work habits will transfer to the workplace. As a result, social workers will work in a more united way as a team.
If the acceptance of online coursework within social work does not improve drastically, there will be a shortage of social workers entering the profession.
Currently, students struggle to afford higher education. Furthermore, the return on investment of being a social worker is low and many students cannot afford to enter the profession, knowing that they will be unable to repay student loans. Finally, some student lenders will not even consider lending for a program that has a low return on investment after the completion of college. Social work is a profession that has been somewhat resistant to give the nod to online coursework as a means for some to achieve their degrees. That position will have to change if the profession wants to attract and retain new workers.
In light of the last topic mentioned regarding a decrease in social work candidates, one must forecast that the training process must change. It must change to be more cost effective for students at any level, be it graduate, undergraduate, or those professionally developing by taking continuing education classes. The notion that the least affordable educational programs are the most desirable, elite, and effective must be shrugged off. People in all professions much start to seek out and support those quality programs that are cost effective to encourage academia to make changes within the higher education system. Similarly, the social work profession should seek ways to provide educational opportunities to students and current employees at lower costs.
Providing access to people via the internet for social matters can be a huge step for the field of social work. Online support groups and access to health care and social work professionals via the internet can be a huge service for individuals, groups, and families who need assistance.
As online availability of services improves, so must rules and regulations regarding the provision of those services in an online environment. There will need to be a development of standards and perhaps new licensing in order to ensure proper practices by workers online.
As mentioned, the internet may be a useful tool for clients to reach out to social workers or find support groups. Social workers need to consider other ways that technology can be used to deliver services to individuals, groups, and families.
More research must be completed in order to supply data that supports the use of technology in social work. Without research-based evidence, it is difficult to support the financial commitment necessary to increase the use of technology within the profession.
Not all technology must be in the form of new new tablets and expensive software. Often, there are applications available on many smartphones, that most workers have, that can enable them to work more efficiently or to connect to the software within the office to manage calendars or other data.