What is a Webinar?
There are times when social workers and social work students may need a change from learning through reading material online or books and textbooks. It is a nice change, for all of us, to sometimes learn using different mediums. Webinars can be a welcome change of medium for learning for social workers. Webinars are seminars delivered via video conference using a computer video camera or webcam and computer or phone audio. Webinars are interactive and can bring people together across a wide geographic area. Social workers can learn new clinical skills, earn continuing education units (CEUs), gain knowledge about cutting edge research, learn about social policy, and share ideas via webinars.
If you have never participated in a webinar, they are delivered using an online videoconference meeting platform such as Webex, Zoom, or GoToMeeting. You register for the webinar before it begins and receive a link to click on to enter the event. You may have to quickly download the platform that is being used, but there should no problems if you have a relatively new computer. When you click on the link you will either be placed in a “waiting room” until the presenter begins the meeting, or you will enter the event directly. You will be able to see how many attendees are present. You will probably be able to click a raise hand icon to verbally ask the presenter a question or you can ask a question via the chat tool. You may join with your video on or off and the hosts will mute all attendees to reduce background noise.
Most webinars offered in the field of social work will be free of charge. Some organizations may require a small registration fee to attend, but this is rare. If a large registration fee is required, you may want to think twice about registering for that webinar. There are few instances when it is worth paying more than five or ten dollars to attend a webinar that will provide information you may be able to get elsewhere for free.
Continuing Education Units
Social workers are required to earn 48 CEUs every two years. These units can be earned through attending conferences, seminars, training, various professional activities, and webinars. Sometimes continuous learning requirements change, so the National Association of Social Workers offers a CE (continuing education) tracker to help social workers track CE requirements and the units they have earned. Many different organizations host webinars that allow social workers to earn CEUs. Social workers can search for CE opportunities provided via webinar at Here is a sample of organizations that offer CE webinars :
- NASW (specialty practice webinars)
- The Sweet Institute
- The Association for Addiction Professionals
- The American Society on Aging
- The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University
Organization that Provide Free Webinars
Some webinars will not provide you with CEU credits, but they are nonetheless valuable learning opportunities. Once you join an organization’s email list you will undoubtedly receive notices about upcoming webinars and information about how to register for these learning opportunities. Here is a sample of organizations from the fields of social work and human services that regularly offer free or low-cost webinars:
- The Child Welfare League of America
- The Child Welfare Workforce Institute
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Prevention Week Webinars
- The Rural Health Information Hub
- The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance
Social work students can also take advantage of various webinars and online workshops offered by their school. Sometimes these webinars are produced and offered by a research or practice institute or they may be offered by the school. Usually, these webinars are open to the professional public and participants may be eligible to earn CEUs, but some webinars or webinar series may be for students only.
Webinars often deliver information about new clinical practices or research that social workers would be interested in. Webinar series may serve as training in specific clinical practices. Other webinars focus on social policy changes or advocacy. Webinars may also teach social workers basic research skills. Many social workers will need additional research skills to function in their jobs and webinars can give them the information they need (or refresh their knowledge) on basic research methods, how to perform basic data analyses, or how to digest research articles. Webinars may also focus on translating research evidence into social work practice. Schools of social work may offer these research-oriented webinars. Companies that sell data analysis software products often also offer free webinars that train participants in the basics of data analysis using their platforms.
Making Time for Webinars
Time is always a factor when it comes to webinars. We all have good intentions when we register for webinars; we put the webinar on our calendar, then the time comes for the live event and we may now have another conflicting appointment or a pile of work preventing us from attending. Do not worry. Organizations generally record their webinars and send a link of the recording to anyone who registered. Many organizations also have an archive of recordings of past webinars so you may go through the list and view webinars at your leisure. Of course, attending a live webinar is important if you have questions you want to ask the presenter or share with other attendees who may also have thoughts and feedback. When you view a recording you cannot benefit from this live interaction, but viewing a recording is better than not receiving the information at all.
Webinars are a fantastic way for organizations to get the latest, most up to date, information about practice and policy trends, research methods, or funding opportunities to social workers and organizations. They can get their information out to a wide number of professionals across the country if they market their event right. Webinars are publicized on NASW’s website, professional association event calendars, and/or email lists. If your organization has valuable information to share with the field, it may want to consider offering a webinar to the public or professionals who would benefit from your organization’s knowledge, learning, and practices.
Webinars are easy to deliver, though there is potential for technical issues as with any technology. Meeting with a panel of presenters to go over how to use the technology and to rehearse a bit is never a bad idea. Consider sending a brief evaluation survey to webinar participants so you can get a sense of how well it was received and whether it is worth your organization’s time to plan more webinars in the future.
Especially during this time of national crisis, webinars and online training are one of the few ways to get information out to the public and professionals. Over the next year, there will be limited opportunities for organizations and professions to hold in-person lectures, meetings, seminars, and conferences. Webinars can prevent an interruption of the flow of information within the field of social work, especially at a time when social workers will be critical to the country’s recovery. They can also help perpetuate the sense of community that is so strong among professionals in this field.
B.A. Political Science| Vassar College
M.A. Urban Affairs | University of Delaware
Social Policy | Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service Doctoral Program
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