Course Descriptions

Program Requirements

The online Doctor of Social Work (DSW) program comprises 24 months of part-time study. Students complete 42 units of coursework focused on two primary content areas: innovation and leadership, and advanced management practice in complex systems.

units of coursework
capstone project

First Semester Courses

First Semester Courses

Managing Innovation and Change

As social systems quickly evolve, social workers need to manage change outside and within organizations and design innovative solutions that help bridge the gap between policy, organizational systems, practice and populations. Students must develop the intellectual practice of scanning the outside world and absorbing what others are saying about shifts and trends with a social work lens. This unique course explores the nature of innovation, unplanned change, conflict and collaboration during times of uncertainty and how they impact systems of care, practice and clients.

Students will learn discipline-specific and interdisciplinary ideas and approaches for innovation and change as they address the Grand Challenges for Social Work. Students will leave this course prepared to respond to the fast-paced and evolving organizational environments with skills in strategy development and execution.

Innovation Laboratory I

In this course, students test theoretical frameworks and models by simulating a series of real business and organizational scenarios.

Second Semester Courses

Second Semester Courses

Leading and Managing Large Complex Systems

This course examines large-scale national, state and local social intervention programs that address the Grand Challenges for Social Work, with an emphasis on income security, housing, health, justice and child welfare programs.

Students will analyze the fiscal, political and financial implications that impact and influence successful program execution. This course will prepare students to design and develop social programs while considering key factors such as security, planning, outcome measurement, funding and budget constraints, organizational structure, personnel and staffing, leadership, implementation, marketing and data information systems. Based upon existing large-scale social programs coupled with creative and critical thinking, candidates will design or redesign innovative and responsive programs and policies for the future.

Innovation Laboratory II

In this second Innovation Laboratory, students simulate a series of real business and organizational scenarios to test theoretical frameworks and models introduced in previous courses.

Third Semester Courses

Third Semester Courses

Leading Public Discourse

Students in this course learn how to lead public discourse to increase civic engagement and public participation. Students will examine contemporary and historical examples of public discourse in motion, the current state and future direction of social work and the information needs of communities, organizations and American society. In addition, students will analyze public media and the media’s role in transformational change in civil society.

Preparatory Scholarship for Capstone

This course prepares students to write grant proposals and give oral presentations so they can pursue funding for their capstone project.

Residency I

During this five-day campus-based residency, students share their innovative ideas and demonstrate their communication skills as they present their capstone project before a panel of DSW faculty.

Fourth Semester Courses

Fourth Semester Courses

Financial Management for Social Change

In this course, students learn how to design approaches that improve fiscal decision-making by maximizing revenue sources for governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Students will enhance and sharpen their budget planning and financial management skills by examining social program design and the building blocks that develop financial projections and resource reviews. Principles of business, accounting, psychology, sociology, economics and social work are combined to achieve a deeper understanding of the forces that impact budget planning, management, cutbacks and negotiations. The Harvard case method is used extensively in this course to explore the practical application of ideas that strengthen problem-solving skills in complex organizations. Students will apply course concepts to a draft budget for a social program/policy that is intended to impact one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work.

An Introduction to the Science of Innovative Social Work

This course introduces students to doctoral-level research and evaluation, teaching them how to effectively use literature, formulate a problem for research and identify a research or evaluative approach. 

Fifth Semester Courses

Fifth Semester Courses

Evaluating Innovation and Change

During this course, students use mixed-method research to evaluate programs and assess the impact of rapid, innovative and/or unexpected change.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

This course prepares students to use quantitative administrative data to identify trends, track performance, evaluate programs and drive decision-making.

Sixth Semester Courses

Sixth Semester Courses

Informatics and Social Innovation and Influence

In this course, students learn how to promote social good through information technology, such as mobile apps, social media, data analytics and big data.

Grand Challenges Capstone

During this course, students complete a fundable grant proposal that supports their innovative solution to one of the Grand Challenges for Social Work.

Residency II

Held in Washington, D.C., this five-day residency brings students together for a series of presentations, workshops and interviews with thought leaders in areas related to the Grand Challenges for Social Work.