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In NH, a Distance Learning Partnership for Social Welfare

The University of New Hampshire is putting the finishing touches on their new Center for Professional Excellence in Child Welfare. The new facility is a technology center housed in an existing building, and designed to provide blended and distance learning opportunities.

The University will use the Center to benefit its students pursuing social work degrees, as well as providing training to workers in the state's child welfare system. New Hampshire's state government funded the new center with a $1.1 million grant as a way to meet the ongoing need for training of its personnel. "The Center will utilize UNH Academic Technology services to create a ´┐Ż´┐Żblended learning system,' meaning the Center will utilize distance learning technologies in delivering some trainings," according to Jerry Marx, the chair of the Department of Social Work at UNH.

The blended learning approach will lower the state's costs for training its social work staff, providing distance learning modules via broadband to state employees who cannot get to the University's classrooms. The story in the University's student newspaper notes that, "Students can utilize the new program through field placements and service learning, as well as graduate assistantships."

The partnership built around the center also includes the University's Department of Family Studies, the Institute on Disability, and the UNH Academic Technology office. Also involved is the UNH Teaching Excellence Center, which offers teacher certification online through its program offering a Certificate in College Teaching. The educational content for this program is assembled by UNH faculty in the UNH Graduate School as well as faculty members at other institutions. According to its webpage, the Teaching Excellence Center has students enrolled in this program from dozens of other universities.

This branch of the University's graduate school has developed a collaborative effort among faculty members from several schools in order to teach a course in a virtual classroom. The new effort from the Department of Social Work will attempt to do something similar by drawing from its own faculty, those affiliated with the University's Center for Family Studies, and those whose coursework is affiliated with the Institute on Disability. In this instance, use of distance learning technology has resulted in a training and teaching program developed from several academic disciplines.

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