FIFSW Frequently asked questions
FIFSW has been holding monthly Student Community Meetings to provide students with updates and answer any questions students may have.
Questions and answers from previous meetings can be found in the PDFs linked to below.
Below is a combined list of frequently asked questions that FIFSW students have asked during the Student Community Meetings. Topics include:
- MSW courses
- Simulation, Orientation and workshops
- PhD students
- Accessibility & Remote Learning
- General course/program questions
For general question related to U of T students, faculty, and staff, visit U of T’s COVID-19 information page.
Will fall courses be online or in person?
All courses in FIFSW’s MSW program and PhD program will proceed remotely in the fall due to the need to continue physical distancing in the wake of the pandemic.
Will the intensive face-to-face session for the MSW ITR program take place online or will students in this program need to fly to Toronto to attend the session?
The MSW ITR program follows a different format that is highly personal. We continue to work with the group behind the scenes to figure out how this will be delivered in the fall. Please stay tuned.
If the status of the pandemic improves through the fall term, would online classes transition back into classroom setting? Will the winter term be online as well?
Even as Toronto moves into Stage 3 of reopening, there will still be limitations on how many people can be in the same room. The way that our classrooms are configured presents limitations. We don’t yet know what is going to happen in the winter.
If fall courses are online, would students who live outside Toronto need to be in Toronto for the fall 2020 semester or could we complete the semester in our hometown and move if/when campus opens in Winter 2021?
With classes online, you don’t need to be physically present in Toronto.
What platforms will instructors use to deliver courses?
The choice of platforms for course delivery is up to the individual instructor. We suspect most will use zoom; however, some may use Blackboard or Microsoft Teams. The platform that they use will be communicated in the syllabus for the course.
Could you put the course syllabi online?
We can’t post syllabi online as they are the intellectual property of each instructor. You may reach out to your instructor to request to view a syllabus in advance. Please note that you need to be a registered student at the time that you reach out.
Can we find out in advance if courses will be offered synchronous our asynchronous?
Yes. This has been listed in our timetables in a column titled “Planned Mode of Online Course Delivery.”
ASYNC = Fully asynchronous (course has no scheduled virtual class time slot as it is completely web-based).
SYNC = Fully synchronous or a mixture of synchronous/asynchronous (course has a scheduled virtual class time slot that will include at least some live virtual class time over an online meeting platform).
Do we need to be present for all classes during the time they are offered? Is there flexibility to “attend” those classes at a different time?
Course that are listed as synchronous in our timetables have a scheduled class time that students are required to be present for and will include at least some live virtual class time via an online meeting platform. If you are interested in these classes but aren’t sure you can attend during the set time, we suggest that you reach out directly to the instructors of these courses to better understand their expectations.
How are professors being supported as they prepare for enhancing the online teaching to to support student engagement, incorporate student feedback, and ensure communication is clear and so on?
Our instructors continue to undertake intensive training to improve online course delivery, investing time and effort to make sure they can do it as best as possible. Both FIFSW and the University have offered a number of workshops to assist our professors with this learning, which is an ongoing process.
Will we have the opportunity to meet with faculty advisors or the registrars in-person or online in a one-on-one meeting in the Fall?
Meetings will be online. You may absolutely reach out to your advisor once they have been assigned to plan meeting with them. You may also reach out to our Registrar Sharon Bewell or the Associate Dean, Academic David Burnes.
When do we find out who our academic advisor is?
Academic advisors will be assigned during the month of July.
Will the Advanced Standing Student Practice Seminar on Assessment and Interviewing Skills workshop still take place online?
Yes, this workshop will be occurring online.
Will five-day intensive courses take place online?
As the five-day intensive courses are offered during the Summer session next year, it is too early to provide a definitive answer as to whether classes will be online or in person.
With the fall semester online, will enrollment for fall courses increase to meet the demand?
We have opened up new sections of certain courses for which there is substantial demand. The decision to open space in individual courses is made on a case by case basis with individual instructors.
Is there an option for students entering 2nd year to defer their second year until fall 2021?
Once you are a student, you have the opportunity to take a leave of absence for up to three terms, so this would be possible. When you are on leave, you do not pay any fees.
If you decide to take a leave of absence and you are a current student, you will need to notify us by August 1. We advise you consult with your advisor so they can walk you through the implications of this decision.
Simulation, Orientation and Workshops
Will Orientation for new incoming students be online?
Yes, we are currently planning an online orientation that is engaging and informative and provides incoming students with the opportunity to meet each other and other members of the FIFSW community, including faculty and staff.
How will the diversity workshops for Year 1 MSW students be delivered?
The diversity workshop will take place online and have been designed as a three-hour immersive, interactive experience. Please note that students will need a functioning camera and microphone.
Do you have any updates on how simulation-based learning will be delivered? How will practice Fridays work while everything stays online? Is this something we will still get to experience?
Practice Fridays are a clinical simulation where you practice assessment skills with an actor and receive feedback from classmates and a facilitator. They are optional but very helpful for clinical practice. We have held Practice Fridays online in the spring and received good feedback. Our plan is to resume Practice Fridays virtually throughout the summer and into the fall. Megan Davies was recently hired to help transition simulation learning online.
How will PhD students planning to defend their final thesis in the summer be affected?
All defences will be presented virtually, online. Please consult with your advisor. Anyone who wants to do it in-person defense will have to put on hold until a later date.
What is happening with REB applications and reviews for studies with in-person components?
During this crisis, the University is prioritizing certain types of research to happen on campus. The studies must be COVID related and approved by the U of T’s Incident Management Team.
Off campus research can continue if there is no direct contact with participants. If this requires a change to an approved protocol or consent procedures, you must file an amendment. If you have a project that is currently approved for off campus and non-direct participant contact that now will involve an amendment that is COVID related, please inform the REB at firstname.lastname@example.org when you submit the amendment (so they can prioritize it).
On March 25, we were informed by Rachel Zand of the Office of Research Ethics that they have reviewers and will now take on new protocols that are off-campus and do not involve direct contact with participants. However, these will be relegated to secondary level of importance at this time.
Finally, if there is any change in your study procedures related to personally identifiable information (such as moving data in a way that was not approved in your protocol), this will require an amendment. (Please see the REB webpage for information on what is considered personally identifiable.) However, if you are moving data that is not personally identifiable, please just include this in your annual report.
For other details and updates, please visit the Office of VP of Research and Innovation website.
I am a 6th year PhD student who must complete and defend my thesis by the end of August. Unfortunately, I find am less efficient due to the COVID-19 situation, and am very worried that I may not be done by the end of the summer. Will I have to pay tuition if I defend in September/October 2020. Is there any way to waive the tuition in case I need it?
SGS sets up the enrollment deadline and the pay schedule. In a recent communication from SGS, the procedures for students to receive a tuition fee exemption were specified:
Students who were making good research progress prior to COVID-19, who demonstrate that their academic progress was significantly impeded due to pandemic-related disruption and require additional time beyond the program length to complete their program requirements, may apply for extended registration with an exemption from tuition for up to one academic session. This duration may be re-assessed as the situation evolves.
Criteria for Providing a Tuition Fee Exemption
- Students were making good progress with their thesis/dissertation prior to COVID-19 and data collection or access to necessary sources has been significantly impeded due to pandemic-related impacts (e.g., labs closed, fieldwork cancelled, access to materials, archives or library sources has been impeded, personal circumstances).
- Additional work is needed before the thesis/dissertation can be defended (e.g., insufficient data or material).
- All feasible alternative academic activities (e.g., writing of sections of thesis/dissertation or publications, coursework, professional development) have been completed.
- The revised research plan will require additional time.
- Supervisory committee agrees that conditions (i) through (iv) have been met.
- Departmental/SGS approval.
Accessibility & Remote Learning
U of T’s Accessibility Services office remains open to assist students with disability-related academic accommodations and supports. If disability impacts your learning and you are not already registered with the office, please register ASAP to discuss how the office can be helpful in supporting your learning needs.
After completing the online intake form and providing medical documentation, you will be set up with an Advisor for an intake appointment to discuss individualized academic accommodations for courses and/or practicums, and access to services and resources.
Should you have questions about the registration process after reviewing our website, please don’t hesitate to connect with the office’s administrative team at: email@example.com or 416-978-8060.
The office has also created a document outlining strategies for online learning and accessibility that is available to all students.
Reshma Dhrodia is the On Location Accessibility Advisor for Professional Faculties North (Social Work, Law, OISE) and may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-978-7759.
How can students who prefer or require in-person teaching and communication to maximize learning and retention be supported?
Unfortunately, given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, no schools of social work across North America or elsewhere are providing in-person learning at this time. The directive that we hold no in-person classes comes from the federal and provincial governments. We are committed to providing students with a quality online educational experience and continue to train and support our faculty on best practices that lead to high student learning and satisfaction.
Is there an option to attend classes in person for students with difficulties with remote learning?
Should you have difficulties with remote learning related to disability and already be registered with Accessibility Services, we recommend you reach out to your Accessibility Advisor to discuss accommodation options and services for support with remote learning. If you are not yet registered with Accessibility Services, we encourage you to do so ASAP. To register with Accessibility Services, please visit: https://studentlife.utoronto.ca/department/accessibility-services/.
The Accessibility Services office has also created a document outlining strategies for online learning and accessibility that is available to all students.
Will changes due to the pandemic affect our ability to obtain good job options after we graduate?
This is a world-wide phenomenon, and the reality is that once it is over, workforces will be deployed very differently. Many will be looking for individuals who can provide services remotely. We will be teaching you how to acquire these valuable online clinical skills.
You will not be disadvantaged because everyone is experiencing the same thing. When you look at the growth of the sector, the need for social workers continues to grow. The need for social workers will grow even more in light of COVID-19. Our prediction is that there will be more opportunities and that employers will be looking for social workers who can function on online service platforms.
Is there emergency financial help for students experiencing hardship? Could you explain the process of applying for SGS Emergency Grants and Loans?
SGS Emergency Grants and Loans are available for students who may be experiencing unexpected financial hardship.
The SGS Emergency Grant program aims to assist currently registered, full-time graduate students who encounter an unanticipated serious financial emergency. Information on eligibility and the application process can be found here.
The SGS Emergency Loan alleviates temporary cash flow problems for students who are expecting the release of funds in the near future (i.e., 30 to 120 days) from employment, a major award instalment, OSAP (Ontario Students’ Assistance Program), teaching assistantship, or research assistantship payment, etc. Information on eligibility and how to apply can be found here.
How much is tuition this year? Did it change significantly from last year?
Tuition Fees for MSW students was cut by 10% from $10,470 in 2018-2019 to $9,420 in 2019-2020, with a freeze at this level for the 2020-2021 academic year, in accordance with the province’s tuition fee framework.
The tuition fee for returning international MSW students is $32,780 in 2020-2201. Last year it was $31,220.
The tuition fee for new international MSW students is $34,430 in 2020-2021.
Note that students also pay incidental fees on top of the tuition so a domestic MSW student will pay $11,117.00 for tuition for the 2020-2021 Academic session.
Are FIFSW COVID-19 emergency funds still available?
We launched the FIFSW COVID-19 Emergency Grant for students who experienced COVID-19 related hardships occurring in March and April, 2020. The deadline for applying for the emergency funds was May 15th.
Are there any other funds available to students at this time? Knowing that many students will now be out of summer work opportunities, is it possible that tuition might be made more accessible to students next year?
Information on University and Government supports for students can be found here.
Is the U of T providing on campus resources for students who are experiencing housing insecurity due to COVID-19?
U of T’s Housing office assists students with finding housing, searching for a roommate, and understanding your tenant rights and responsibilities. This office may also assist students dealing with landlord and roommate conflicts and other housing issues or challenges. The Graduate Student Union also provides emergency supports to students. Please feel free to follow up directly with FIFSW’s registrar Sharon Bewell for more information. For students with financial limitations, there are also pathways for students in need a disability-specific related support or equipment. Please contact U of T’s Accessibility Services office to learn more. As well, there are a number of financial support and funding opportunities currently offered through U of T and provincial and federal governments. A list of these supports can be found on U of T’s website via the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students.
When will Ontario Graduate Scholarship application decisions be made?
The School of Graduate Studies, which administers the award, will contact the recipients of the award around the end of June or beginning of July.
Can scholarship applications be released earlier on to help us prepare for finances for the year?
Yes. It is possible for Internal Social Work award decisions for registered students to be made earlier. However, recipients of awards would not receive funding until after registration in the Fall session, and funding would go towards tuition.
Will fees be modified given the move to remote lectures?
There is currently no discussion of changing fees at U of T.
A few things are worth noting. In some cases, online education can be more expensive, and other Canadian universities are looking at the possibility of tuition increases. Our primary goal at the Faculty is to provide students with the highest possible quality of online education. We continue to provide training and support to our faculty on how to best maximize the online environment and promote student satisfaction.
Will students who were awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship sill receive funding?
Students who are recipients of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) will be issued the award as long as they are enrolled for 2 or 3 consecutive academic terms as full-time students during that 2020-21 Academic session.
Will practicums be remote in the fall?
We are required to follow the University’s direction on this and, at present, we have been told that all practicums will be remote. As soon as restrictions are lifted, we will let you know.
When can we receive more information on practicum opportunities for the fall?
We will have more details about practicum opportunities on July 16. We will share these opportunities online and during a zoom meeting, where we will provide information on the matching process and interviews. An email with details on how to register for this meeting will be sent shortly.
If we are able to complete our hours between Jan-April, Similar to practicum 1, are we able begin in January or do we have to begin by November?
There are two reasons to not support a January start for Practicum II:
- The program is designed for, under normal circumstances, theory learned in classes (Monday-Tuesday) to be integrated in practicum (Wednesday-Friday). Although the pandemic has imposed restrictions, we are trying to maintain this structure for pedagogical reasons.
- The January practicums are reserved for Practicum I students, who do not have access to the fall semester practicums.
Do international students still need to apply for a co-op work permit before starting a remote practicum?
In order to begin a social work practicum in the MSW program students are required to have been approved for a study permit and co-op work permit. If you have specific questions or concerns you can email the university’s Centre for International Experience (email@example.com) and one of the immigration advisors can talk to you about your specific situation. You can also speak to the International Student Advisor at FIFSW Megan Davies (firstname.lastname@example.org). https://studentlife.utoronto.ca/service/advising-immigration/
Will there be any modifications for the second-year placement starting in September?
CASWE has permitted reduced hours required for accreditation until April 2021.
Is it possible that we would start with remote placements in the fall but transition to in-person placements later in the semester if it is deemed safe to do so?
Yes, this is possible, subject to guidelines from the University and the Field Instructor.
Is it possible for us to defer our practicums?
We are working diligently to ensure that practicum experiences in the fall are as high quality as possible. The reality is that this virus has changed how we all live and operate – including those providing service as social workers. Please note that our accrediting body has reduced the number of hours required to 337.5 to allow for increased flexibility in terms of when the practicums can start. As a result, even if you aren’t able to start your practicum until November, it will be possible to complete all the hours required by April.
Regardless, we understand that there may be exceptional circumstances that compel you to seek deferring your practicum to a later semester, and there will be an application process to do this if there is good reason to do so.
If we are continuing remote learning in the fall, could we pursue practicum opportunities outside Toronto since there wouldn’t be a need to live near campus?
We are very open to that as long as there is a Field Instructor who meets our accreditation standards.
If can secure a practicum placement in own community can I stay in my community in the winter?
This is reasonable and we are completely flexible with regards to this request. If classes are offered remotely, there is no need for you to be in Toronto.
If we have arranged a practicum placement in our community, is there room for flexibility in terms of in-person and remote participation?
The University currently requires all practicums to be remote. As soon as restrictions are lifted, we will let you know.
Can you provide further details regarding paid practicum opportunities?
Given the current circumstances, we recognize that some students may wish to explore practicums in their agencies of employment, volunteering, or to seek new paid opportunities that would meet the learning objectives of a social work practicum. Professional activity and learning are not inconsistent, but there is a difference in emphasis between the goals of educational development and those of a job description. The focus of the MSW practicum must be on the student’s learning.
Click here to review the guidelines [PDF] for employment-based or volunteer-based practicums. This PDF also includes a form that students and their proposed field instructors may fill out to apply to for approval for an employment-based or volunteer-based practicum. (This form can be found in the Practicum section of FIFSW’s website at Practicum > Forms > Volunteer or Employment-based Practicum Guidelines-Application.)
Can practicum time be used for volunteering if this is approved by our field instructor? For example, mental health helplines, such as Kids Helpline, have seen a significant increase in calls. Do we have the option of supporting organizations like these for the remainder of our practicum hours and could the University help match us with a placement like this?
It is commendable that our students would offer support. Accreditation standards require practicums to be supervised and evaluated by a social worker. The OCSWSSW Code of Ethics requires social workers to self-determine their competencies. A field Instructor must therefore determine whether they are competent and available to supervise and evaluate a student in the proposed activity. If you know of a social worker who would be willing to be a Field Instructor, please let us know.
For those considering volunteer opportunities independent of practicum, please refer to the University’s guidelines.
When in-person practicum starts again, will 2-year MSW students be able to increase their attendance to 5 days per week (rather than 4)?
In the fall and winter semesters, Practicum II occurs three days a week. Monday and Tuesday are protected for classes. When classes cease on Mondays and Tuesdays, there is flexibility regarding the number of days per week of practicum. All modifications to the schedule must have approval of the supervisor (and Education Coordinator if there is one.) The Faculty-Field Liaison and the Practicum Office must receive a copy of the revised schedule so that customized adjustments can be made to accessing the online evaluation tool.
Will the revised hours during this period be recognized elsewhere? Will they affect our eligibility to work in other countries?
While it is important for students to be aware of the specific licencing requirements in jurisdictions where they may have future employment, it is important to note that once you receive your transcript and graduate, your degree is valid. No one is going to question that. Remember that social work students are being similarly affected everywhere.
Is it possible to extend practicum hours back to the original 525 hours if we find a practicum where this would make sense?
This is something to negotiate with your Field Instructor. The minimum requirement is now 337.5 hours. However, some field instructors may have capacity to maintain a practicum for up to 525 hours. Please keep your FFL and the Practicum Office advised, as the schedules are now customized and need to reflect this.
Could first year students who are doing a summer or winter practicum participate in direct practice at a later time?
The Practicum Office and FIFSW must follow the remote learning directives of the University. FIFSW and U of T are committed to moving students through the program with as little disruption as possible. Completing summer or winter practicum hours in a future semester would not allow for this.
How is the Faculty addressing the fact that we will not be getting the in-person experience we need to develop competencies as social workers?
As you know, given the current situation, we have no choice but to employ remote learning opportunities. This is the new normal everywhere. We hope you can take heart in the fact that social work learning is an ongoing, life-long process. Even if you receive the best two-year education possible, you will continue to learn more through new opportunities as you move into the workforce.
Will you be able to ensure that students are placed in practicums according to their top three interests that will be indicated in their practicum applications?
Unfortunately, there is less availability now then there was previous to the pandemic. The option of selecting your top three choices may not be in place for September practicums. The protocol has yet to be determined, but we will let you know when we have more information.
For Year 2 Practicums, will there be practicums at the hospitals or is it likely that they will continue to not be able to supervise students?
We are still in negotiations and advocating for our students. It is likely that a return to some “new normal” will be gradual and that the resolution of this pandemic will not be immediate. Given such uncertainty, it is advisable that students think of flexible options and preferences for completing their field placements. As soon as we are advised of a change, we will let you know.
For those of us in the Children and Families Field of Study, it is very hard to guarantee direct practice (online) with children. How will this be navigated in regards to 2nd year practicum?
We are looking for Field Instructors who have moved to online services and exploring how they might accommodate more of our students.
General course/program questions
What are the chances that I will get into the required courses that I have been waitlisted for? I’m concerned that if I don’t get into some of those I may not be able to graduate with my cohort.
Students will get into the course that are required for their program. For first-year required core courses, if you are on a waitlist for one section, please register for another section that has space.
Several instructors are not inputting students’ grades for assignments, participation, etc. on Quercus, so we often don’t know how we have done on specific assignments. Could you please ensure that they do this?
Instructors are not required to put grades on Quercus and may choose to provide grades through other applications. You should be receiving feedback on your assignments throughout the semester. If you aren’t, that is a concern. We will look into this.
Are students allowed to take two collaborative specializations?
The way our program is structured, you only have room for two electives. The practicum component that is also related to your program of study, so it would be very challenging to do more than one collaborative specialization and graduate on time. If you are interested in doing this, we advise you to connect with the specialization office and to find out what is required. If you determine that this is something that would work for you, and you can do it in a reasonable time, we could certainly look at this option.
How many elective courses are the one-year Advanced Standing students required to take?
Each Field of Study requires students to complete four required courses in their Field of Study and two electives, plus SWK4510H RSH for Evidence-Based Social Work. SWK4510H is an additional course requirement for all students in the MSW Program and is taken in the first term of the Program (Fall session).