Last week I had a guest post about the Benefits of Online Degrees for People with Disabilities and Eduardo Peirano left a comment about the disadvantages of this which led to his post on elearning for Students with Disabilities. If you have a chance, please read the points he makes about what is necessary for students with disabilities to be successful with elearning. He gives links to research that supports the points he makes.
I really appreciate Eduardo making this points because it made me realize that when sharing broad ideas as was mentioned in the guest post, I need to follow up with specific strategies to support the ideas mentioned. In Eduardo’s post, I left the following comment:
“This was an awesome post!! Thank you so much for joining the conversation! You make a lot of great points and I appreciate the links to support your ideas. I love when someone makes me think about something from different perspectives. I think you are absolutely right that without the right kind of support and accommodations, online learning could be extremely difficult for students with disabilities. Now I am going to think of some more specifics! (I think I feel another blog post coming on!)”
Now I need to think of ways to implement the things that he mentions.
I know at Furman University where I teach graduate courses, there is a disability coordinator to help those with disabilities reach success. In my syllabus I addressed this by stating,
“If you have a disability that may have some impact on your work in this class, and for which you may require accommodations, please see the instructor or Furman’s Disabilities Services Coordinator, so that such accommodations may be arranged. In order to receive appropriate accommodations this term, it is imperative that you contact the Disabilities Services Coordinator or the instructor in a timely manner.”
I believe if students are going for an online degree, the university offering this degree needs to have a disabilities coordinator to help them. Not only does this person need to be available but also easily accessible. If students have to jump through too many hoops to get help, they will not seek help and just end up frustrated.
Before a student actually takes a course in their field, there needs to be some basic computer instruction to make sure they have the skills needed to complete the course requirements. Specific skills should be identified and the student needs to show that these skills can be mastered before course work can begin. Students need to know how to research for information on the computer. They also need to know critical thinking skills so they can weed through the multitude of information out there in cyberspace and know what is valuable and what is not. A task analysis for each skill needs to be created. These need to be made available for the student to carry with them either as a hard copy or maybe something put on their ipod or cell phone. This will make a great reference tool for them when needed.
Online instructors need to be aware of the possibility of having students with disabilities in their class. Then they need to work with the disabilities services coordinator to see how they can modify the curriculum so that the student can meet the objectives of the class. Many times in public schools, teachers are very reluctant to do this. Material needs to be offered in a visual and an auditory format. If the information is just in one format or the other, the learning style of the student may be ignored. In my course, I am offering information using slideshare with audio, and voicethread with audio.
Universal Design for Learning is a must. In fact, I think this is important for all students and not just students with disabilities. In the course that I am teaching, I have three students who are currently teaching, one who does substitute teaching, and one who has not been in the classroom at all. I cannot expect them all to learn the same way because of their different backgrounds. A lot of the information is online and I need to make sure that all of my students are comfortable in their computer skills to access this information. I will first take a survey so I can see what my student’s beginning level may be.
If the university wants to encourage students with disabilities to attend their school, these are necessary to help a student with disabilities succeed.
Do you know of specific strategies to help students with disabilities succeed in getting an online degree? Please share.
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'IMG_4356a'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077905@N00/1584698904 by: John Martinez Pavliga