Online Courses Accessible to College Students With Disabilities

Online Courses Accessible to College Students With Disabilities

Dorea D. Bonneau, Margaret M. Cramer
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3476-2.ch058
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More students can attend colleges and universities from a distance due to broader access and technological advances. Therefore, facilitators are facing the challenge of providing more accommodations and modifications to nontraditional students. The provision of these special services, which have traditionally been provided by special educators, are receiving limited attention. Special educators are educated to make these adjustments on an individual basis in the elementary and secondary levels. However, this has not been the traditional role of the university professor. With today's mass enrollments in online courses, procedures for providing accommodations to all students have become a significant challenge. This chapter will review research on online course design and implementation to address the needs of students with disabilities.
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Special education services for students with disabilities have been addressed in public schools since 1975. However, limited attention has been given to the provision of these services to postsecondary students (Herbert, 2014; Ricardo, Alegre-de-la-Rosa, & López-Aguilar, 2012). Due to privacy issues, disability offices can provide researchers with limited data pertaining to the provision of special services to students. Even with the provision of services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), only an extended time is given to students through the college or university’s office of disability services. This accommodation, often utilized to assist students with access to education, is insufficient in serving the needs of a diverse population (Lewandowski, Cohen, & Lovett, 2012).

Access to content through modern methods of technology can have a positive impact on academic achievement, leading to more success for students with disabilities due to the multimodal nature of online courses (Englert, Zhao, Collings, & Romig, 2005). Students with disabilities may benefit from multimedia-rich courses and modern teaching methodologies addressing different learning styles (Buckley & Smith, 2007).

In public schools (preK-12), students with disabilities can receive instructional modifications and accommodations for assignments and specific programs of study according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. These students may require a reduction of written assignments, oral lessons, assistance for loss or reduced vision or hearing, use of technological devices, oral exams, small group instruction, social skills training, and technical training. Postsecondary students with disabilities may require similar accommodations. Unfortunately, most college faculty and course facilitators are not prepared to redesign online courses to address these unique needs. With specific training and resources, postsecondary educators can more appropriately address the needs of students with disabilities in postsecondary online courses (Grabinger, Aplin, & Ponnappa-Brenner, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Postsecondary Education: Education beyond high school which is typically provided by a technical school, college or university. Any schooling that follows high school.

Special Needs: The students who meet the specific criteria to be classified as having a disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Accommodations: Adjustments in the way students with disabilities access instruction or assessment. Accommodations do not change the construct of the assignment/assessment. Gives equal access to the content without “watering down.”

E-Learning: Web-based or online learning environments. Students access course material outside of the traditional classroom.

Self-Determination: A person acts as a causal agent in one’s affairs by taking responsibility for events or results. A self- determined person possesses the following skills: (1) choice-making, (2) problem-solving, (3) goal setting and attainment, (4) self-awareness, and (5) self-advocacy.

Empowerment: Taking control over one’s education and life choices.

Transition Planning: A planning process that prepares the student for the passage into postsecondary or higher education.

Assistive Technology: Devices or services used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a person with a disability. Allows the person with a disability to access the information necessary to accomplish required learning tasks.

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