Posted by: emapey | July 10, 2010

eLearning for Students with Disabilities

Thanks to Pat Hensley for inspiring me to research about eLearning for Students with Disabilities.

While online courses are convenient for many students, they must meet the List of Characteristics of Successful Online Learners

Online learning requires more active participation from the student than f2f courses, Online Courses Require Higher Levels of Thinking from Students

Online or f2f learning success for students with disabilities depends very much from the support from the teacher and institution. This is why I appreciate so much the work from Pat Hensley, as a Special Education instructor and blogger

Accessibility of eLearning – OpenLearn – The Open University

By the end of this unit you should:

– be able to discuss the main challenges facing disabled students in eLearning
– have an understanding of the types of technology used by disabled students;
– be able to consider what adjustments you might make in your own role;
– be able to discuss disability and adjustments with colleagues involved in putting teaching into a virtual learning environment.

College and University Students with Disabilities Speak Out on Their eLearning Experiences

Jennison Asuncion presented some background information on an eLearning study that was part of a larger investigation conducted by the Disability and Information Technologies (Dis-IT) Research Alliance.

Several partner organizations were involved, including Adaptech, NEADS, and the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education. The research team included students (including students with disabilities), disability service providers, disability activists, professors, and eLearning specialists (managers of distance education departments, for example).

e-Learning/ICT Activities — QATRAIN2

e-Learning may appeal to students if they:

* want to learn when and where they want, at their own pace;
* have commitments which make it harder for them to attend a regular course;
* have mobility or health problems that make travel or attendance difficult;
* live a long way from a training provider;
* work irregular hours or shifts.

Skills required for e-Learning:

* Observation
* Attention
* Manipulation
* Problem solving

E-learning and Students with Disabilities: From Outer Edge to Leading Edge

E-learning is one important avenue for promoting greater access for all learners. To bring students with disabilities from the outer edge of educational considerations, teaching and information technology staff need to: apply principles of universal design, better understand the benefits of accessible technology for all learners, and ensure that electronic information environments are accessible to people with a range of disabilities. Teaching staff and students need new skills to embrace e-learning. These include presenting information in new ways, navigating and utilising the benefits the Web, and engaging in computer mediated conferencing. Leading edge advances, in both computer operating systems and assistive technology, provide students with disabilities new opportunities for fulfilment in educational programs. Educational administrators need to ensure that resources are available to progress the advantages of e-learning for all students, and that accessible electronic learning environments remain a central priority.

EffectivePracticesDOP – eLearning & Virtual Instruction

Students with disabilities are successful in virtual instruction but the success often depends, as it does in a regular classroom, on having accommodations and supports in place that meet the student’s unique needs. Here are some points noted in recent studies on the use of virtual instruction by students with disabilities.

* Students need time to learn additional technology tools and assistive technologies prior to the virtual instruction. Students will be more successful if they are already performing much of their regular classroom instruction on a computer using the Internet and any additional screen readers, magnifiers, or other assistive technologies they will need in a virtual course. Students who do not use the computer often in regular classroom instruction may need to learn new tools to be successful online and this can be a barrier.
* Students are not overwhelmed by the technology. In one study students reported that they viewed the technology simply as learning tools.
* Students need flexible time to complete online activities. In one research study it was found that struggling students were successful in completing a virtual instructional activity and stayed highly engaged in the process, but they took 16 hours to meet the overall instructional goal that took other students 2 hours to complete. It was successful but required flexibility in time.
* Students benefit from the availability of instructional resources. Having instructional PowerPoints, wikis, and other resources available just-in-time was one of the primary reported benefits of virtual instruction.

Disabilities and e-learning problems and solutions: an exploratory study | Educational Technology & Society

we examine the perspectives of the four key stakeholders about the accessibility of e-learning: postsecondary students with a variety of disabilities, campus disability service providers, professors, and e-learning professionals. We examine both problems and solutions as experienced in Canadian junior/community colleges and universities and also assess the benefits of e-learning as experienced by the students themselves. Based on the findings, we make recommendations about addressing common e-learning problems encountered in postsecondary education and about how the different roles and perspectives of the four participant groups influence their views. It is important to note this is an exploratory, descriptive study that is not theoretically based. Its main objective is to compare the views of the four groups, to suggest hypotheses for future investigations, and to propose recommendations based on available information.

Using E-Learning as a Strategic Tool for Students with Disabilities

This paper will provide an overview of the current need e-Learning to be used as another mode of instruction, but also as a strategic tool for breaking down current educational barriers faced by students with disabilities in educational institutions. In addition, to the technological changes in online learning, students are now faced with greater opportunities to pursue employment, both domestically and internationally. In fact, they are able to apply and obtain virtual jobs, which were not available or afforded to their peers in previous decades. In the following section, there will be an overview of the current statistics of people with disabilities in the United States, along with an overview of distance education, which will also be referred to as e-Learning in this paper

Designing Online Instruction for Postsecondary Students with Learning Disabilities

This case study investigates the methodologies used to deliver online course content to postsecondary students with varying learning disabilities. The research provides a holistic picture of the students in their actual learning environment. Two college students diagnosed as learning disabled were studied with three non-disabled classmates in an online college learning environment. The purpose was to attempt to explain how the design of the course affects the students’ attitudes and performance. The design of the course featured instructional methods that research has shown to be beneficial to students with learning disabilities. Some of these included digitally delivered instructional audio, various textual interactions between the students, and other assistive methodologies. The college level world history course for this study was taught via the World Wide Web through the Blackboard course management system. Interviews,
observations, and academic documents were used to provide a complex, holistic picture of the learning experience of the students in this study.

Education Week’s Digital Directions: Educators Weigh Benefits, Drawbacks of Virtual Spec. Ed.

But, while certain aspects of online learning may work well for students with disabilities, experts say more thought and research are needed to make sure those students receive the support they need to be successful.

Successful Teaching: Strategies for Online Learning

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.



  1. 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!)

  2. Thanks Pat for your comments. The first 2 links are about online learning and I wrote those posts. I think I know something about the topic.

    But I knew nothing about learning with disabilities. So I researched the topic and wrote this post

  3. Hi Eduardo – this looks like a great list. I can’t remember the situation exactly but we were doing a wiki project at Surrey, some students were having extreme cognitive difficulties understanding how wikis worked, how to process the information and what they needed to do.

    I remember contacting TechDis but they couldn’t find any other cases of it happening at the time,

    I will read your post links with interest soon,

  4. Hi Eduardo Well done on championing those students with disabilities. I have read the whole post with great interest as I have started teaching an online student who also becomes a member of my accounting class, who I teach face to face.
    The whole topic fascinates me and I love the online teaching environment. It would be interesting to test out all the different disabilities and work the media to suit them.
    Thanks for coming into Tech Talk Tuesdays – that was just a lovely surprise.

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