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Greer, D., & Deshler, D. (2013). Looking at online learning through the accessibility lens. Better:Evidence-based Education, 5(3), 16-17.

Hashey, A., &  Stahl, S. (2014). Making online learning accessible for students with disabilities. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 46(5), 70-78.
Abstract: The article discusses the need for teaching aids and devices that are used in online education and virtual schools to be accessible to students with disabilities. Topics discussed include the need for websites used in online education to meet Section 508 requirements of the 1973 U.S. Rehabilitation Act, the creation of the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT), and the accessibility considerations for when using learning management systems (LMSs).

Parents, Families & Students

Currie-Rubin, R., & Smith, S. (2014). Understanding the roles of families in virtual learning. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 46(5), 117-126.
Abstract: The article discusses the role of parents in their children’s online learning. Topics discussed include the use of online education by children with disabilities, the challenges parents may have in keeping their children engaged with their online lessons, and the connection between parents and teachers in online education. INSETS: Introductory Parent Letter; Sample Teacher Questions for Online Parent/Family Introductions.

Harvey, D., Greer, D., Basham, J., & Hu, B. (2014). From the student perspective:Experiences of middle and high school students in online learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 28(1), 14-26.
Abstract: The authors conducted a study to examine experiences and preferences of middle and high school students in online learning environments. An online questionnaire was supplied to administrators of online schools, who then distributed the questionnaire to students enrolled in their schools. Topics addressed in the questionnaire included involvement in online and traditional school settings, use of special education services, participation in extracurricular activities, actual and preferred interactions with teachers and online peers, bullying, and overall opinions regarding online learning. The findings from this study are explained as well as limitations and implications for future research.

Johnston, S., Greer, D., & Smith, S. (2014). Peer learning in virtual schools. Journal of Distance Education, 28(1), 1-31.
Abstract: The purpose of the research was to compare student performance on Advanced Placement (AP) exams from 2009 to 2011 at Florida Virtual School and to explore student perceptions of their online course experience compared with the classroom-based AP experiences. The data indicated that students performed at levels comparable to the national sample but higher compared with other Florida students. The data also showed that students perceived benefits to both their online and classroom AP courses. Both these findings lend credibility to the delivery of AP in an online format but also indicate that the design, delivery, and support of the instruction was paramount regardless of delivery model.

Teaching Online

Greer, D., Rowland, A. & Smith, S. (2014). Critical considerations for teaching students with disabilities in online environments. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 46(5), 79-91.
Abstract: The purpose of this article is to provide teachers and their supporting team (e.g., parents) with an understanding of the implications of blended and virtual learning for students with disabilities. To support these students, it is important to have an understanding of the manner in which a significant majority of blended and virtual learning is delivered for today’s K–12 student. Many blended and online programs include resources and tools teachers can use to adapt and extend student learning. This article offers tips, strategies, and resources to the novice as well as a veteran teacher moving to instruct in the blended or virtual learning environment. INSET: Center on Online Learning and Students With Disabilities.

Greer, D., Smith, S., & Basham, J. (2014). Practitioners’ perceptions of their knowledge,skills and competencies in online teaching of students with and without disabilities. Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals.  Spring-Summer 2014, 150-165.
Abstract: The need for skilled teachers in online learning environments is presently evident and projected to grow into the future.  A survey of education practitioners (N = 127) about their knowledge and competencies in online teaching of students with and without disabilities found that they generally recognized the importance of online learning and the specialized competencies it requires.  However they lacked confidence in both themselves and their colleagues to effectively use online learning environments in their teaching, and were particularly unprepared to teach students with disabilities.  Although many indicated that they currently taught online or blended courses, they had low awareness of online learning platforms, which hold promise for individualizing education for students with and without disabilities.  A call is issued to address this lack of knowledge, skill, and competency in online instruction among current and future educators.

Online Learning Environments

Basham, J., Smith, S., Greer, D., & Marino, M. (2013). The scaled arrival of K-12 online education: Emerging realities and implications for the future of education. Journal of Education, 193(2), 51-60.
Abstract: Dramatic increases in K-12 online education for all students, including those in traditionally underserved populations, necessitate a reconceptualization in the way educators plan and implement instruction. In this article the authors examine the complex array of variables and implementation models that must be accounted for during the pivot from a purely brick-and-mortar educational system to one that makes use of both virtual and blended environments. The authors call for enhanced emphasis on instructional goals and design principles, rather than the capabilities of available technology. They conclude that educational leaders and researchers must play a role in three key areas: using technology to enhance the accessibility and usability of curricular materials to meet the needs of different types of learners, advancing the understanding and practices of in-service and pre-service teachers through preparation that focuses on online learning, and fostering collaboration between educational researchers and technology innovators and developers to build a research base that will inform K-12 online education.

Greer, D., Crutchfield, S., & Woods, K. (2013). Cognitive theory of multimedia learning, instructional design principles, and students with learning disabilities in computer-based and online learning environments. Journal of Education, 193(2), 41-50.
Abstract: Struggling learners and students with Learning Disabilities (LD) often exhibit unique cognitive processing and working memory characteristics that may not align with instructional design principles developed with typically developing learners. This paper begins with an explanation of the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning and underlying Cognitive Load Theory and Baddeley’s Theory of Working Memory. A review of five empirically supported design principles based on these theories (redundancy effect, modality effect, split attention principle, worked samples, and expert reversal effect) and of cognitive and memory characteristics of students with LD prompts questions for further research. Implications for computer-based and online learning environments are discussed.

Greer, D., Rice, M., & Deshler, D. (2014). Applying principles of text complexity to online learning environments. Perspectives on Language and Literacy, 9-15.
Abstract: Online learning and virtual schooling products are experiencing both a proliferation in kind and a surge in public interest (Barbour, Archambault, & DiPietro, 2013). However, there is also concern that online learning lags in interactivity (Barbour & Plough, 2009), requires a significant time investment from learners (Blau & Hameiri, 2012), and that attrition in online courses is highly prevalent (Lee & Choi, 2013). While Rauh (2011 ) argued that education is often conceived of as a public good that is equally available to everyone, learners who are genuinely “at risk” do not opt in to online courses and when they do, they are more likely to drop out.

Rice, M., & Greer, D. (2014). Helping students with disabilities comprehend text in online coursework. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46(5), 93-101.
Abstract: Increases in technological capabilities are enabling more students to complete schoolwork in online learning environments in addition to and sometimes instead of traditional classrooms. Teachers, parents, and learning coaches who are working with students using these online environments need to know about the complexity of the text with which students with disabilities can be presented so that they can employ scaffolding strategies to help the students experience success in comprehending the sometimes text-laden world of online learning environments. This article outlines those challenges and offers support materials for meeting them.

Smith, S., & Basham, J. (2014). Designing online learning opportunities for students with disabilities. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 46(5), 127-137.
Abstract: The article provides information on the availability of online and blended learning content and resources that are available for students with disabilities. Topics discussed include ways to determine whether or not online learning content and websites are accessible, the principles of universal design for learning (UDL), and the use of the Volunteer Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). Examples of online content providers including Brain Pop, Khan Academy, and Study Island are provided. INSET: Standards for Web Accessibility.

Smith, S. J., & Harvey, E. E. (2014). K-12 online lesson alignment to the principles of Universal Design for Learning: the Khan Academy. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 29(3), 222-242.
Abstract: The field of K-12 education is being transformed, with an influx of students, including those with identified disabilities, engaging in blended and fully online learning. While online learning shows promise for students with disabilities through flexible content and personalized instruction, concerns regarding accessibility and appropriateness of online learning for this population still exist. In order to examine this concern, researchers developed and used a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Scan Tool to measure lesson content and alignment with UDL principles, guidelines and checkpoints. Four hundred and seventy-eight math, science and world history Khan Academy lessons were randomly selected and evaluated for this study. The paper highlights the results of the study, in terms of the lessons’ alignment with UDL principles and guidelines, as well as a discussion on limitations and future research.

Administrative Perspectives

Burdette, P., Greer, D., & Woods, K. (2013). K-12 online learning and students with disabilities: Perspectives from state special education directors. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(3), 65-72.
Abstract: K-12 special education policies and practices that ensure students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment are coming under pressure from rapid expansion of online learning. Forty-six state and non-state jurisdiction special education directors responded to a brief survey about K-12 online learning. Findings demonstrated the increased number of states providing online instruction; indicated students with many different types of disabilities participate in online learning; and described the directors’ reflections on current issues as well as anticipated barriers to students with disabilities participating in online learning. Ambiguity and variability existed across state policies as each state may have been in a different stage of adopting this relatively new approach to K-12 education. The authors suggest that federal guidance might be required to safeguard the civil rights of students with disabilities in online learning.

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