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The COLSD staff represent a significant group of individuals who are interested in the research, programmatic and policy challenges of online learning and students with disabilities. This page includes participating staff from the three collaborating organizations: Center on Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), and the University of Kansas. Unfortunately, the page does not adequately represent the many undergraduate and graduate students who contributed to the efforts but who had such a critical role.

Children using a computer

University of Kansas

Current Staff


Sean J Smith, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Special Education, KU

Smith’s current research centers on technology innovation R&D specific to learner variability with work ranging from virtual reality to technology-based literacy integration. This work has included teacher development and the efforts to implement and sustain technology solutions into the lives of struggling learners and those students with disabilities. His research at the Center has focused on online content alignment to the principles of UDL, teacher development, and the impact of parent engagement in fully online learning. In the COLSD, his role was Co-Principal Investigator.


James Basham, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Special Education, KU

Basham’s research is focused on student learning in learning environments chiefly related to the application of UDL. His research at the Center has focused mainly on pedagogical smart system designed to support student learning and teacher instructional planning in UDL-based STEM educational environments. In the COLSD, his role was Researcher.

Previous Staff

Daryl F. Mellard, Ph.D.

Research Professor, KU

Mellard’s research has focused on adolescent and adult literacy and on improving the quality of life for persons with disabilities as they participate with community agencies, community and technical colleges, social services, and employment settings. Recent research has examined response to intervention frameworks for improving instruction and learning disabilities determination. In other areas, he’s very interested in the piscatorial arts. In the COLSD, his role was Director beginning in 2015.

Donald D. Deshler, Ph.D.

Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Special Education and the Director of the CRL at KU

Deshler serves as an advisor on students with disabilities to several organizations including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the National Governor’s Association, the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Council on Families and Literacy, and the U. S. State Department. He received a presidential appointment to serve as a member of the National Institute for Literacy Advisory Board. Among his awards are the J.E. Wallace Wallin Award from CEC, the Distinguished Education Achievement Award from National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the 2010 AERA Special Education Distinguished Researcher Award. In the COLSD, his role was Principal Investigator through 2016.

Diana Greer, Ph.D.

Project Director of the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities, KU

Greer is an assistant research professor in the Center for Research on Learning. Her research interests lay in cognitive load theory, alignment and access of online learning resources with state and national standards, and development and evaluation of online resources for teachers, students, and parents. In the COLSD, her role was Director through 2015.

Edward L. Meyen, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Special Education, and Co-Director of the eLearning Design Lab (eDL), KU

Meyen has worked in research and development in e-learning with a focus on STEM for students with disabilities since 1996. His research at the Center continues to largely focus on the area of design, e-learning instructional tutorial systems for students with disabilities, the inclusion of parents as collaborators in instruction, and formative assessment. In the COLSD, his role was Co-Principal Investigator.

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)

Current Staff

William (Skip) Stahl, M.S.

Senior Policy Analyst, CAST

Stahl is the Project Director for the OSEP-funded NIMAS Development Center, a national initiative implementing the transformation of K-12 textbooks into specialized accessible formats for students with print disabilities. Mr. Stahl has extensive experience in the development of technical standards related to accessible instructional materials, technical assistance to states, and professional development for educators. He is a nationally regarded expert in UDL. In the COLSD, his role was Researcher and later as Principal Investigator in 2016.

Tracey Hall, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist/Instructional Designer, CAST

Hall directs CAST’s initiatives to create and evaluate digital supported environments across content areas. She specializes in assessment and instructional design grounded in effective teaching practices as applied in the development and implementation of Universal Design for Learning projects. She is a co- and principal investigator on several federal and foundation funded grants investigating the impact of digitally-mediated curriculum design on outcomes for students with disabilities. In the COLSD, her role was Researcher.

Mindy Johnson, Ed.M.

Instructional Designer and Research Associate, CAST

Johnson’s expertise includes the formative development and research of technology-based universally designed learning environments. In her work with COLSD, Mindy also provides knowledge and expertise in the use of web-based social media, collaborative tools and in gaming in educational contexts. In the COLSD, her role was Researcher.

Previous Staff

David H. Rose, Ed.D.

Chief Education Officer, CAST

Rose is a pioneer in UDL. Co- founder of CAST, his vision is to expand educational opportunities for all students, especially for students with disabilities, through the innovative use of new technologies. He is the current PI of the National AIM Center and the National Instructional Materials Standard (NIMAS) Center. For the past 30 years, Rose has served on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In the COLSD, his role was Principal Investigator through 2016.

Sam Catherine Johnston, Ed.D.

Research Scientist, CAST

Johnston participates in the formative development and research of technology-based UDL environments. She is the Project Director for the Open Consortium, a collaborative effort with Creative Commons, Carnegie Mellon OLI, and Washington State Community Colleges to provide UDL design services to community and technical colleges that receive Department of Labor funding. In the COLSD, her role was Researcher.

Michael Connell, Ed. D.

Educational Technology, Learning Design, Evaluation and Metrics, CAST

Connell combines an interest and expertise in neuroscience and learning with technology-based educational environments. He has prior experience as a Software Design Engineer at Microsoft Corporation, Sunburst Communications, Inc., and Lexia Learning Systems, Inc.; and a strong interest in addressing the variability of learners via networked technologies. In the COLSD, his role was Researcher.

Rachel Currie-Rubin Ed.D.

Research scientist and instructional designer, CAST

Rachel Currie-Rubin is a Research Scientist/Professional Learning Instructional Designer, at CAST. Rachel works on UDL implementation and on online learning. Rachel has a background in language and literacy and educational and psychoeducational assessment and has been a project manager on research projects and a facilitator at professional development seminars on UDL. In the COLSD, her role was Researcher.

Samantha Daley, Ed.D.

Director of research, CAST

Daley researches emotionally inclusive learning across domains and learning contexts. She has been co-project director for a national center focused on improving literacy achievement for middle school students with disabilities, with an emphasis on students’ emotional experiences and using Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In the COLSD, her role was Researcher.

Garron Hillaire, Ed.M

Data analysis, CAST

Garron Hillaire is an Education Software Architect at CAST with expertise in the research and design of networked learning environments and in the development and use of modern learning analytics. In the COLSD, his role was Researcher.

National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)

Previous Staff

Bill East, Ed.D.

Executive Director, NASDSE

East has more than 40 years of experience in the fields of education and mental health. East served as the state director of special education in Alabama and was honored by the Alabama Federation Council for Exceptional Children as the Outstanding Special Educator in Alabama. East has served on the board of directors and as president of NASDSE and was appointed to the position of executive director in 1999. In the COLSD, his role was Principal Investigator.

Kathleen (Kate) Tindle, Ed.D.

Research Associate, NASDSE

Tindle brings over 30 years in the field of education. Dr. Tindle has extensive experience in developing, implementing, evaluating and improving education-related programs. Dr. Tindle serves as a Senior Program Associate on federal projects that focus on diverse topics and use multiple methodologies. Dr. Tindle also directed a pre-service teacher preparation program for the George Washington University for 13 years. In the COLSD, her role was Researcher.

Previous Staff

Paula Burdette, Ph.D.

Site Director, NASDSE

Burdette has led numerous policy forums and authored or co-authored more than 60 policy analyses on various IDEA-related topics. She served Delaware Department of Education as the State Personnel Development Grant director. Dr. Burdette also provided technical assistance to a nine-state region through Kentucky’s University Center of Excellence. In the COLSD, her role was Researcher.

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