Volume 17, Issue 3 - October 2013

Introduction to The Special Section on Integrating Accessibility Into Online Learning

Kristen Betts, Ed.D., Forbes Education
Mark Riccobono, M.S.Ed., Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind
Bill Welsh, M.A., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

This special section of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Integrating Accessibility into Online Learning, is a compilation of articles, interviews, and webinars that provide an overview of the broad spectrum of issues related to accessibility, online learning, and student success. The proliferation of technology and online learning have transformed higher education in terms of national enrollments and instructional delivery. Data reveals that between fall 2002 and fall 2012, the number of higher education students taking at least one online course increased from 1.6 million to 6.7 million, representing a growth rate of 21% [1]. While online learning provides extensive new opportunities for students to enroll in degree and certificate programs, these opportunities are closely linked to accessibility. An institutional commitment to accessibility is needed to support success for all students. Universities must provide students with disabilities equal access to all programs, including activities and services that allow an equal opportunity for them to actively participate and to achieve the same results as other students. This special section showcases research, trends, and recommended best practices to increase accessibility and success in online learning for students with disabilities.

Understanding Disabilities & Online Student Success

Kristen Betts, Ed.D. Forbes Education
Bill Welsh, M.A. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Cheryl Pruitt, M.S. Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI), California State University
Kelly Hermann, M.A. State University of New York (SUNY), Empire State College
Gaeir Dietrich High Tech Center Training Unit (HTCTU), California Community Colleges
Jorge G. Trevino, DBA, SHC (SW) USN, Ret. Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
Terry L. Watson, M.S. Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
Michael L. Brooks Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
Alex H. Cohen, M.S. Drexel University
Norman Coombs, Ph.D. Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI)

Online learning has been growing at an exponential rate over the past decade, providing new opportunities for students seeking quality courses and programs offered through flexible formats. However, as higher education continues to expand online offerings, services must be expanded simultaneously to support all students. This article focuses on online...

Strategies to Increase Online Student Success for Students with Disabilities

Kristen Betts, EdD Forbes Education
Alex H. Cohen, MS Drexel University
Daniel P. Veit, MS Texas School for the Deaf
Henry C. Alphin Jr., MS Drexel University and Warwick Business School
Chanel Broadus, MS Camden County College
Dan Allen Drexel University

Online learning provides extensive opportunities for individuals with disabilities to enroll in degree and certificate programs. However, accessibility must be central to online course development since this can have a profound effect on student engagement, academic performance, and completion rates. This article provides a unique perspective on accessibility in online...

K-12 Online Learning and Students with Disabilities: Perspectives from State Special Education Directors

Paula J. Burdette, National Association of State Directors of Special Education
Diana L. Greer, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning
Kari L. Woods, University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning

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 the 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....

Designing Online Courses for Screen Reader Users

Lorna R. Kearns, University of Pittsburgh
Barbara A. Frey, University of Pittsburgh
Gabriel McMorland, University of Pittsburgh

A review of multiple online courses at one institution was conducted by a skilled screen reader user for the purpose of assessing the extent to which the courses were navigable and understandable to online students using assistive technologies. This paper identifies features of online courses that may present problems for...

Programmatic, Systematic, Automatic: An Online Course Accessibility Support Model

Kathleen Bastedo, Center for Distributed Learning, University of Central Florida
Amy Sugar, Rollins College
Nancy Swenson, Center for Distributed Learning, University of Central Florida
Jessica Vargas, Rollins College

Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of requests for online course material accommodations at the University of Central Florida (UCF). In response to these requests, UCF’s Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) formed new teams, reevaluated its processes, and initiated a partnership with...

Legal Perspective: Q&A with Daniel F. Goldstein

Kristen Betts, Ed.D. Forbes Education

For students with disabilities to have the same opportunities to succeed as their nondisabled peers, access to educational technology and digital content is critical. It is essential that higher education boards, administrators, faculty, and administrative staff understand why accessibility must be on the forefront of our educational programs, co-curricular initiatives,...

National Perspective: Q&A with National Federation of The Blind & Association of Higher Education and Disability

Kristen Betts, Ed.D. Forbes Education

Success for online students with disabilities requires an institutional commitment to accessibility. This success also requires an understanding of the benefits and opportunities as well challenges and barriers related to online learning. This question and answer session provides a national perspective from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and...

Measuring the Community in Online Classes

Beth Rubin DePaul University
Ronald Fernandes DePaul University

This paper proposes both theoretical and empirical approaches to differentiating the community of inquiry (CoI) in online classes at individual and group levels. Following the example of research on organizational climate, it assesses the strength of shared perceptions of teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence. The paper develops a...

Do Students Experience Flow Conditions Online?

Katrina A. Meyer, University of Memphis
Stephanie J. Jones, Texas Tech University

This pilot study asked graduate students enrolled in higher education programs at two institutions to ascertain whether and to what extent they experienced nine flow-related conditions in two settings: (1) online courses or (2) surfing or gaming online. In both settings, flow was experienced “sometimes,” although no significant difference in...

Leveraging Disinhibition to Increase Student Authority in Asynchronous Online Discussion

Dr. Kenneth H. Martin, College of Education and Human Development, University of Maine

Disinhibition is recognized as an effect that prompts online users to communicate with less constraint than in face-to-face discussion. This article describes how disinhibition may affect more than individual instances. In a blended learning environment, disinhibition may alter the entire context of discussion by disrupting established patterns of interaction among...