Supporting Students with Disabilities in Online Environments

Concurrent Session 7
Streamed Session Best in Track

Brief Abstract

Face to face instructors have had the luxury of supportive programs, projects, interventions, and policies to support students with disabilities for a long time.  This session will look at many of these initiatives and provide linkages to their utility in online environments.


Mark E. Deschaine is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership in the College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University. He has extensive local, state, and national experience in training and development of faculty in the integration of technology into their curriculum, special education issues, and effective instructional practices. He holds Michigan certification and endorsements as a teacher, a special educator, and building as well as central office administrator. His research agenda focuses on how theory, policy, and processes support effective differentiated instruction.

Extended Abstract

Providing appropriate and effective programs and supports for students with disabilities in online learning environments requires more than just casual compliance to state and federal mandates. Students with disabilities bring a number of challenges to all instructional settings, and this often becomes more of an issue when they enroll in online learning programs. We have seen that instructors have struggled to meet the support requirements for students with disabilities in face-to-face settings for a long time, even though face to face instructors have had the luxury of supportive programs, projects, interventions, and policies to support students with disabilities for a long time. 

Although there are many state and federal legal requirements that exist to help guide the development of programs for students with disabilities in both face-to-face and in online learning environments, these seldom provide a level of specificity to meet individual need. This session will briefly discuss some of the more salient legal requirements for students with disabilities in online environments. However, the emphasis on this session will be on effective interventions that exist within and face-to-face settings, with a direct linkage to ways that these can be incorporated in online environments.

Many of these effective interventions utilized by face-to-face instructors include universal designs and learning, differentiated teacher instruction, differentiated student output, partial participation, multi-tiered levels of support systems, response to interventions, direct instruction, support from adult paraprofessionals, and academic accommodations. Each one of these have been utilized by school systems and programs across the nation to effectively support students with disabilities in an individualized educational plan.

This session will look at each of these areas and will suggest ways that they can be effectively applied in online learning environments. This session is intended to provide the participants an overview and emphasis on effective ways to help individualize instruction to meet the academic and social needs of students with disabilities in their online programs. It is hoped that the participants will take the information contained in this program and will take it back to their learning environments, and will use these supports as a guide when establishing individualized program plans for their students online learning lessons.

What types of collaboration or interactivity will occur in the workshop?​

During this session, participants will be provided several exercises where they can immediately apply the concepts and constructs presented in the presentation. This will be accomplished as a group activity, where groups of 2 to 4 participants will get together and look at the content from a number of different perspectives. Each group will be given a different scenario as well as an intervention, and will be asked to problem-solving it based on the case study provided by the presenter. After all the participants are finished with the activity, we will report out, and have an opportunity to have everyone verbally reflect upon the work of their colleagues. The information provided by the groups will be assembled in real time, and a document will be immediately emailed to all of the participants with the work products.

What will participants take home as a tangible deliverable or takeaway?

It is hoped that by having actual, real world examples being presented during the work session, the participants will be able to walk away with several very specific examples of how face-to-face interventions can be effectively integrated and utilized in online environments. Participants will also have sound legal documentation related to the legal requirements for accommodations in online environments. It is hoped by having both of these sets of materials, the participants will be able to go back to their home institutions and to immediately apply some of these concepts to the courses that they are working on. Participants will also be encouraged to replicate many of the features of this session for the people back in their home institution, so that a many train the trainer workshop format might result.

How will they be able to apply the effective practices shared in the workshop at their home institution?

In addition to the train the trainer workshop perspective listed above, the participants will be going back to their home institutions with an extensive bibliography and reference list. The presenter is working very closely with several organizations, and has amassed an extensive resource list that participants will find helpful when they actually try to apply these concepts in their programs. In addition, the facilitator of this workshop is more than willing to continue the discussions with interested parties in ways or they are to be extended discussions via webinar or conference.

Participants will be asked to consider having their name included in a list that will be publicly available to everyone within the session. It is assumed that individuals will attend the session because they have some pretty specific need, or ability to provide for students with disabilities in online environments. It is hoped that by sharing of personal information for continued contact, this conference might be seen as an opportunity to create a community of learners: individuals who are interested in applying appropriate supports and accommodations for students with disabilities in online learning environments.

Finally, if there is enough interest from the participants, the facilitator would be more than willing to initiate and host several Twitter sessions for all the participants in the program. It is hoped that a well-developed community of learners around the topic will continue to seek support from their peers as they go out and attempt to integrate some of these concepts. It is also recognized that although the facilitator has a great deal of knowledge and information in this area, that the individual facilitating this session does not have all the answers, the facilitator will provide considerable information and ideas, but answers, are assumed to always be able to be found by persons closest to the problem. By having and asked dented relationship with the participants in the session, it is hoped that all like-minded individuals will continue just to support the work of each other as they attempt to integrate effective program accommodations and supports back in their home institutions.