Online, Virtual Classes Expand for Students With Disabilities

By Nirvi Shah — August 24, 2011 1 min read
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A new collection of stories from Education Week explores the state of online and virtual learning, or e-learning, for different groups of students. The whole package puts a special emphasis on students with disabilities.

My colleague Michelle Davis wrote about how online education is focusing more on autism. She writes:

For some students with autism, online education can be the right fit, taking away the sensory overload and social stigma that can occur in a brick-and-mortar school and allowing them to pursue subjects they're passionate about, above and beyond what they'd get in the classroom. For students who aren't as high-functioning, lacking language and motor skills, more-traditional online classes often aren't an option."

She also wrote a piece about the professional development needs for teachers who work in an online special education environment.

For gifted students, online learning can offer the ideal environment. It can open the door to a vast array of expanded course selections, individualized attention for students, and the flexibility for students to move at their own pace—all factors that make virtual learning environments an attractive option for this particular group of students, writes Katie Ash. And as budget cuts threaten to drain funding from programs for the gifted, more schools—and students—may be looking to online education as a way to fill the gap in offerings, according to experts in that field.

My piece is about the growing use of online and virtual classes for students with disabilities. As useful and accessible as some online classes can be for students with disabilities, not all online classes are welcoming to this group of students. The courses may not be accessible to them, or the students may never be offered the courses in the first place.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.