Special Needs 1- Accommodations in an Online Environment (Assignment #2)

posted Aug 26, 2018, 6:23 PM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Aug 26, 2018, 6:24 PM ]

One semester, I had a student that had recently been in a severe car accident.  She'd been in the hospital for a long time (I don't remember exactly how long) and had continuing medical issues from the accident.  She was unable to attend face-to-face school because of the medical issues.  Throughout the semester, she was in and out of the hospital, sometimes for a week or more at a time.

The online environment was helpful for her in a number of ways:
  1. She was able to attend the synchronous sessions even while in the hospital. I remember one week in particular where I was conducting my synchronous session in the waiting room of the hospital waiting for my nephew's birth and she was in a completely different hospital in a completely different state attending the session.
  2. She was able to work on her assignments when her health allowed.  If she was able to work while in the hospital, she worked.  If not, she did not.  She received numerous extensions during the semester, but she always had her documentation in order.  Her mom was very good about keeping me in the loop (most of the time).  If I noticed she hadn't logged into Brightspace in a few days, I'd email mom and she'd immediately email back and let me know what was going on.
  3. She did not have to worry about seat time or attendance or things like that.  She could focus on her health without worrying about attendance issues. When I was in high school, I was very sick and missed approximately 50 days of the 180 day school year. I received notices that I would lose my parking permit due to absences and even received a letter with my straight A report card at the end of the year stating that I would not earn credit for any of my classes and would have to repeat them all, even though all of my absences had accompanying doctor's notes. This was very stressful for me and my parents and I'm glad that this was one worry my student did not have to deal with.
  4. Most of our labs are virtual labs.  They get the concept across to students, but do not require standing for long periods at lab benches, attending school in person, and can be completed by students in a hospital bed, if necessary.
The online environment does have a learning curve. Some students adapt to online learning easily, some struggle, and some never fully acclimate to online learning like they do the face-to-face classroom.  And that is okay.  

Some challenges students can face in the online environment are:
  1. Students do not have to physically walk into a classroom each day.  This is advantageous for some, but for some students, they need that physical, daily reminder of their course.  They need a "real" teacher standing in front of the classroom reminding them about due dates and assignments.  They need a teacher consistently walking by their desk and redirecting them to on-task behaviors.  And that is okay.
  2. Students need to take ownership of their own learning.  Students taking online classes need to view their daily schedule. They need to complete assignments according to the schedule so they do not fall behind and earn late points. Students need to consistently read their feedback.  Students need to log into the course daily, read the course content, attend synchronous sessions (or watch the recordings), and ask questions if they are stuck.  Some students take to this responsibility readily and some do not.  For example, I often get parents that tell me that their child does not like to ask the teacher questions, regardless of the format (in person, email, text, phone).  Many students do not know how to read their feedback in the course.  And more than I'd like to know probably skim the content or don't bother reading it at all.  It is okay if a student is not at the point in their educational journey to be responsible for their learning, but, online classes will be a struggle for them.  No matter how many phone calls, news announcements, emails, newsletters, etc. I provide, if a student is not ready to take responsibility for their learning, online learning may not be the best choice for them.  And that is okay.