/ Publication / Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online Learning: An Analysis of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses

Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online Learning: An Analysis of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses
Published on December 3, 2016

Modified on December 3, 2016

Report #3: Courses


Although students, including those with disabilities, may enroll in online courses because they perceive that such a course will meet their educational needs, those needs are not always met (Barbour, Archambault, & DiPietro, 2013). Consequences of not meeting those needs for students with disabilities include high non-completion rates and poor achievement (Deshler, Rice, & Greer, 2014; Franklin, Rice, East, & Mellard, 2015a). To provide guidance on quality online programs National Standards for Quality Online Courses were developed through the International Association of K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL, 2011). While many of the elements of these standards can be applied easily to students with disabilities, more recent additional research has suggested ways in which online school programs can be more effective in helping students with disabilities remain in these programs and be successful. The purpose of this report is to describe the findings of an expert panel aiming to offer improvement suggestions for the online course standards.

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Written By
  • Mary F. Rice, University of Kansas
  • Daryl F. Mellard, University of Kansas
  • Jesse R. Pace, University of Kansas
  • Richard A. Carter, Jr., University of Kansas
What we already know about this topic
  • Course designers should consider the text complexity and anticipate comprehension issues that students with low reading skills might have with reading online
  • More rigorous procedures are needed for determining construct validity in online courses
  • Feedback from parents as well as student users with and without disabilities is necessary for inclusive course design
  • Course supports should anticipate and leverage the roles of learning coaches as they persist in online courses alongside students
  • Collaboration with vendors in making curriculum that is appropriate for students with various exceptionalities is crucial
  • Courses should allow for Universal Design for Learning
What this report adds
  • Introduces the process of reviewing the iNACOL standards for online courses
  • Reports major implications across all three reviews.
  • Directs readers to additional sources and key issues.
Implications for practice and/or policy

At present, there are multiple pathways to becoming online course designer. Some of these designers may be trained teachers, other administrators, and still others might be individuals with educational or instructional psychology training. Perhaps some are content experts who learned how to develop modules on the job. What is apparent is that course designers need professional knowledge about students with disabilities to plan courses that meet their needs. This knowledge may be developed in initial preparation, although as stated it seems there are many pathways to becoming a course designer. Policies around course design for students with disabilities should be developed at the state level. These policies include requirements to adhere to Section 508 guidelines; but there need to be requirements for data collection, student information privacy for disability, and reporting to relevant agencies as well. In addition, states should develop policies around qualifications for course design member teams to have preparation in disability accommodation and modification.

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