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

Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online Learning: An Analysis of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching
Published on December 4, 2016

Modified on December 11, 2020

Written By: 

Mary F. RiceUniversity of Kansas


Daryl F. MellardUniversity of Kansas


Jesse R. PaceUniversity of Kansas

Report #4: Teaching


Currently, many prospective teachers are enrolling in online courses offered through their universities as part of their initial preparation. The coursework in these teacher education programs at institutions of higher education may consist individual classes online through a traditional university or completing degrees in fully online university programs. In fact, according to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Preparation (AACTE), as many as 75% of universities offered online teaching preparation in 2013. However, being prepared with online coursework is not the same as being prepared for online teaching responsibilities (Rice, Mellard, & Carter, 2016). In addition, Kennedy and Archambault (2012) found that only 1.3 % of teacher education programs are preparing teachers for K-12 online teaching. A more recent survey found that this number had only increased to 4.1 % (Archambault, Kennedy, Shelton, Dalal, McAllister, & Huyett, 2016). Further these dismal numbers do not reflect preparation for K-12 online teaching that attends to disability. This report includes a summary of the need for this research and a summary of the methodology but focuses primarily on the findings specific to the iNACOL Teaching Standards.

Download the Report

Written By
  • Mary F. Rice, University of Kansas
  • Daryl F. Mellard, University of Kansas
  • Jesse R. Pace, University of Kansas
What we already know about this topic
  • Quality teaching provides instructional strategies and other specific support to students with disabilities that includes but moves beyond Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) when appropriate
  • Teachers should engage in a variety of strategies to monitor student progress through the course and intervene as early as possible when problems arise
  • Students need assistance in attending to the vocabulary presented and other textual demands
  • Students with disabilities need extended opportunities for learner-learner engagement and general social skill development
What this report adds
  • Introduces the process of reviewing the iNACOL standards for online teaching.
  • Reports major implications across all three reviews.
  • Directs readers to additional sources and key issues.
Implications for practice and/or policy

The revisions of these standards form the basis by which teachers can be evaluated and supported in their work with students with disabilities. This evaluation can take place both formally and informally in consultation with administrators and other colleagues. In particular, the revisions to the standards empower the teacher to individualize curriculum for students with disabilities and to advocate for that responsibility within their schools. Proposed revisions to the standards were made with an orientation of particular care and respect for the work that teachers do with students in online learning environments. It was very important during the process to think about what a teacher should do within their professional roles and responsibilities versus what others involved in the online learning process are better positioned to do (administrators, course designers, parents, related services providers, and so forth). Additional consideration was taken for what teachers were prepared to do and what they could do with additional preparation and professional development. From a policy standpoint, we know that not everything we recommend will be easy to implement. But we hope that practice, research, and policy will be mutually supportive in taking up the challenge to implement the standards to the greatest extent possible. Policies around teacher evaluation should consider the ideals and goals of quality teaching against the realities of the online teaching context for students with disabilities as they make judgments about resource allocation and determine the quality of service delivery.

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We’re sorry to inform you that we have reached capacity for several of our Semester 1 and Trimester 1 courses. You’ll notice when attempting to enroll students in our Student Learning Portal that some courses are unavailable. While we are no longer accepting new enrollments for these courses at this time, many courses continue to remain open for enrollment.

With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

For schools that still need online learning options this year, please fill out the form at the bottom of our virtual pathways page to meet with someone to discuss other solutions. While some of our teacher-led courses are full, we may still have the capacity to help you in upcoming terms or can discuss timing to implement a whole-school or collaborative program in which local teachers from your school/district use our online course content to teach students. We also have free course content and resources available for you to use.

We know this is an incredibly stressful time for all, and we’re sorry if the courses you’re looking for are unavailable. We never want to turn away a student who wants to learn from us. Our top concern, however, is student success, and we have a policy to not take on additional enrollments if we cannot guarantee that all students will have a quality online learning experience. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the unusually high volume of enrollments we are receiving.