/ Publication / Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online Learning: An Introduction to the Analysis of the iNACOL Program, Course, and Teacher Standards

Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in K-12 Online Learning: An Introduction to the Analysis of the iNACOL Program, Course, and Teacher Standards
Published on December 1, 2016

Modified on December 11, 2020

Written By: 

Mary F. RiceUniversity of Kansas


Daryl F. MellardUniversity of Kansas


Jesse R. PaceUniversity of Kansas


Richard A. Carter, Jr.University of Kansas

Report #1: Overview


While many acknowledge that participation in virtual schooling holds considerable potential for increased access to different types of courses, credit recovery, and personalization, there is no guarantee that these benefits will be realized without careful planning (Barbour, Archambault, & DiPietro, 2013). To improve service delivery online, several researchers at the University of Kansas, who are also affiliated with the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities undertook a review process to incorporate research and practical understanding about serving students with disabilities into the iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Teaching (2011a), iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Courses (2011b), and iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Programs (2011c). These researchers assembled under the commission of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI). This report is part of a series of four reports and includes the introductory information and methodology for the review process. The other three reports in the series are the reviews of the iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Teaching, iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Courses, and iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Programs as well as implications, conclusion, and suggestions for further research for each specific set of standards.

Download the Report

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
  • The content of online learning curriculum poses substantial challenges to students with disabilities who have difficulty with reading.
  • Teachers who work in online learning environments with students with disabilities construct their roles around monitoring student work, enlisting parents as co-monitors, and providing social and emotional support to students and their families
  • Teachers in online environments receive little initial preparation or subsequent support for instructing students with disabilities; they do receive support for relationship building online.
  • Administrators in online learning environments focus on resolving disputes between teachers and families, counseling students and parents regarding course types and loads, and providing information about compliance with legal mandates.
What this report adds
  • Introduces the process of reviewing the iNACOL standards for online programs, courses, and teaching.
  • Reports major implications across all three reviews.
  • Directs readers to additional sources and key issues.
Implications for practice and/or policy

For practitioners, the recommendations for revised standards provide clarity regarding what aspects of disability service delivery are most vulnerable in the online environment. These standards should help inform areas of educator preparation, as well as practice. Moving forward, targeted efforts to maximize the adoption of such standards by teacher educators and education agencies will be key to leveraging the revisions of these standards to benefit significant changes in practice.

Using this information, various entities can determine which elements of disability services can be addressed in program design, which are better suited to course design, and which should be the primary responsibilities of teachers. In completing this revision process, researchers saw the importance of identifying strong professional development for educators at all levels around legalities of IDEA and sections 504 and 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Limited Course Capacity

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.