Implementing Asynchronous Instructional Materials for Students with Learning Disabilities

Key Takeaway

How can we make certain that the technological tools available to educators are effective in engaging and ensuring learning for students who have learning difficulties? Love and Ewoldt suggest having a guide to help educators evaluate the digital resources that help our neurodiverse learners be successful during online learning. —Nika Espinosa

A Guide to Gauge Online Learning Tools

As we continue to navigate online learning as a response not only to education evolving but the worldwide pandemic as well, it is imperative that we scrutinize the different platforms we use to ensure that all our students are engaged, supported, and learning appropriate content. “However, information related to how students with learning disabilities (LDs) access online learning environments has proven difficult to ascertain.”1 There are so many platforms out there; how do we gauge the most effective ones? As our learners are neurodiverse, it is highly unlikely that special educators will find a standardized platform that will suit our learners. Love and Ewoldt instead propose, through the lens of universal design for learning, a guide to gauge these platforms for our students.

“In supporting students with LDs in asynchronous environments, the process for evaluating, implementing, and supplementing asynchronous instructional materials should be systematic in nature.” The authors, in their article, proposed the following guidelines:

Alignment with Standards 

Schools and educators work in environments where academic standards are expected to be achieved. It is important that the digital resources being utilized allow for opportunities, if not certainty, for standards to be met. As special educators, we need to make those clear connections between individualized educational goals and academic standards. However, the authors encourage going beyond just alignment. Once learning targets are determined, educators then need to determine if the instructional digital resources can support our neurodiverse learners.

Addressing Student Needs 

Love & Ewoldt suggest that educators consider the following steps:

  • ensure that an organizer is present for the task;
  • activate background knowledge and make material relevant by connecting to previous learning;
  • clearly establish learning targets;
  • help students in organizing themselves;
  • ensure explicit instruction that includes academic language, key concepts, and opportunities that allow for student application;2 
  • and provide opportunities for students to give and receive feedback.

These points can evaluate whether the instructional materials will be able to reach learning targets and, at the same time, ensure that our student accommodations or scaffolds are met. 

Course Navigation 

Materials used need to be scrutinized on how well they can support our learners’ navigation of both platform and content, presentation of academic language, and how they address student accommodations and modifications. “Significant evidence supports the idea that when information is presented clearly through the material given to students with LDs via digital interfaces, gains in new knowledge and skills can be made in a variety of academic areas.”3 Multimedia used should also present information in such a way that it doesn’t distract the learner from the learning engagement. 

Assessment 

“Finally, special educators should ensure that adequate measures of student progress are available within the tools they are evaluating.” This can look like feedback on how students are responding to the technological resources, but at the same time, it should also include independent tasks that show learning. Special educators can scrutinize whether these resources are able to reflect student learning. 

There are many fantastic digital platforms available to educators to support and enhance learning. “However, given the rapidly evolving nature of research into the technology necessary for delivering online instruction, it is important that guidance be provided to practitioners for establishing and implementing effective online learning environments.” The guidelines proposed by Love and & Ewoldt can help us ensure that our neurodiverse learners will be supported and are learning along with their peers. 

Summarized Article:

Love, M. L., & Ewoldt, K. B. (2021). Implementing Asynchronous Instructional Materials for Students With Learning Disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic, 105345122110018. https://doi.org/10.1177/10534512211001847

Summary by: Nika Espinosa - Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Basham, J. D., Carter, R. A., Rice, M. F., & Ortiz, K. (2016). Emerging state policy in online special education. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 29(2), 70–78.
  2. Hughes, C. A., Morris, J. R., Therrien, W. J., & Benson, S. K. (2017). Explicit instruction: Historical and contemporary contexts. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 32(3), 140–148. https://doi.org/10.1111/ldrp.12142
  3. Kennedy, M. J., Thomas, C. N., Meyer, J. P., Alves, K. D., & Lloyd, J. W. (2014). Using evidence-based multimedia to improve vocabulary performance of adolescents with LD: A UDL approach. Learning Disability Quarterly, 37(2), 71–86. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731948713507262
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Join the MARIO Family

We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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