What Services Online Courses Can Provide For Students With Learning Disabilities

Online learning can set up students with disabilities for success!

What Services Online Courses Can Provide For Students With Learning Disabilities

Setting students up for success in an online course can involve a variety of resources and different kinds of support. Some students will need very little in terms of accommodations and support, but others will be at an unfair disadvantage without additional services, such as students with disabilities.

Online learning can make academic programs more accessible for students with learning disabilities, especially when administrators and instructors are proactive in providing services that break down barriers.

Here’s what online courses can offer to help students with a variety of learning disabilities.

More Privacy in Setting Up Accommodations

One of the many advantages of online learning is that there is more opportunity for privacy. Someone with learning disabilities shouldn’t have to tell the whole class about their disability. The instructor should simply make an announcement that anyone who needs additional services or accommodations due to a learning disability should contact them privately to get set up.

Instructors can provide support in a variety of ways, depending on what works best for the student. Some students prefer email. Others might appreciate one-on-one video conferencing. Either way, these options provide privacy for students.

Access to Tools

For some students with learning disabilities, assignments like responding to discussion posts can provoke anxiety. Learning disabilities like dyslexia can lead to difficulty reading and misspellings or other issues when writing.

Instructors can help by providing resources and access to tools like Grammarly or other spelling and grammar programs. While these tools aren’t completely accurate all the time, they can help students feel more confident communicating with peers and turning in assignments.

Also, while doing online learning, students with learning disabilities can use their own tools as much as possible. As long as a tool doesn’t disrupt class or interfere with learning, there’s no reason students shouldn’t be allowed to use any tool that helps them learn!

Providing Clear Communication on Due Dates and Expectations

This is important for every student, but it is especially important for students with disabilities. Instructors should have a clear syllabus that outlines the material that will be taught in each session, along with the tests and assignments or projects and their due dates. Providing these materials early will help students plan and prepare.

It’s important for instructors to stick to their plan closely, not adding in extra reading, assignments, or pop quizzes to ensure that students with learning disabilities are able to prepare properly. Time management is a struggle for many students, including those with learning disabilities, and adding unexpected assignments will only make the class experience more stressful.

Enabling Captioning on Online Lectures

People have different preferred learning styles, and those with learning disabilities often struggle significantly if they only have one option for learning new material. The simple step of enabling captioning for online lectures allows students to engage with the material in multiple ways.

Giving Additional Time or Options for Projects & Discussions

Another important way for instructors to accommodate students with learning disabilities is for instructors to provide additional time for test-taking. Providing options is another good way to evaluate learning while giving students the ability to learn in a way that works best for them.

For example, students could have the option of taking a test or writing a paper. Or, instead of posting discussion questions, they could be allowed to post a voice recording or video. With all of the different mediums available, providing options is a good way to accommodate students with learning disabilities.

Helping Students Assess Their Needs

Sometimes, students don’t know which accommodations they might need. Providing a questionnaire at the beginning of the class can help the instructor understand which services and adjustments might be needed for different students.

It’s also important to connect students with school resources, such as disability services. These services can help students set up specific accommodations for their online classes so they can be successful. Since an instructor might have multiple students needing different accommodations, the disability services office should be able to help coordinate these services and accommodations.

Students with Learning Disabilities Deserve an Even Playing Field

Students with learning disabilities have often dealt with bad academic experiences stemming from a lack of resources and accommodations. It takes courage for them to continue their education, and although online classes can be a better fit, they still face challenges.

Accommodations, services, and resources help level the playing field for students with learning disabilities. Creating a virtual classroom that is a safe and inspiring space for all students means getting creative and catering to different learning styles. Setting up students for success means being flexible, proactive, and patient!


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