Murders, M. (2017). A phenomenological study of the online education experiences of college students with learning disabilities (Publication No. 10635327) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1964264271
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; ProQuest document ID: 1964264271; also accessible online at U of AR website: http://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/2518/
The experiences of postsecondary students with learning disabilities attending online education were explored. Perceptions on academic accommodations held by students were examined, and exam accommodations were emphasized in this summary.
Eight (8) postsecondary students with learning disabilities without cognitive delays participated. Participants were undergraduates enrolled at a public university in a Midwest state (U.S.)—the University of Arkansas—and were registered with the disability services office with documented learning disabilities. Participants had completed a minimum of one online course and one traditional classroom course, and were currently enrolled in an online course. Demographic information such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, and other student characteristics were reported, including the nature of their learning disabilities, their use of accommodations in high school and at the university, enrollment year, and cumulative grade point average (GPA). Participants' disabilities each included one or more of the following types: ADD, ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Language Processing Disorder, and Reading Impairment.
Student surveys inquiring about demographic information, details about their learning disabilities, and secondary and postsecondary academic accommodations experiences were conducted. The semi-structured interview protocol consisted of 14 questions along with follow-up probes, addressing participants' reasons for taking online course(s) and their experiences doing so such as with online technologies, comparisons to in-person class attendance, accessing and using academic accommodations, challenges experienced, and "specific recommendations [interviewees had] for online instructors to support students with learning disabilities" (p. 200). All of these questions were asked to better understand the overall experience that students with learning disabilities have with online education.
Analysis of student interviews yielded the following five themes: (a) participants valued the schedule flexibility of online courses, (b) online learning conditions allowed excess time to process information, (c) participants felt more independent and confident within the online format, (d) participants indicated having had little or no interaction with classmates and instructors, and (e) faculty members seemed to have limited and insufficient information on and awareness of supports including academic accommodations postsecondary students with learning disabilities. Most of the themes seemed primarily positive, but the fifth theme resulted in negative and problematic experiences. Participants noted that the self-paced nature of online courses gave them the sense of having more time to read academic texts and to complete ongoing learning activities. However, at the same time, assignment of time-limited products to be evaluated by faculty such as asynchronous course exams did not seem to take into account the extended test time accommodation even when students had completed online information formally requesting accommodations. One participant indicated that, while they used text-to-speech software for reading course texts, they elected not to use this accommodation during online course exams, because they were uncertain whether this was permitted. Participants seemed reticent to assert their needs or self-advocate; apparently, accommodations were underused.