Accommodations for Online Courses

Many students with disabilities feel that studying online will be the solution to their accommodation needs. You may be considering online study for the same reasons. What you need to be aware of is that studying online solves some problems but may create new ones, which may need different accommodations. You should enroll in an online course only after you have taken the time to carefully consider the requirements of the study and your strengths and weaknesses.

Online Accommodations

Online study creates the need for accommodations that are different from those for traditional, in-class study, which makes determining which accommodations you wish to request a unique process. Your request should be based on a review of the functional limitations of your disability.

Disability affects each student differently, depending largely on your ability to compensate for its effects. Areas of difficulty may be:

  • comprehending written instructions
  • participating in online discussions
  • viewing and/or hearing online video postings
  • hearing online audio postings
  • managing your time to complete assignments
  • others unique to your situation.

All accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis with the information you provide to the disability representative and the accommodations you have requested.

While the most requested accommodation is extended time for individual assignments, students do request others based on their needs. Accommodations can range from increased access to the instructor to follow-up emails and phone calls to summarize and/or clarify information posted in the online course space. Students also have requested outlines of narrative instructions for assignments. It depends on your unique disability and compensatory strategies.

Online Courses: Is Online Learning for Me?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How well do I manage my time?
    The independent nature of online study requires a firm grasp on the ability to manage your time. You will be required to set a regular study schedule, keep track of assignments and due dates, as well as participate in online discussions. This may be more difficult without regular, in-person reminders from an instructor. This requires discipline to ensure that the course is not forgotten in your day-to-day activities.
  • Does my disability affect my ability to process and comprehend written information?
    For individuals with certain disabilities, managing the content, directions and discussion in an online course becomes increasingly difficult. Information in an online course is frequently delivered via written material on the study's website. The instructor will not be immediately available to deliver the information auditorily or to provide clarification for any misunderstood concepts or assignments.
  • Will I need to utilize assistive technology to complete this course?
    For some students with disabilities, the use of assistive technology is necessary. This can pose a challenge if some aspects of the online course-management system are not compatible with the assistive technology you are using. We recommend that you view the Center for Distance Learning’s sample course online prior to registering for online courses. Try to use your assistive technology with the sample course to identify any challenges that you may encounter in online study.
  • How comfortable am I with computers and technology?
    It is important to be aware of your current comfort level with technology and computers. Accessing all course information and instruction in an online format may be more intimidating and stressful than engaging in guided independent study. Knowing your comfort level with computers and technology will allow you to determine whether or not online study is for you.
  • What do I expect of the online study?
    It's important to be aware of your expectations of the online study. What kind of interaction are you expecting from the instructor? Are you expecting a lot of personal interaction or a little? Do you think that you will have a lot of writing to do or not as much? What information are you basing your expectations on? You should find out as much as possible about the format of the online study, the expectations the instructors have of you and what you need to do to successfully complete the course. The more information you learn about the study prior to enrolling and beginning it, the better you can determine if online study is for you.

If you are unsure of what accommodations to request or would like more information, please visit the Empire State College Center for Distance Learning website, or contact the center's disability representative or the Office of Collegewide Disability Services.

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