Is blended learning a better model for students with learning disabilities?

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Jules Csillag, Speech Language Pathologist and Learning Specialist

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If it is well implemented, it absolutely can be! Like any good instruction, a successful blended learning program requires a lot of preparation, which results in a more differentiated curriculum. Blended learning can provide more personalization than traditional curricula. However, as this Center on Online Learning's 2013 report attests, "many [teachers] are not aware of the importance of some foundational practice for online learning programs...Without the basic knowledge about promising practices, how online learning affects students with disabilities...special education staff may have difficulty making policy and practice decisions."

Some promising signs, however are summarized below:

This article in the Hechinger Report outlines how blended learning can help students in a special education setting (though not just those with learning disabilities) citing assistive technology and game-based learning as reasons for student success.

Blended learning can make it easier to follow the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, which allows all students to access the curriculum better. Blended learning can allow:

  • students to engage with a subject multiple times (e.g. they can watch and re-watch an educational video until they understand it)
  • students to engage with a subject in multiple ways (e.g. they can look at an infogram and listen to a podcast and watch an educational video about a topic)
  • students to represent their knowledge in a number of ways (e.g. make a podcast, make an infographic, create a powerpoint, dictate an essay, etc.)

In the news examples: One North Carolina school district had teachers could spending more time with students who needed extra supports, thanks to blended learning. In Newark, teachers speak of the amount of preparation that blended learning requires, but also of the positives of individualizing learning that blended learning allows.

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