skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on April 29, 2023

Title: New Online Accommodations Are Not Enough: The Mismatch between Student Needs and Supports Given for Students with Disabilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic
ABSTRACT The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in nearly all universities transitioning their in-person courses to online instruction. Recent work from our research team conducted in Spring 2020 established that the immediate transition to online learning presented novel challenges for students with disabilities: students were unable to access previously established accommodations and there was a lack of information from Disability Resource Centers (DRCs) about adapting accommodations to online environments. In this study, we aimed to determine the extent to which these issues still were present 1 year later. In Spring 2021, we conducted a survey of 114 students with disabilities who were registered with the DRC and taking online science courses at a public research-intensive institution. We used our previous interviews with students to develop closed- and open-ended questions to assess the extent to which students with disabilities were being properly accommodated in their courses, document any new accommodations they were using, and elicit any recommendations they had for improving their experiences in online science courses. We used logistic regression to analyze the closed-ended data and inductive coding to analyze the open-ended data. We found that more than half of students with disabilities reported not being properly accommodated, and this was more more » likely to be reported by students who experienced new challenges related to online learning. When students were asked what accommodations they would have wanted, students often described accommodations that were being offered to some students but were not universally implemented. This study summarizes recommendations for making online science learning environments more inclusive for students with disabilities. « less
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Momsen, Jennifer (Ed.)
    The COVID-19 pandemic caused nearly all colleges and universities to transition in-person courses to an online format. In this study, we explored how the rapid transition to online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic affected students with disabilities. We interviewed 66 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) undergraduates with disabilities at seven large-enrollment institutions during Spring 2020. We probed to what extent students were able to access their existing accommodations, to what extent the online environment required novel accommodations, and what factors prevented students from being properly accommodated in STEM courses. Using inductive coding, we identified that students were unable to access previously established accommodations, such as reduced-distraction testing and note-takers. We also found that the online learning environment presented novel challenges for students with disabilities that may have been lessened with the implementation of accommodations. Finally, we found that instructors making decisions about what accommodations were appropriate for students and disability resource centers neglecting to contact students after the transition to online instruction prevented students from receiving the accommodations that they required in STEM courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study illuminates current gaps in the support of students with disabilities and pinpoints ways to make online STEM learning environmentsmore »more inclusive for students with disabilities.« less
  2. This theory paper focuses on understanding how mastery learning has been implemented in undergraduate engineering courses through a systematic review. Academic environments that promote learning, mastery, and continuous improvement rather than inherent ability can promote performance and persistence. Scholarship has argued that students could achieve mastery of the course material when the time available to master concepts and the quality of instruction was made appropriate to each learner. Increasing time to demonstrate mastery involves a course structure that allows for repeated attempts on learning assessments (i.e., homework, quizzes, projects, exams). Students are not penalized for failed attempts but are rewarded for achieving eventual mastery. The mastery learning approach recognizes that mastery is not always achieved on first attempts and learning from mistakes and persisting is fundamental to how we learn. This singular concept has potentially the greatest impact on students’ mindset in terms of their belief they can be successful in learning the course material. A significant amount of attention has been given to mastery learning courses in secondary education and mastery learning has shown an exceptionally positive effect on student achievement. However, implementing mastery learning in an undergraduate course can be a cumbersome process as it requires instructors tomore »significantly restructure their assignments and exams, evaluation process, and grading practices. In light of these challenges, it is unclear the extent to which mastery learning has been implemented in undergraduate engineering courses or if similar positive effects can be found. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review to elucidate, how in the U.S., (1) has mastery learning been implemented in undergraduate engineering courses from 1990 to the present time and (2) the student outcomes that have been reported for these implementations. Using the systematic process outlined by Borrego et al. (2014), we surveyed seven databases and a total of 584 articles consisting of engineering and non-engineering courses were identified. We focused our review on studies that were centered on applying the mastery learning pedagogical method in undergraduate engineering courses. All peer-reviewed and practitioner articles and conference proceedings that were within our scope were included in the synthetization phase of the review. Most articles were excluded based on our inclusion and exclusion criteria. Twelve studies focused on applying mastery learning to undergraduate engineering courses. The mastery learning method was mainly applied on midterm exams, few studies used the method on homework assignments, and no study applied the method to the final exam. Students reported an increase in learning as a result of applying mastery learning. Several studies reported that students’ grades in a traditional final exam were not affected by mastery learning. Students’ self-reported evaluation of the course suggests that students prefer the mastery learning approach over traditional methods. Although a clear consensus on the effect of the mastery learning approach could not be achieved as each article applied different survey instruments to capture students’ perspectives. Responses to open-ended questions have mixed results. Two studies report more positive student comments on opened-ended questions, while one study report receiving more negative comments regarding the implementation of the mastery learning method. In the full paper we more thoroughly describe the ways in which mastery learning was implemented along with clear examples of common and divergent student outcomes across the twelve studies.« less
  3. This research evaluates the impact of switching college engineering courses from in-person instruction to emergency remote learning among engineering students at a university in the Midwest. The study aimed to answer the question: What were the concerns and perceived challenges students faced when traditional in-person engineering courses suddenly transitioned to remote learning? The goal of this study is to uncover the challenges students were facing in engineering online courses and to understand students’ concerns. Our findings can help improve teaching instruction to provide students with previously unavailable educational assistance for online engineering courses. We collected online survey responses during weeks 8 and 9 of the academic semester, shortly after the COVID-19 shutdown and emergency transition to remote learning in Spring 2020. The survey included two open-ended questions which inquired about students’ feedback about moving the class online, and one two-item scale which assessed students’ confidence in online engineering learning. Data analysis for the open-ended questions was guided by the theoretical framework - Social Cognitive Career Theory [1] that explores how context, person factors and social cognitions contribute to career goals, interests and actions. A phenomenological approach [2] was conducted to understand the experience of these students. Open coding and axialmore »coding [2] methods were used to create initial categories then themes related to students' concerns and challenges. Data from the two-item scale was evaluated using descriptive statistics: means, standard deviations, and ranges. Four main themes with separate sub-categories emerged from the student responses: 1) Instructor’s ability to teach course online (Instructional limitations, Seeking help, Increased Workload), 2) Student’s ability to learn online (Time Management, Lower engagement and motivation, Harder to absorb material, Hard to focus, Worry about performance), 3) Difficulties outside of class (Technology issues), and 4) No concerns. Students seemed more concerned about their ability to learn the material (48% of responses) than the instructor’s ability to teach the material (36% of responses). The instructional limitations or lack of instructional support (22% of responses) and time management (12% of responses) were among the major concerns in the sub-categories. The results from two-item scale indicated participants' s confidence in their ability to master their classroom knowledge was at an intermediate level via online instruction (6/10), and participants' confidence in the instructor's ability to teach knowledge in online classes is moderate to high (7/10). The results align with the open-ended question response in which students were somewhat more concerned about their ability to learn than the instructor’s ability to teach. The themes and analysis will be a valuable tool to help institutions and instructors improve student learning experiences.« less
  4. This paper is based on a series of semi-structured, qualitative interviews that were conducted with students, by an undergraduate student and lead author of this paper, that focused on their experiences with educational technologies and online teaching pedagogy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As U.S. educators scrambled to adapt to online course delivery modes as a result of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring 2020 semester, those in the educational technology and online learning community saw the potential of this movement to vastly accelerate the implementation of online systems in higher education. A shift that may have taken 20 years to accomplish was implemented in two waves, first with the immediate forced shift to online learning in March 2020; and second, a less immediate shift to hybrid and online instruction designed to accommodate the different geographic variation in COVID-19 intensity, along with varied political and institutional ecologies surrounding online versus in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 academic year. With all of the rapid changes that were occurring during the spring of 2020, we wanted to investigate how students experienced and perceived faculty use of technology during this particular moment in time. This study documents this transitionmore »through the eyes of undergraduate students, and demonstrates the varied ways in which faculty navigated the transition to online learning. According to our interviewees, some faculty were thoughtful and competent and provided a supportive environment that paid attention to a students’ capacity for online learning, rather than maintaining traditional instructional practices. Others relied on practices from in-person instruction that were familiar, but appeared to be nervous in the new online teaching environment. Then there were those who seemed occupied by other concerns, where a focus on effective undergraduate teaching remained limited to begin with, and their approach to online instruction was driven by convenience. Our qualitative data clearly reveals that the ways in which faculty conducted their online courses directly impacted student learning experiences. In this study, we set out to document both the faculty instructional strategies in a hybrid/online environment and student accounts of those choices and their resulting experiences. While we continue to analyze this unique data set on this moment of transition in engineering education, we hope that this paper will also lead to policy recommendations regarding faculty adaptations to online instruction in general. We include some initial thoughts and recommendations below.« less
  5. Increasingly, support for students with disabilities in post-secondary education has boosted enrollment and graduates rates. Yet, such successes are not translated to doctoral degrees. For example, in 2018, the National Science Foundation reported 3% of math and computer science doctorate recipients identified as having a visual limitation while 1.2% identified as having a hearing limitation. To better understand why few students with disabilities pursue PhDs in computing and related fields, we conducted an interview study with 19 current and former graduate students who identified as blind or low vision, or deaf or hard of hearing. We asked participants about challenges or barriers they encountered in graduate school. We asked about accommodations they received, or did not receive, and about different forms of support. We found that a wide range of inaccessibility issues in research, courses, and in managing accommodations impacted student progress. Contributions from this work include identifying two forms of access inequality that emerged: (1) access differential: the gap between the access that non/disabled students experience, and (2) inequitable access: the degree of inadequacy of existing accommodations to address inaccessibility.