“Online to Success”: Helping Students with Learning Disabilities Succeed in Post-Secondary Settings
Allyson Harrison, Ph.D.,C.Psych., Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Sample of Students’ Comments
Participant Selection Process and Program Content
“I have a way better idea of what to expect and what I have to do and how to physically and mentally prepare to talk to professors.”
“I did learn a lot about the types of resources that were available to me but I thought it was overly long and could have been more ‘hands on’”
“Gave a better idea of how to handle residence.”
The transition from high school or university is a potentially challenging one for young adults with learning disabilities (LDs). “Online to Success” is an innovative, web-based, 6-week summer course developed by teams from Queen’s University in Kingston, Loyalist College in Belleville, and the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario. Its goal is to assist Ontario students with LDs to succeed at the post-secondary level by offering sessions dealing with LD awareness, adaptive technology, learning strategies, self-advocacy, and other topics relevant to transitions to college or university. The structure of the program involved on-site weekend opening and closing sessions, and a 4-week web-based program to allow students from across the province to participate in transition programming while maintaining summer employment. In 2004, 13 participants completed the program delivered through four modules: “Know About Yourself,” “Your Program and You,” “Tools for Success,” and “Self-Advocacy.” Student ratings and feedback from the opening and closing sessions were generally positive, and support the value of continuing to offer the “Online to Success” program. Implications and recommendations for future transition programming are discussed.
- Mailed Registration form (printed off the web site)
- Mailed 2 cheques (1 non-refundable $50 cheque; 1 cheque for $150 to be refunded upon successful completion of the course)
- Received registration package by mail
- Information about opening weekend
- Information about previous assessments requested
- RARC-Q Questionnaire to be completed by students
- Mailed in information sheet pertaining to opening weekend
- In 2003, of the 30 applicants accepted, 21 participated in and successfully completed the program. Of the other 9 applicants, 3 decided to go elsewhere, 1 left for personal reasons, and 5 did not fully complete the program.
- In 2004,of 18 applicants, 13 students participated in and successfully completed the program. Of the other 5 applicants 1 withdrew due to other commitments, 1 withdrew because the course content was similar to material previously taken, and 3 did not have a LD.
- Eligibility requirements to participate in the program:
- Ontario student accepted into an Ontario college or university in September 2004
- Identification or diagnosis of LD
- Some recommendations to ensure continued success in future transition programming are:
- Maintain separate courses for students entering university and college. This allowed participants to interact with peers going through a similar transition, and to focus on material most relevant to their future course of study. Course material tailored to meet the needs of mature students may also be beneficial.
- Detailed review of documentation and updated assessments for each student PRIOR to commencing the program.
- Strict protocol to ensure independent learning by students. It is important that Beta testers also complete course material online using only built in supports offered by courseware and moderators.
- Commitment by participants to attend both opening and closing on-site weekends (or approved alternatives) prior to enrolling in the course., and that this be required for successful completion.
- Strong leadership by a single person is essential to ensure coordination and efficiency among the different teams involved, and to manage all details concerning development and delivery of the final product.
- Potential for incorporating “Online to Success” as a credit course in the final year of high school in the regular curriculum should be explored.
- Course Moderators could be provided by students in the Faculty of Education as part of their training, for which they would receive credit as well as experience working with students with LD.
- Continued use of SWEP grants to help subsidize costs of online moderating.
- Despite the challenges of offering a web-based transition program, this research supports to continued delivery of such programs to meet the needs of students with LD.
3. Opening Weekend (On-site: Queen’s)
- Participants stayed in residence at Queen’s University campus for the opening weekend July 8-10, 2004. This was an opportunity to:
- Introduce students to the Course Moderators and staff
- Orient students to life in a student residence
- Get to know other students with LDs
- Understand how a LD can impact learning
- Learn about courseware and adaptive technology
- Learn what a “psychoeducational assessment” is
- Outline course expectations and assignments
- Applicants completed opening evaluation forms.
The “Online to Success” Program
- What is “Online to Success”?
- The “Online to Success” program was one of 7 summer transition programs in Ontario funded by the Learning Opportunities Task Force in 2004 to assist students with learning disabilities (LDs) to successfully navigate the transition from high school to post-secondary education. “Online to Success” offers:
- Modules that prepare high school students for college or university by teaching them about their disability, and how to access resources available at the post-secondary level to best accommodate their learning needs.
- An on-site component for opening and closing weekends to orient students to the staff, technology, and course expectations. A web-based component of program delivery unique to “Online to Success”, which sets it apart from other transition courses, and makes it potentially the most far-reaching, accessible program of its kind. Students with work, vacation, or other commitments throughout the summer would still be able to participate in online learning to optimize their adjustment to college or university the following fall.
- Updated psychoeducational assessments, as these are often required for in order to receive accommodations at the post-secondary level.
- Who Were the People Involved in Developing the Program?
- Team at Queen’s University: Developed two of four course modules.
- Program Director: Dr. Allyson Harrison Learning Strategists: Gail Eaton-Smith, Elspeth Christie, and KristenKorczynski On-LineCourse Moderators: Kyla Bondy and Shannon Currie
- Team at Loyalist College: Developed two of four course modules.
- Program Director: Catherine O’RourkeLearning Strategists: Mary Tiessen and Dorothy Fletcher
4. Complete Course Assignments On-Line (From students’ own homes)
- Module 1:
- “Know About Yourself”
- Personal strengths, limitations, and barriers to learning
- Module 4:
- Prepare on-site portfolio presentation to summarize what was learned
- Module 2:
- “Your Program and You”
- Explore fit between program and one’s abilities
- Module 3:
- “Tools for Success”
- Time management
5. Closing Weekend (On-site: Queen’s)
- Participants stayed in residence at Queen’s University campus for the closing weekend August 20-22, 2004. This was an opportunity to:
- Do portfolio presentations to gain oral presentation experience and to integrate learning experience
- Attend seminars on additional topics, such as note taking, essay writing, and time management
- Applicants completed closing evaluation forms.
Summary of Participant Feedback from Opening and Closing Evaluations
Mean ratings (1 = lowest to 5 = highest): Closing Weekend
Round table = 4.33 Note taking seminar = 3.95
“Knowing your rights” Talk = 3.55 Video “How difficult could this be?” = 3.61
Time Management Seminar = 3.86 Essay Writing Seminar = 3.95
“Be Well” Presentation = 3.23 Meals and Snacks = 4.4
General Organization = 4.86 Social Activities = 4.9
Students generally found the Course Moderators helpful, the software easy to navigate, course expectations reasonable, and the learning experience enjoyable.
Mean ratings (1 = lowest to 5 = highest): Opening Weekend
“Getting to Know You” Games = 4.27 Transitions video = 3.72
Psychoeducational assessment talk = 3.77 Discussion panel = 4.27
Adaptive technology talk = 4.33 D2L activity = 4.67
Comfort with D2L courseware = 4.17 Understanding of LD = 3.79
Portfolio presentation = 4.6 Tour of campus = 3.63
Food in residence = 4.5 Social Activities = 4.42
Overall, students enjoyed the activities, and found the opening weekend sessions to be helpful and informative.
We would like to thank the Learning Opportunities Task Force for their generous funding of the “Online to Success” project.
We also acknowledge the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario for their assistance with web designs and support in 2003.