Hi I am an instructor at a communty college in MA and I am interested in hearing comments/reflections from folks with LDs about their online learing experiences. I teach an online course and am looking for ways to improve the course materials so they are universally accessible.
I took an online class about 5 years ago. It was the worst class I took. I was told that I would only have to log on 1once a week, that was not the case. I needed to be online 5 days a week at a specifiled time. I thought the whole point of online was the flexiblity it offered. Guess not!
I have dyscalculia and I took math online this semester. The reason why I took it online was due to the fact that the book used for the online class was really good. I learned everything in Intermediate Algebra except most of the more fundamental areas of graphing, because I unfortunately do that backwards! The book for the class was by (s.p.) Dugopolski and I love him for he does not do spiral learning math. The Intermediate Algebra book by Dugopolski (s.p.) presents the material wonderfully and I learned a good 45% of what all you need to know for the course thanks to that book.
The only thing I know is that one has to be very well organized when taking an online course if they are a student, and (darn it) that goes for the instructor as well.
If you are an instructor, you have to be fair when you choose to alter the schedule of homework and tests; my number one complaint about online courses is when they do not send a short mass e mail about a major course adjustment (like changing the date of a quiz at the last minute). I think that the instructor has a right to present the schedule of readings and tests and whatnot in as formal and as concise a fashion as the web site itself will allow; such a thing is a common courtesy that an instructor should do for their students.
So, if you are a student, you have to learn all there is to know about how the course set up the first few days of the semester; that is very important...learn all the rules of the course, get your proctor and all of that. If you take the time to do that the first week of school, you will be all right. You can also learn of the schedule of study prior to the semester starting, for they are online already. Where I live in Tennessee, the Board of Regents governs these classes and they are all actually under the heading of the Tennessee Board of Regents online program. They allow the student a good three days leeway to purchase course materials and get their collective whatnot in gear prior to any homework assignments.
I was like a virgin on prom night with the online courses and it took me all of two hours to organize everything for the course with regards to learning how the course was set up and making out my date book where I gave myself a week in advance to study...and most importantly getting a nice proctor for the tests that… is something a student should do the first week of school.
With regards to Universal Accessibility, I think that one very important thing is to present any and all notes in a clear, concise and easy to read format. Like, use a 12-point font and bold type if you are including notes within the online course. Then take the main points of the notes (like with math, for example; the derivative of the quadratic equation could be in bold italicized type when presenting lecture notes to the class on factoring) and put them in italics or a different color font. It is impossible for an online student to know what their "virtual instructor" deems really important unless the instructor does something like a little color-coding. And, it is doubly hard for a learning disabled student to be able to infer that kind of thing like with history or something, you know? So, in closing, I think that it is a two way street with these types of courses and I cannot complain about like my sub par math skills or anything. But, I do think that the instructor owes it to the students (and this I state in a general way) to make everything as clear and concise as possible.