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OHIO’S AT DISTANCE LEARNING PROJECT
Patti Porto, CCC/SLP
470 Glenmont Ave.
Columbus, OH 43214
614.262.6131 ext. 55
Patti Porto, CCC/SLP, is a faculty member of the Ohio Assistive Technology Distance Learning Project. She also works at the Family Child Learning Center in Akron, Ohio. Patti has over 12 years experience using assistive technology with children with disabilities. She is currently working on a federally funded research and demonstration project focusing on computer software and augumentative communication applications training.
Although IDEA requires it, there are two fundamental barriers to ensuring that students who can benefit from AT have access to it: appropriate training for educators and adequate funding for AT. Through the Ohio Assistive Technology Distance Learning Project (OATDLP) Ohio is addressing both barriers.
To promote the use of AT for students with disabilities across the state, Ohio has created a web-based distance learning program focusing on AT. This program offers educators access to quality professional development wherever they are located in the state. Educators earn graduate credit and improve their ability to work as part of a team to make quality decisions about AT for students with disabilities. In addition, through its evaluation mechanisms, the OATDLP has been able provide AT to students directly and has begun to document the benefits of AT to students. This data will be used to raise awareness about the importance of AT among educators, the importance for AT training for educators, and to support requests for increases in funding for AT.
From its beginning in 1997, the purpose of the OATDLP has been to increase the knowledge of Ohio educators about AT assessment, AT devices, and AT applications. All courses reflect the underlying assumption that a team effort including parents, students, and educators is necessary for the effective use of AT.
This statewide initiative is funded by a collaborative effort that brings together the technical and programmatic resources of 5 partners. These partners include The Ohio SchoolNet Commission, the Ohio Department of Education, the Northwest Ohio Educational Technology Foundation, Bowling Green State University, and ORCLISH, a statewide resource center serving students with low incidence and severe disabilities.
The goals identified at the inception of the program in 1997 were:
To increase knowledge of the wide range of AT available to support students in the classroom and in its application
To offer an efficient and effective method of continuing education to those outside the traditional college or university area
To allow educators to earn college credit for their work
The target audience originally identified for the program included: Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, special education teachers, audiologists, psychologists, administrators and general education teachers. The Ohio SchoolNet Commission subsidizes tuition for all Ohio educators. The program encourages the involvement of teams from the same district or county.
The OATDLP has always been committed to improvement and innovation. During this academic year it will expand it target audience to include parents, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants and others working in the field who have an interest in AT. The courses are now being offered for Professional Development Contact Hours and can now serve those who may not be eligible for or interested in graduate credit. To make an impact on preservice education, the OATDLP is currently pursuing the provision of undergraduate credit for the courses.
Course Design and Development
Currently all OATDLP courses are one hour graduate credit courses and are taught online over a 4-5 week period. There are 5 sessions throughout the academic year, beginning in September. Each session offers 5-6 courses; several courses are repeated throughout the year. The current course offerings were built upon material developed by the Research Institute for Assistive Training and Technologies (RIATT) and they are offered through an agreement with RIATT@NASDSE. During the third year all courses were transferred to WebCT, online course software that allows for online course management for instructors and offers wider possibilities for online discussions and access to resources.
Ohio faculty have revised all original courses adding new resources and updating materials. Since the beginning of the project new courses have been developed. Additions this year will include Autism, Augmentative Communication Assessment, and an introduction to the SETT model of problem solving. These courses will be available beginning in January 2001.
Evaluation of course effectiveness has been an ongoing part of the program, and incorporate individual course evaluations, program evaluations and impact evaluations. Course evaluations are compiled and reported in four areas: knowledge, application, delivery and instruction.
The Impact Study was implemented in the third year of the program to determine the effectiveness of the OATDLP. All educators who had completed five or more courses were eligible to submit a proposal for AT for a student with whom they were working. Two Impact Study phases have been completed and program staff are collecting data on the progress of students who received AT through the grants.
The OATDLP has given Ohio a mechanism to address both barriers to the effective application of AT and to improve the educational outcomes of students with disabilities and raised awareness of the benefits of AT among educators. It has offered an accessible mechanism for educators to obtain the knowledge they need to make quality AT decisions. The program also serves to provide data about the benefits of AT to students, This data can be used to inform legislators about the benefits of AT in order to support requests for AT funding.