2000 Conference Proceedings

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On-Line Instruction in Assistive Technology

Harry J. Murphy, Ed. D.
Founder and Director


Kirk D. Behnke, M.Ed., ATP
Training Coordinator

Center on Disabilities
California State University, Northridge (CSUN)
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330 - 8340
818 677 2578
818 677 4929 FAX

Keywords: assistive technology, on-line instruction, ATACP, CSUN, Center on Disabilities

The Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and the University’s College of Extended Learning have created an "Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program" (ATACP) to train professionals across the United States and abroad to provide assistive technology services to persons with disabilities. To this date, 559 persons have been trained: 528 in the United States and 31 in Ireland under a unique Irish-American collaboration.

This 100-hour, in-service course is delivered as follows: 52 hours are on-line, 40 hours of live instruction, and 8 hours of effort is given toward a required, written "Certificate Project."

The training experience includes live and on-line lectures, demonstrations, discussion, observations, and presentations on applications of assistive technology. Emphasis is placed on individual participation, group exercises, and the quality of the Certificate Project.

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In response to a need from the field for training in the area of assistive technology, the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), in conjunction with the university's College of Extended Learning, has developed a 100-hour training course, "Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program" (ATACP). It is considered to be an in-service, rather than a pre-service, course. Kirk Behnke, Training Coordinator of the Center on Disabilities, designed the ATACP curriculum. Kirk Behnke and Mike Marotta, also of the CSUN Center on Disabilities training staff, designed the on-line portion of the course.

Assistive technology is still a very new area. There are few comprehensive training programs in assistive technology. Yet, the demand for qualified assistive technology professionals is growing and strong training models are needed. Professionals in the field need credible university validation of their skills.

The ATACP meets these needs. It is portable and can be delivered whole or in part in the United States or abroad.

The first ATACP class was conducted in 1997 in San Francisco. Classes were conducted in 1998 in Pasadena, California, Washington, DC, and Dublin, Ireland. 1999 training classes were conducted in Nashville, Tennessee; Pasadena, California; Anaheim, California; Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Chicago, Illinois, Houston, Texas, and Washington, DC.

The ATACP has been delivered to date in programs across the United States over the past three years to 559 professionals. Participants have come from 41 states, four U. S. territories, and 11 foreign countries. The ATACP offers the convenience of obtaining a Certificate in Assistive Technology from CSUN’s College of Extended Learning plus 10 Continuing Education Units (CEU's).

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The ATACP in Ireland

In 1998 the ATACP was successfully delivered in Ireland in a unique European-American collaboration under a Horizon grant. Working with the Central Remedial Clinic and University College, Dublin, the ATACP program was first delivered to ten Irish professionals in a train-the-trainers format. Four months later, these ten Irish trainers, with CSUN staff as resource persons, delivered the ATACP in a two-week workshop to 31 practitioners from all over Ireland. With the permission of the Center on Disabilities, the ATACP has been revised to reflect the training needs of Ireland and is incorporated into the curriculum of University College, Dublin. In Ireland it is called "Certificate in Assistive Technology Applications" (CATA). The Center on Disabilities welcomes other European affiliations.

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Certificate Objectives

The ATACP is designed to provide a practical approach to the applications of assistive technology in meeting the needs of individuals with various disabilities in many settings. The keyword here is "practical."

Participants identify a wide range of applications for assistive technology in the home, school, workplace, and community environments; learn about existing and new assistive technologies for people with disabilities to include, but not limited to, augmentative and alternative communication, environmental controls, seating and positioning, mobility devices, computer access technology, and technology for people who may have learning, physical, cognitive and/or sensory disabilities; address individual needs through a collaborative team approach; identify resources that are available to support assistive technology devices and services; address leadership challenges regarding assistive technology implementation, and will implement this training into practice upon completion of the program.

The ATACP Curriculum

The curriculum covers seven areas:

  1. Introduction to Assistive Technologies
  2. Assistive Technology Applications
  3. Ethical and professional considerations
    Scope of Assistive Technology: from simple to complex
    Matching people with technology and device feature matching
    Home/school/work modifications
    Integration of AT systems
    Computer access: input, processing and output
    Successful technology intervention and services
  4. Guiding the Process
  5. Leadership Challenges
  6. Focus on Specialized Areas
  7. Funding and Policy issues
  8. Certificate Project
  9. A practical independent or group Certificate Project is required to earn a certificate. Participants are encouraged to develop a certificate project to meet the needs of an individual with a disability and/or their organization. Certificate Projects are developed and approved in consultation with the ATACP Training Coordinator and other ATACP faculty. A written report is due within 90 days after training is completed.

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Instructional Design

The training experience consists of fifty-two (52) hours of on-line instruction to be completed prior to the live workshop, forty (40) hours of live instruction over five days, and a minimum of eight (8) hours of effort toward a required, written Certificate Project to be completed within 90 days of completion of the program.

The 100-hour training experience includes live and on-line lectures, demonstrations, discussion, observations, and presentations on applications of assistive technology. Emphasis is placed on individual participation and group exercises.

Because parts of the course are offered on-line, those who are interested in taking this course obviously must have access to the World Wide Web. Once accepted into the program, participants are given a password that allows them to access information on-line. On-line participation is through Hypernews, interactive software that encourages participants to enter into electronic dialogue about issues that are presented by the trainers to the participants.

As indicated above, this is an in-service course. This assumes that participants come with some prior knowledge of assistive technologies and the assistive technology process. Participants tend to be practitioners in the field of education, speech and language, physical and/or occupational therapy, rehabilitation services, or from policy organizations.

The ATACP is largely a self-directed learning experience. For the on-line portion, basic information is given, some readings are entirely on-line, the participant is directed to key URL’s, and then is encouraged to seek out other information sources in his/her own area of interest.

The ATACP offers case studies that will support participants in learning about technologies across a variety of ages, environments, and disabilities. The sum of learning is then demonstrated in a synthetic and analytic fashion by answering a variety of on-line study questions. Participants also complete a required, written Certificate Project which is a practical application of what has been learned in the ATACP. Participants are expected to contribute to the workshop through individual or group discussions.

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Continuing Education Units (CEU’s)

The College of Extended Learning at CSUN defines Continuing Education Units in this way: "The CEU is a nationally recognized unit of measurement of noncredit, post-secondary level study. It has been established by the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET). You may earn CEU's for study in selected noncredit programs and courses. CEU's are designed for use where employers, relicensure agencies, and other authorities require a specified number of hours of study on a regular basis for career advancement purposes."

The College of Extended Learning goes on to note how a Certificate can help an individual:

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The ATACP Network

The Center on Disabilities hosts a closed listserv for ATACP graduates only. ATACP graduates are encouraged to raise questions, provide solutions, and suggest resources to assist ATACP peers. Job announcements in the area of AT are also posted on this listserv.


The Center on Disabilities greatly appreciates the financial support of NEC Foundation of America.

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For Additional Information

California State University, Northridge
Center on Disabilities
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8340
(818) 677-2578 voice/TDD/message
(818) 677-4929 FAX


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