2000 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2000 Table of Contents


Instructionally Sound Web-Based Learning for Diverse Populations

Loye Romereim-Holmes
South Dakota State University
College of Education and Counseling
Wenona Hall, Box 507
Brookings, SD 57007
Phone: 605-688-4545
Fax: 605-688-6074
Loye_Romereim-Holmes@sdstate.edu

Denise Peterson
South Dakota State University
College of Education and Counseling
Wenona Hall, Box 507
Brookings, SD 57007
Phone: 605-688-4545
Fax: 605-688-6074
Denise_Peterson@sdstate.edu


Introduction

Teachers are continuously being challenged to provide instructionally sound education, which includes designing curriculum for a diversity of learners along with integrating technology into the process. Often teachers consider the adaptations and assistive technology needed to enable students with a wide variety of special needs as add-ons. In addition, many teachers are now exploring the potential uses of technology for their classrooms. In this paper we are proposing that a web-based curriculum that incorporates instructional design principles and universal design principles may be one solution to creating a classroom in which all learners can succeed. In this way, teachers may provide a curriculum that is learner-ready.


| Top|

Universal Design Issues

"The new requirement of IDEA '97 to consider assistive technology devices and services for all students with disabilities creates a massive task for school districts. Already, special educators across the country are reporting an increased number of referrals for children with mild disabilities in which the issue is access to the curriculum and productivity once in the curriculum. School-based professionals are finding that the "fix--it" approach taken with traditional assistive technology applications is not appropriate for these new types of technology referrals" (Warger, 1999).

Clearly as the statement above points out "fix-it" solutions are not working. For teachers using web-based instruction, one possible solution to the dilemma of providing access for all students and maintaining quality education would be for them to integrate assistive technology into the actual instructional design of materials from the beginning. The principles of universal design would be embedded into sound instructional design principles. We feel that there would be several advantages to this approach.

First, research indicates that while students with disabilities greatly appreciate adaptations of materials, they also desire receiving the same materials as their general education counterparts. In a meta-analysis conducted by Klinger and Vaugh (1999), general education students understood the importance of adaptations and found those adaptations helpful to their own learning. In addition, many teachers are uncertain of how to implement assistive technology in their instruction without jeopardizing educational quality. Web-based curriculum that incorporate instructional design principles and universal design principles may be one solution to creating a classroom in which learners, regardless of diversity, can succeed and technology utilized to its fullest potential.

Web-based curriculum, instructional and universal design principles should be part of a preservice and/or inservice teacher education program. As research indicates teacher and student use of the Internet will continue to grow at a fast rate. According to a study on teacher use of the Internet, 90% of public schools in the United States have Internet access (Becker, 1998). It makes sense to use the web-based environment for curriculum purposes, which indicates a redesign of the materials. As we move from teacher use of the Internet to find resources to use the Internet to create curriculum, students will become more involved in accessing and producing web-based materials. Thus teachers, preparing for future classrooms, need to be taught how to design the curriculum for web-based environments that take into consideration universal and instructional design principles which would meet the needs of diverse learners as well as integrate technology.

For discussion purposes, the following terms need to be defined. Assistive technology is defined as any item, piece of equipment, or product, whether acquired commercially, off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities (P.L. 101-407, The Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988). Universal design is defined as "the design of instructional materials and activities that allows the learning goals to be achievable by individuals with wide differences in their abilities to see, hear, speak, move, read, write, understand English, attend, organize, engage, and remember." (Orkwis & McLane, p.9). Instructional design is the process of developing plans for instruction through practical application of theoretical principles.


| Top|

Instructionally Sound Design Practices

The integration of technology has provided a change in the educational paradigm. Teachers have access to new technology in increasing numbers. "Because of the diversity in both learners and information, a single approach to all instruction will not work. A number of different methods and media exist for designing and developing learning experiences and the roles of learner and teacher shift based on the situation, the content, and the special needs of the individuals involved." (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, &

Russell, 2000, p. 6). Instructional design principles should be followed in the design of lessons and units for classroom use. Instructional design is made up of five components:

Instructional design provides a basis for web-based curriculum that facilitates universal access. There has been a growing body of knowledge concerning the potential and actual use of materials using the principles of universal design. While the first four principles originated from the guidelines for accessible design delineated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the fifth enhances cognitive access.

These principles include:

Summarize big ideas


| Top|

Universal design implies the use of technology in curriculum materials. The important factor of integration is the recognition that technology may provide an effective medium to provide learning opportunities to their students. However, technology should be included only as a media selection - a tool to deliver the planned instruction. Therefore, in terms of instructional design of universal use, teachers need to determine the instructional goals, conduct a need assessment, and design instruction that meets the gaps between the goals and the current knowledge and/or skills of the students. Technology comes into play during the design, development, and implementation stages of instructional delivery.

Web-based curriculum would allow students to access their classroom materials both at home and school. In providing a web-based curriculum, teachers should adhere to the following guidelines for designing their web materials, many of which fit within instructional design principles.

Follow general guidelines for text development including headings, writing style and page layout Use simple graphics that load quickly Design visuals that are related to the text Limit the number of links to other information Provide navigational support and avoid useless and annoying animation (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 2000, p. 201).


| Top|

Once we begin looking at the various principles for instructional design, universal design and web material design, there are several commonalties. Thus teachers could provide web-based curriculum is that structurally designed to meet the needs of the diverse learners in the classroom.

Use in preservice/inservice teacher education programs Since most K-12 schools in our state are now wired for Internet service and also have the technical capabilities to create web-based curriculum, both preservice and inservice teachers should be encouraged to plan their classroom content, activities, materials and assessments using the sound instructional practices as outlined above. These practices should include integrating technology and universal design suggestions immediately in the design, development, implementation. and assessment stages. Planning universal design in the creation of materials may reduce the "fix-it" mentality.

In our undergraduate teacher preparation program, we are beginning to explore the creation of quality web-based instruction for K-12 students with a wide variety of special needs. Using basic principles of universal design, teacher education faculty can help preservice students design web-based lessons that challenge and expand the horizons of the diverse learners in their classrooms. These lessons can be used to enhance and supplement content in the various units, as well as provide adapted materials.


| Top|

Conclusion

With the challenges to create quality curriculum that can be accessed by a diverse student population, teachers should consider incorporating the principles of universal design with the principles of sound instructional design as they explore the use of web-based instruction. The combination of these three components can greatly enhance the learning of all students. "Ideally a curriculum should be able to be modified or customized to meet the needs of both teacher and students." (Council for Exceptional Children, 1999 p.1). Assistive technology does not always need to be an add-on but an integrated part of the instructional design process for every classroom.


| Top|

References

Becker, H.J. (February 1999). Internet use by teachers: Conditions of professional use & teacher-directed student use. In Teaching, Learning, & Computing 1998 National Survey, Report #1. Center for Research on Information Technology & Organizations. The University of Minnesota.

Council for Exceptional Children. (1999, Fall). Universal design: Ensuring access to the general education curriculum. in Research Connections in Special Education., no.5. Author.

Klinger, J.K. & Vaughn, S. (1999, Fall). Students' perceptions of instruction in inclusion classrooms: Implications for students with learning disabilities, Exceptional Children, 66, #1. 23-37.

Newby, T.J., Stepich, D.A., Lehman, J.D., & Russell, J.D.. (2000). Instructional technology for teaching and learning: Designing instruction, integrating computers, and using media. 2nd edition. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Orkwis, R., & McLane, K. (1998, Fall). A Curriculum every student can use: Design principles for student access. ERIC/OSEP Special Project, ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Council for Exceptional Children.

Seels, B. & Glasgow, z. (1990). Exercises in instructional design. Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Company.

Warger, C. (1998). Integrating assistive technology into the standard curriculum. (Report No.: ERIC/OSEP Digest E568). Reston, VA: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED4265 17 98)


Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2000 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings


Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.