2003 Conference Proceedings

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ASSIST ONLINE: DISTANCE LEARNING COMPUTER TRAINING FOR BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED INDIVIDUALS

Presenter
Laurie Merryman
Assistive Technology Instructor
Iowa Department for the Blind
524 Fourth Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
(515) 281-1399
Email: Merryman.Laurie@blind.state.ia.us

Michael Barber
Assistive Technology Analyst
Iowa Department for the Blind
524 Fourth Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
(515) 281-1305
Email: Barber.Michael@blind.state.ia.us

Background

The Iowa Department for the Blind received a grant from National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to create a model distance-learning computer training program for blind and visually impaired people. The goal is to increase information technology (IT) educational opportunities and employability in the IT field for blind and visually impaired individuals. Work on project ASSIST Online began in January 2002. The program provides instruction on Microsoft Office software to blind and visually impaired individuals in preparation for the Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS) certification exams.

We offer the following courses: Windows XP, Internet Fundamentals, Word - Core, Excel - Core, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Word - Expert, and Excel - Expert. Training uses a keyboard and screen reader specific approach and offers interactive support from an instructor.

The program is open to blind and visually impaired individuals nationwide. In the future, the program will offer train the trainer courses to rehabilitation professionals who provide computer training to blind and visually impaired individuals.

Presentation Goals

The aim of this presentation is to discuss the ASSIST Online program and how participants can use distance learning technologies to deliver computer training to blind and visually-impaired individuals. Specifically, the presenter's will:

  1. Demonstrate ASSIST Online's web-based course interface used to provide computer training to blind and visually impaired individuals.

  2. Project ASSIST uses Connected Learning.Network's learning management system to serve as the interface for our online courses. Staff will demonstrate how students access course materials, obtain assignments, and complete quizzes and exams through this system. They will also demonstrate how students achieve interaction with their instructor and peers, track their progress, and share files.

  3. Discuss technologies that can be used in a distance learning training program for blind and visually impaired individuals.

  4. Project staff researched numerous synchronous and asynchronous communication tools such as web conferencing, discussion boards, chat programs, and learning management systems. The presenters will discuss the features, costs, and accessibility of these technologies tools and how they can be incorporated into an agency's existing training program.

  5. Share successful distance learning and computer training strategies for blind and visually impaired students.

  6. Staff will discuss the assessment and application process used to recruit students for the pilot program, demographics of pilot group (employment, computer experience, etc.), delivery methods, and development of course materials and online course interface. We will also discuss the students' experience with the MOUS certification exams, student assessment of the program, and time commitment issues. We will provide information about the accessibility of the MOUS exam and tips for taking the exam.

  7. Provide information on enrollment in ASSIST Online courses.

  8. Project ASSIST Online courses are available to blind and visually impaired individuals nationwide. Since all courses are instructor-led, enrollment is limited. The presenters will provide participants with information and forms necessary to apply for participation in the program.


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