2003 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 


Debra K Bauder, Ed.D
Rm 147, College of Education
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292
Phone: 502-852-0564
Fax: 502-852-1419
Email: Bauder@louisville.edu

Thomas J Simmons, Ph.D
Rm. 158A, College of Education
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292
Phone: 502-852-0569
Fax: 502-852-1419
Email: tsimmons@louisville.edu

Distance education (DE) is transforming higher education pedagogy at an increasing rate. There are many reasons for this rapid increase including student considerations, cost effectiveness and advances in technology (Case, Bauder & Simmons, 2001).

In light of the national shortage of teachers, especially of teachers of children with disabilities, there is a great need for alternate methods of instruction in personnel prepration programs. (Barrett, 1999). Web based instruction is one tool for meeting both the preservice and professional development needs of school personnel.

Through web based instruction, consistent and up to date information can be delivered to larger numbers of individuals. This concept is commonly referred to as "learning on demand". Barnard (1997) points out that providing anytime and anywhere access to instruction, limits ones need for travel (i.e. a student can sit at the computer in their home or at a local library and take courses at a university in another state or country). This method of instruction also provides groups of individuals ready access to higher education. For example, meeting the potential educational needs of special groups such as single mothers, persons with disabilities, individuals that work multiple jobs (Bertram, 1999).

Furthermore, web based instruction can provide for a variety of instructional strategies to meet the wide range of learning styles. Not only does online instruction provide variety, but also provides a greater availability of Web-based courses in specific content areas more attainable.

An example of the need for web based instruction in personnel preparation programs can be found in the reduction of higher education programs providing teacher training in the field of visual impairments. Nationally, most states do not have teacher training programs in visual impairment. The programs that do exist are in major metropolitan areas. Therefore, large numbers of legally blind children who live outside these metropolitan areas are not served. Additionally, many of the training programs that do exist are not accessible to many prospective students who live great distances from the university training programs. This has been a persistent problem in the preparation of teachers of the visually impaired. Because visual impairment is a low incidence disability, the number of students in traditional teacher training programs has always been small and it is very difficult for universities to justify the expenditure of the money necessary to support these programs. This situation has, of course, resulted in a shortage of persons trained to teach at the university level in programs for the visually impaired (Berla, 2000). Therefore the creation of web based teacher training programs provides for greater number of pre-service students to receive the type of training they need through a readily available medium.

However, there are limitations to web based instruction. Such limitations attributed to web based instruction include the potential for (a) the lack of non-verbal feedback (Barnard, 1997), (b) fragmentation of educational systems, (c) a "disconnect" with students and faculty, (d) misinterpretation or misreading of asynchronous textual communications (Starr, 1997), and (e) unknowing access of unauthentic, unreliable, and incorrect information (Brooks, 1997). Further, because of loss of connectivity, students might feel that the educational process is quite removed or fragmented to the degree that they feel they are not learning what they should be learning (Banard, 1997).

It is also critical that web based instruction incorporates accessibility features for individuals with disabilities. There are several web sites that provide accessibility guidelines for web sites including WC3 (http://www.w3.org/WAI/). Sites also exist which provide feedback on the quality of access provided by a Web site, such as Bobby (http://bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/html/en/index.jsp).

In conclusion, the development of web based instruction may help to fill a gap in the preparation of teachers for children with disabilities. By providing instruction that is readily available, easily accessed, in specific content areas, many individuals now have the opportunity to complete their training program, thereby increasing the number of available teachers in our schools.


Barnard, J. (1997). The World Wide Web and higher education: The promise of virtual universities and online libraries. Educational Technology, 37 (3), 30-35.

Berge, Z. (1998). Concerns of online teachers in higher education. [Online]. Available: http://jan.ucc.nau.edu

Brooks, D. W. (1997). Web-teaching: A guide to designing interactive teaching for the World Wide Web. New York: Plenum Press.

Case, D., Bauder, D. K, & Simmons, T (2001). Decision making in the development of web-based instruction. Ed at a Distance, 15(5) [Online] Available http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/MAY01_Issue/article04.html

Khan, B. H. (Ed.). (1997). Web-based instruction. Edgewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Kirby, T. (Ed.). (1997a). Rules for good WBT design. [Online]. Available: http://www.filename.com/wbt/pages/primer.htm

Kirby, T. (Ed.). (1997b). WBT Advantages and Disadvantages. [Online]. Available: http://www.filename.com/wbt/pages/advdis.htm

Spooner, F., Spooner, M., Algozzine, B., & Jordan, L. (1998). Distance education and special education: Promises, practices, and potential pitfalls. Teacher Education and Special Education, 21 (2), 121-131.

Starr, R. (1997). Delivering instruction on the World Wide Web: Overview and basic design principles. Educational Technology, 37 (3), 7-15.

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2003 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings

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