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Making Online Learning Accessible and Effective for All

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Project Name
Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities


CAST, the University of Kansas's Center for Research on Learning, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education have partnered on a five-year initiative to research how online learning can be made more accessible, engaging, and effective for K-12 learners with disabilities.

The Center staff is conducting research nationally and is building a network of research collaborators representing a wide array of disciplines whose expertise impacts learner outcomes.

The Center will:

  • Develop promising approaches for increasing the accessibility and potential effectiveness of online learning for students with disabilities. These may include accessibility and support features for online learning, providing supplementary offline resources, individualizing online learning, identifying and addressing student learning problems as soon as possible, and training students, teachers, tutors, parents, and others involved in online learning on ways to support student learning.
  • Test the feasibility, usability, and potential effectiveness (or promise) of one or more key approaches using appropriate research designs such as quasi-experimental, single-subject, qualitative, and experimental research.

The research will produce detailed descriptions of the approaches and their key components, evidence that the approaches can be successfully implemented in authentic settings, and evidence of the promise of the approaches for achieving their intended outcomes for students with disabilities.

The Center will also:

  • Establish principles for the design, development, and validation of online instruction effective for all students;
  • Apply learning analytics that take advantage of the inherent capabilities of online learning technologies to provide faster, more accurate, more informative assessment and progress monitoring, and impact learner outcomes;
  • Highlight new online learning solutions that support K-12 learners with disabilities;
  • Share research findings and evidence-based principles for the design, development, and use of online learning resources that address the needs of K-12 learners with disabilities.


2012 - 2016

Funded by

Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of Education Grant #H327U110011


University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning (CRL)
National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)

Principal Investigators

Daryl F. Mellard, PhD, University of Kansas
David H. Rose, EdD, CAST
Bill East, EdD, NASDSE


From CRL
James Basham (co-PI)
Susan Bulgren
Bryan Dykman
Edward L. Meyen (co-PI)
Sean J. Smith (co-PI)

William (Skip) Stahl
Mike Connell
Boris Goldowsky
Tracey Hall
Mindy Johnson
Sam Johnston

telephone: 785-864-6423


Findings will be posted as they become available and published.

Select Publications and Media

Center Publications
Complete list of Center journal articles

Currie-Rubin, R.(2014). Understanding the roles of families in virtual learning. TEACHING Exceptional Children. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0040059914530101

Hashey, A., &  Stahl, S. (2014). Making online learning accessible for students with disabilities. TEACHING Exceptional Children. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0040059914528329

Johnston, S., Greer, D., & Smith, S. (2014). Peer learning in virtual schools. Journal of Distance Education, 28(1), 1-31.

News and Events

For updates on Center activities, see the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities website.