Development of model on-line Graduate ASD Seminar
I was invited to fundamentally revise and then teach a graduate seminar introducing ASD to special education teachers. This resulted in an internal faculty grant with two Lehigh faculty members, to extend the model to other courses under development. The revisions included the conversion of the course to a hybrid (online plus face-to-face) format.
Lehigh was established in 1865 and is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Graduate Program in Special Education is in the College of Education.
- The overhaul allowed me to incorporate core training elements outlined in my "Autism Services Across America" book: introducing co-occurring conditions that can complicate the education of students with ASD, helping professionals become informed consumers of available evidence-based practices (EBP), setting education in the context of other key services and supports, and framing educational goals in terms of long-term outcomes affecting the quality of life for the person and the family.
- In place of a theoretical paper, the major assignment involved the creation of a case study demonstrating how to integrate EBP into school-based plans, and then extending educational goals to become relevant to family and community-based settings.
- The conversion to the hybrid format also allowed me to introduce other elements to increase the accessibility and the relevance of the content. For example, most of the lectures were online, making it more realistic for teachers in more rural (and traditionally under-served) regions to participate. The content was based almost exclusively on freely available sources, decreasing the financial burden on teachers, while also introducing them to online sources they could reference in their future work. Mid-term and final exams were replaced by an extensive Discussion Board, in which students had to integrate information from the readings and lectures in response to specific raised in day-to-day practice.
I learned about some of these features (like the use of an online discussion board) when teaching my first online course in 2013 as part of Drexel University's ASD certificate. After teaching a course in the certificate addressing behavior support, I recognized that many recommendations emphasizing the use of sensory strategies in behavior management were entirely inconsistent with the latest evidence-based practice reviews. I urged the program director to consider the necessary updates, and offered to do this for a small stipend. When I learned that Drexel had frozen funds typically allocated for such purposes, I declined offers to teach the course again, and sought other opportunities to develop a new course or certificate from scratch.