This broadening participation research project will contribute to foundational knowledge about how college students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, and autism spectrum disorders learn statistics in an on-line course when the instructor and the students participate in discussions at the same time or when the discussions are asynchronous. Students with these types of disabilities are the largest group of students with disabilities taking courses at our nation's colleges and universities. Online postsecondary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is growing at a rapid rate with little research conducted about how students with disabilities learn in this environment. Additionally, as college faculty engage students in on-line discussions and classes, the varied timing of the information delivered may negatively or positively impact how students learn STEM content. While there have been several studies to support a positive relationship between the increased presence of the instructor during on-line courses and student satisfaction with online discussions and online learning performance, there is a need to determine if learning is maximized when the instructor is or is not present and the interactions with the instructor are asynchronous. This is an even more critical issue for students with disabilities who have deficits in executive function, which may negatively impact their on-line learning and which may be lessened by the presence of the faculty during instruction. Knowing more about how college students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, and autism spectrum disorders learn statistics in an on-line course, when faculty-led discussions are varied between synchronous and asynchronous formats, has great potential to lead to improvements in how these students with disabilities learn STEM and how college faculty teach on-line STEM courses.
Project leaders at Landmark College will determine the best ways to investigate how college students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, and autism spectrum disorders learn statistics in an on-line course when the instructor-led discussions are either synchronous or asynchronous. Students with these disabilities typically exhibit difficulties with executive function, which negatively impacts learning, and which may be mitigated by the presence of an instructor during on-line learning. Using social presence theory as the grounding for their work, the researchers will conduct an exploratory study to examine the research question: Does the inclusion of instructor-mediated virtual synchronous discussions of online statistics content result in improved conceptual understanding of statistics concepts for students with disabilities? The hypothesis for this work is that students with disabilities learning introductory college statistics online will develop a deeper understanding of statistics concepts following synchronous, as compared to asynchronous, virtual instructor-mediated discussions. At the completion of the project, it is anticipated that results will inform future basic and applied educational research about students with and without disabilities learning STEM in on-line courses. The results of this work are expected to be shared with education researchers and the public in professional publications.