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Special Education and Online Learning

Are you a student with special education status? Are you wondering if online learning may be a good fit for you?

When enrolling in online learning (OLL), you need to inform the OLL provider of your special education status. You are considered a special education student if you have been identified as qualifying for special education services. This means you most likely have had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) in the past. If you are unsure of your status, consult with your previous school.

Supplementary Online Course Enrollment

When you enroll in supplementary OLL classes, the enrolling school district continues to provide special education services. This includes keeping all IEP records up to date, monitoring progress on IEP goals, completing the Evaluation Summary Report every three years, and case management. The OLL provider is responsible for consulting with the enrolling district to provide appropriate services as needed.

Comprehensive Online Program Enrollment

When a special education student enrolls in a comprehensive OLL program, the school will need to call an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting to write a new IEP, to support your success in the new setting. You will receive special education services from that district and receive a high school diploma from that school.

Some Special Education Activities Requires You to Show Up

Some online schools conduct IEP meetings at a distance using conference calling and other technology. Other schools prefer to meet face-to-face. A family can request that the IEP meeting be conducted through a conference call if traveling to the physical location of the school is a burden to them.

Many measures of progress on the IEP may also need to be conducted physically at school. The Evaluation Summary Report as well as numerous probes and evaluative tests must be conducted under strict accountability measures to be accurate.

Direction Instruction (DI)

Special education for many students involves a variety of activities referred to as Direct Instruction (DI). The goal of DI is to increase their knowledge in a subject area such as spelling common words or counting money.

An IEP team will decide how best to provide DI to each individual student. They will consult with the IEP goals and work out a plan to offer the needed DI to each student.

When looking at online programs, consider how they deliver DI to special education students. Some online schools offer DI completely at a distance and use a variety of technologies to do this.

Other online schools offer DI in a traditional manner. They require that the student be physically present in the school a certain number of days each week. Before applying to an online school, ask how the school delivers DI, so that you know how much traveling will be required.

What is a 504 Plan?

A 504 plan is designed to accommodate the unique needs of an individual with a disability. This is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Inform your OLL provider of your 504 status. They can obtain a copy of your 504 plan from your previous school (or your enrolling school) and work with you on any accommodation needs.

Please note that if you are on a 504 plan, this is a different status than being a special education student.

Online Resources for College-Bound Students with Disabilities

Education Resources for People with Disabilities
Learn about early intervention, students and educators rights and responsibilities, and access to higher education.

"Preparing for College: An Online Tutorial"
This online tutorial produced links to online resources for college-bound teens with disabilities. It also has information about how parents can assist their teens in exploring these resources.

Source: Minnesota Department of Education