Online Learning : A Good Fit for Students with Autism?
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of online learning for secondary students with autism. Specifically, in what ways do they find online learning beneficial and what subjects are they taking.
Methods: This study used a paper survey with 275 high school students with autism from 30 high schools spread across 3 states in the US. The majority of participants are male (87%), white (72%), without ID (93%), and on track to graduate high school with a regular diploma (100%).
Results: This study found that while only 27% of participants had an online learning experience, 52% indicated they were favorably disposed to taking one in the future. Of those students who had an online experience, the majority found it beneficial mostly due to their ability to control the amount of time they needed to learn. 55% said they liked learning online because they could take as little or as much time as they needed to work on the course and 48% said they liked it because they could work on it anytime they wanted to. Regarding the reduction in social interaction through online learning, only 19% said they liked it because they did not have to interact with the teacher and 18% because they did not have to interact with other students. Most participants took courses in subjects related to science and math.
Conclusions: Students with autism who have experienced online learning find it beneficial for the control it gives them over when and the amount of time they devote to the learning. Reasons related to a reduction in social interaction were less important. Online learning has potential to help young adults with autism to ease into higher education or to fill gaps in their knowledge using online courses as they transition to adulthood.