KU News Service

Educators faced with unprecedented challenges, yet strategies exist for shifting to online learning, experts say

Mon, 03/16/2020

LAWRENCE — In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country have joined countless other institutions in closing their doors to prevent large gatherings. While some have closed temporarily, others are keeping students away indefinitely, and some are transitioning to online educational models. Two University of Kansas researchers who specialize in online education, developing new instructional models and making educational technology workable for students with disabilities are available to discuss the shifting educational landscape with media.

James Basham and Sean Smith, faculty members in KU’s top-ranked Department of Special Education, can discuss online learning models for students, including those with disabilities; challenges presented by online learning; transitioning to such a model for schools, teachers and learners; online learning strategies; unique aspects of K-12 learning in an online model and related topics.

Basham and Smith were principal investigators in the recently ended Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities. The center was a federally funded national research entity focused on investigating K-12 online learning for all students. In addition to the center’s work, the professors and their colleagues have been part of projects to develop and enhance online learning, supported by millions of dollars in grants from the U.S. Department of Education, and have written dozens of journal articles, reports and books on the topic as well.

“This is an unprecedented time in the American and global education system,” Basham said. “Education systems have to think holistically around supporting all students and families during this time of need.”

“Teachers and schools are being presented with circumstances they’ve never had to deal with and transitioning to an online learning model can seem daunting,” Smith said. “However, there are proven strategies that can help teachers deliver instruction to their students even if they are not able to meet in their traditional classrooms.”

Basham and Smith work in the area of universal design for learning, which designs educational models to meet the unique needs of every individual student and focuses on student learning in a modern environment. Basham also consults with school districts, universities, state agencies and corporate entities on future-ready learning and personalization across online, blended and face-to-face settings. Smith specializes in integration of technology to support inclusionary efforts for all learners. He also consults with school districts, universities, state agencies, parent groups and, increasingly, private/Catholic K-12 schools on innovative ways to meet the needs of all learners. Currently focused on virtual and augmentative reality, Smith looks to foster ways to further personalize the learning experience for the needs of the individual.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at

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