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Do I need access to particular software?

You can make sure your home or office computer has the basic system and software setup required  for BHC’s online courses by running BHC’s automated browser checkup.  You may also need accessibility software that will help you access online course materials. BHC is prepared to assist you in using:

JAWS, ZoomText or CCTV to see and/or read what is on your computer screen.

Naturally Speaking or Kurzweil to type into the computer using your voice.

BHC’s online course materials are tested using these standard tools. If you do not own the software tool that fits your disability on your home or office computer and you live in Illinois or Iowa, you may contact the Office of Rehabilitation Services (Illinois) or the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Office for assistance in acquiring the software title you need.

What level of computer skills do I need for online learning?

It is not necessary to have a high level of computer proficiency, but you should have some computer experience navigating the Internet, using e-mail, and using a word-processing program. Reasonable typing speed will also be helpful, as in addition to typing assignments, you will be typing emails, postings to online discussions, etc. See the Orientation to Online Learning for an assessment of where your computer skills are and to access tutorials, as needed. You may also use Naturally Speaking software to type for you.

Do any online classes require campus visits?

Many online classes require one or more proctored exams. These can be taken on the Black Hawk College campus according to the schedule provided to you by your instructor, or you can make arrangements with the Independent Learning Center (ILC) to secure a proctor outside of the college’s district. Please allow additional time, if possible, so that the ILC can make sure that the proctored site has the necessary physical accommodations or software that you would need for your disability. Many online classes do not require proctored exams, but instead, require online testing or other types of assignments. A few classes encourage on-campus orientations to the course, but most of these are not required.

Do I need to talk to an advisor about scheduling an online class?

It is always wise to consult with an advisor when selecting your courses for a new term. Once you have determined that you have the required prerequisite courses and that the online class you are interested in will count toward the degree or certificate you are pursuing, your advisor will assist you in making contact with the Disability Services Coordinator.

What if I need academic assistance or tutoring when taking an online class?

Although you may be taking an online class, you may secure study skills assistance or live tutoring on either Black Hawk College campuses during scheduled hours or you may access our online tutoring service 24/7 through myBlackHawk, the college’s student portal.

What is the process I will follow in making sure my online class is accessible?

  1. Take your class schedule to the Disability Services office to review for any needed accommodations.
  2. The DS Coordinator will contact the Teaching/Learning Center to determine if the online class you plan to take is ready to receive a student with the particular accessibility needs that you have.  If it isn’t yet, they will work with your instructor to make the course as accessible as possible.
  3. If  you and the DS Coordinator determine that any additional accommodations are needed, a VISA form (Verification of Individual Services and Accommodations) will be provided to assist you in communicating these needs to your online instructor.

How might my disability affect my ability to learn online?

Visual impairments
If you have a documented visual impairment, you are likely aware of what kinds of accessibility issues affect your ability to read or view images online. You may even utilize assistive technology already, such as Jaws, ZoomText, or a CCTV. Online courses sometimes create additional challenges because the technology used on an online course site may not be as accessible to your software as it has been in the past. It is a good idea to test your software with Black Hawk College’s CE8 or CourseCompass tools ahead of time. Also, by registering early, the Disability Services office will have time to assist you in identifying additional accommodation needs that you may have for the particular class you want to take, and work with other support staff to make sure all course materials are accessible to you.

Hearing impairments
If you have a documented hearing impairment, you are likely aware of what kinds of accessibility issues affect your ability to “hear” video or audio files online. Although not all online classes build in video or audio, more and more instructors and publishers are using them to enhance their online courses. Please plan to register early for any online classes that interest you so that the Disability Services office will have time to assist you in identifying additional accommodation needs that you may have for the particular class you want to take, and work with other support staff to make sure captioning or transcripts can be created for any audio or video elements of your class.

Mobility limitations
If you have a documented mobility limitation, you are likely aware of what kinds of accessibility issues affect your ability to click on specific areas of a computer screen or type into a computer. You may even utilize assistive technology already, such as Naturally Speaking  or Kurzweil for managing your current course work. Please plan to register early for any online classes that interest you so that the Disability Services office will have time to assist you in testing your software tools and identifying any additional accommodation needs that you may have for the particular class you want to take. This also allows time for them to work with other support staff or faculty to make the course accessible to you.

Learning disabilities and/or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD)
If you have a documented learning disability, you are likely aware of what kinds of accessibility issues you have when reading and writing on the computer. For example, do you have difficulty comprehending written instructions, putting your thoughts into writing, managing the navigation of complex Web sites, multi-tasking necessary for the synthesis of information across several websites, maintaining attention to the screen for extended periods, or dealing with environmental triggers prompted by characteristics of certain Web sites? Please plan to register early for any online classes that interest you so that the Disability Services office will have time to assist you in identifying any potential accommodation needs that you may have for the particular class you want to take and make arrangements with the faculty or other support staff, as needed.

Psychological disabilities
If you have a documented psychological disability, you are likely aware of what kinds of issues may affect your ability to be successful when learning on the computer. For example, do you have difficulty remembering what you read, dealing with environmental or emotional triggers on certain Web sites or reacting to online communications (e.g., texting, email)? Please plan to register early for any online classes that interest you so that the Disability Services office will have time to assist you in identifying any potential accommodation needs that you may have for the particular class you want to take.

Systemic health conditions
If you have a documented systemic health condition, such as Chrone’s disease, kidney disease, or other chronic condition, you are likely aware of what kinds of issues may affect your ability to be successful when taking an online class. For example, do you sometimes have episodes when you are unable to function for several days at a time? Please plan to register early for any online classes that interest you so that the Disability Services office will have time to assist you in identifying any potential accommodation needs that you may have.

Is online learning for me?

Many students think that taking an online course will be easier because it reduces the need to travel to campus, you can study at times that fit your personal or work schedule, and all course materials will be easily accessible online from home. However, learning online offers its own set of challenges. The following questions will help you think about whether you are ready to take a course that is offered fully online.

  1. Are you aware of how your disability impacts your reading, writing, and computer access to the Internet or your ability to comprehend written information?
  2. Do you have the assistive technology/software you need to read documents or textbooks, write and type, or read written information on the Internet?
  3. Do you have an up-to-date computer and access to the Internet from home at least 10-12 hours per week, preferably a high-speed Internet connection?
  4. Do you know how to use a computer to upload or download files, send an email with an attached file, or install a plugin?

Your Learning Style

  1. Do you manage your time well, i.e., set a regular study schedule, keep track of assignments and due dates, organize your class files? Or do you depend on your instructor to remind you and keep you on track? Do you have a tendency to procrastinate?
  2. Do you enjoy working independently, or is working with fellow students or connecting often with your instructor important for you to be successful?
  3. Do you like to connect with others online, such as text messaging, Facebook, email?
  4. Do you tend to be quieter in a face-to-face class, so the idea of being able to “speak” at your own pace online appeals to you?
  5. Are you comfortable asking your classmates or instructor questions when you are confused or unsure what to do?
  6. Are you OK when a significant amount of reading and writing is expected in a class?

Online learning can solve some educational access issues for students with disabilities and add others. Depending on the type of disability you experience and the types of course materials built into the online course you are considering, you may find online learning beneficial or more challenging than traditional classes. If you are unsure, plan to discuss your questions and concerns with the Disability Services Coordinators at Black Hawk College.